I spent last Sunday at the Women of the World festival in the Southbank Centre. It was the final day of the festival and there were a whole host of events to choose from. I wish I had done a bit more planning before turning up to find out exactly who was speaking and what was available.
The festival founded by Jude Kelly, the artistic director of the Southbank Centre, is in its 5th year. It comprises talks, performances, networking, mentoring and market place stalls in the many venues of the Southbank Centre over a week, usually around International Women’s Day, which this year was on March 8th.
I was joined by two lovely friends who had agreed to explore with me for the day, thank you ladies. As we ummed and ahhed about which event to attend first we stumbled upon this Lips, an all women pop choir. Their enthusiasm was infectious and soon I was grooving along to Destiny’s Child’s Bill, Bills, Bills. Loved them!
We then headed upstairs to a talk titled I.T. Girls which turned out to be the highlight of the day. I.T Girls we are not, but this talk definitely inspired the three of us to sit up and take more notice of what’s going on in this huge and important industry that lacks female voices and ideas and therefore content. You can watch the full session on YouTube and see the highlights on the WOW Facebook page.
The panel was chaired by Jude Kelly and included Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president of Europe Middle East and Africa Facebook, Clare Sutcliffe, founder of Code Club, Mariéme Jamme, founder of Africa Gathering and Sarah Brown, president of Theirworld, who I thought was an amazing and inspiring woman. Only now doing more research on her I realise she is the UK’s former prime minister’s wife. Whaaat? Everyone else in the room probably knew her and her work already, but not me.
These impressive panelists talked about the challenges in enticing women into working, studying and participating in technology at all levels and age groups and the huge importance of overcoming these challenges so that women don’t miss out on shaping a big part of the future. It was a message that resonated with me completely. I am a girl that doesn’t really understand or make full use of her phone, that doesn’t engage with games or apps, and generally doesn’t take advantage of technology readily available too her as it looks like hard work. I leave a lot of the I.T. in my world up to my boyfriend, a lazy habit that will not do me any favours in the long run. It was a definite eye-opener and showed me that I need to be more mindful of my attitude in future.
After lunch we attended a workshop run by Funny Women founder Lynne Parker aimed at using humour to improve confidence and story telling. Some amazing volunteers put their hands up to participate and told stories of their lives. It really does show you that a story about your own everyday life, something you might dismiss in your head as boring, never comes across that way to an audience trying to get to know you.
We then moved on to the ubiquitous event of women’s festivals, the sex talk, titled Let’s talk about sex, baby. There was a panel of four authors, filmmakers and founder of a sex toy shop, chaired by Rachel Morris, sex columnist at Cosmopolitan magazine. We had expected a lively and risqué debate about sex, women and all things that go along with it, and in some ways it was, but it was also a lot of intellectualising which, for us, wasn’t very accessible.
I didn’t just see an inspirational speaker, I saw many. Attending this day opened me up to different and interesting views and ideas I may never have come across otherwise and all from women. Women of all ages, ethnicity, sexualities, religions and abilities, with so many different life experiences and talents. It was an impressive mix and made for an interesting day.