International Women’s Day: Inspiring Inclusion across Bristol and beyond

International Women’s Day is on Friday 8th March, and this year’s theme is #InspireInclusion; there’s no doubt that when we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better, more equitable world.

It’s 2024, and it perplexes me gender inequality is still proliferating. But is it surprising?

Charity providers that aim to end the motherhood penalty, Pregnant then screwed recently published that the number of childcare places and providers have significantly decreased over the last 2 years. And, the difference between part time working women and men is staggering. As women, and as mothers, we want to have our cake and eat it, we want to do it all, we want to be role models for our children, but as Anna Whitehouse rightly stated on last week’s Pregnant Then Screwed podcast, it’s physically impossible.

What’s more, last week I read that the UK was going backwards when it came to the gender pay gap. Naturally, I looked into it, and according to UN Women, the world needs $360B (actual billions) to achieve gender parity.

They say knowledge is power, but the idea that an 18-year-old might never see gender equality due to the pace of change makes me feel uneasy.

What do we want?

To not be marginalised as a result of our gender.

When do we want it?

100 years ago.

It’s apparent, to me, that the working world isn’t moving fast enough to facilitate gender equality. This International Women’s Day, I spoke to four incredibly empowering female business owners and entrepreneurs that are making waves in gender equality within Bristol on how we can inspire inclusion. One thing that truly stood out to me in these interviews was the sheer resilience, determination, and self-belief that each of these women portrayed.

Charmaine Vincent, CEO and Owner of Bristol-based public sector recruitment company, Baltimore Consulting, has had her fair share of gender inequality over her tenure, but to her own admission, believes that her success is a “result of a young girl that dared to dream and took action to turn her dreams into reality.”

She acknowledges, “There are so many unconventional chapters that have played a part in my success story, and I’m proud to say that despite encountering adversity and challenges in abundance, at no point did my self-belief waiver.”

Charmaine, like so many other women in business, began witnessing gender disparity early on in her career, but she was unyielding in not letting a lack of inclusion set the tone.

“I would often attend meetings and applicants wrongly assumed I was the note taker, coffee maker or supporter to my male colleagues,” evokes Amy Kington, who at the time was the most senior employee and key decision maker whilst working as a Regional Facilities and Investment Manager at the The Football Association.

Executive and Leadership Coach, Sally Powell, was subject to similar experiences early on in her career. She recalls being privy to a document that was circulated within the finance company she was working at the time, overviewing the salaries of everyone in her team:

“I’m not sure why I was shown it, but all the highest earners, by some way, were men. It made me start to question how many roles I had been under paid in because I was a woman. And how many roles I had not questioned the pay I was being offered.

In my naivety I didn’t think inequity would apply to me. Now I realise the bias that impacts all of us and is deeply rooted in the systems we work and live within.”

Experiences like this motivated Sally to set up the women’s leadership programme, “IMPACT” to watch more women flourish in their careers.

It’s this resilience, ability to challenge status quo and willingness to stand up for equality that helps to pave the way for the next generation of women.

Amy Kington, Co-Founder of Community of Purpose CIC, a charity that helps to improve the lives and futures of young people in Bristol, agrees; “we can inspire the next generation of women to break through the glass ceiling by showing and leading the way – if you see, you believe you can be it!”

Keri Andriana, CEO and owner of affordable luxury handbag brand, Amschela, believes that visibility is key; “showcasing success stories of women who have carved paths in fashion, particularly those who have broken through barriers and challenged norms, serves as powerful inspiration. This visibility can change perceptions and encourage young women to aspire to roles of influence and creativity.” She believes that the way to inspire inclusion, is to, “focus on education, representation, mentorship, cultural shifts, and systemic changes.” In doing so, “we can inspire and equip the next generation of girls and young women to not just navigate the workplace, but to redefine it.”

Taking action to drive gender parity is key for businesses. Charmaine, of Baltimore Consulting, believes that “by creating, recruiting, and retaining a gender-balanced workforce, you are helping accelerate the pace of change for women of today and that younger generation of girls.”

Charmaine is one of 41 signatories in Bristol that have committed to joining the Bristol Women in Business charter. The Bristol Women in Business Charter is a long-term project, with the sole purpose of recognising and supporting businesses in and around Bristol that are making progress towards gender equality.

“I look at my daughter and know, there is no glass ceiling for her, just big dreams and a bucket load of self-belief and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.”

Yes, we should be celebrating women’s achievements and inspiring inclusion all year round. We should also be investing in women to accelerate progress all year round. Change is needed, and the pace of change is not fast enough.

Here’s to strong women; may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

Who says I can’t have my cake and eat it?


Lauren Cox

Head of Marketing