International Women’s Day: Celebrating our GEN Network

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Elijah Cruz - Digital Communications Officer
Friday 08 March 2024
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International Women's Day (IWD) is about promoting a gender equal world and inclusion for all women. On this day we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The 2024 IWD theme is #InspireInclusion. This year is about celebrating diversity and empowerment and recognising it's importance in all aspects of society. In honour of today, our Gender Empowerment Network (GEN) took the opportunity to shine a spotlight on three inspiring women.

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What is the Gender Empowerment Network?

Action for Children’s Gender Empowerment Network (GEN) promotes gender equality across every level of the charity. Representing all genders, the network is a key voice in making positive change as well has creating space for discussions on topics where gender plays a part in our experiences.

International Women's Day 2024

Any member of staff can join the network and attend webinars. The network is there to answer questions and be a safe place for support.

Recently welcoming three new co-chairs, there are lots of ideas planned, including working more with our other staff networks to talk about issues where gender intersects with other identities, like ethnicity or being a parent.

Meet our 2024 IWD panel:

To celebrate IWD, Action for Children hosted a panel discussion with three incredible women:

  • Fiona Adams, the Director of Finance at Action for Children.
  • Diane Benjamin, the Director of Children's Social Care in Hackney.
  • Joanne French, Chief Operating Officer at Action for Children.

Each of them spoke about their different experiences on being a woman in the workplace and how they hoped to #InspireInclusion.

Fiona Adams:

Fiona Adams

Fiona left school at 16 and did all her studying at evening classes, qualifying as an accountant 30 years ago.

She has been working for Action for Children for 18 months as Director of Finance and is a member of the Executive Leadership Team.

Showing that you can be yourself is the best thing you can do to inspire inclusion.

Looking back at her experience in various workplaces, she said: “It’s quite shocking to think back now to how women were treated in the workplace."

How do you hope to inspire inclusion?

Fiona responded: “We have a responsibility to be role models. How we show up and portray ourselves in the workplace is the best we can do. What women need to see is someone like them – someone who is approachable, kind, fair and relatable."

Diane Benjamin:

Selfie of Diane Benjamin

Diane has worked in Children's social care for over 20 years in Lambeth, Newham, Waltham Forest and now currently in her current post, as the Director of Social Care in Hackney. She has worked in various settings from Child Protection and Safeguarding, Corporate Parenting and Children with disabilities.

Diane mentioned how she constantly feels the need “to represent, not just my service and my area, but myself as a woman. You have to put your armour on, you have to go in. It’s a journey and it’s evolving.”

She spoke of the fact that she still feels the need to fight for the spaces that she's in, adding that being a woman of colour also adds to her fight.

How do you hope to inspire inclusion?

I have to be authentic. I like to engage people – It’s about having that collaboration. I validate, encourage and inspire the people I work with. I speak truth to power.

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Joanne French:

Picture of Joanne French

Jo started her career in the food industry which ultimately led Jo to a role in microbiology. Following the birth of Jo’s daughter in 2003, she made the move into Children’s Services by running a public health project across the NHS.

Jo has recently been appointed as the Chief Operating Officer for Action for Children.

She mentioned how “there seems to be this expectation that [women] need to settle down… I didn’t want to do that - it didn’t feel like me.”

Jo described a time where her male manager didn’t allow her to speak in senior meetings because of her accent. “Now, I don’t worry what my accent sounds like, good people and good leaders understand that people from all walks of life can bring a richness to something."

"I have experienced so many things where women have been at the brunt of the jokes, not taken seriously and not treated the same."

How do you hope to inspire inclusion?

I feel really fortunate and privileged now to know I can actually use my voice for the benefit of us all.

Jo said that ultimately, "it’s about giving people all the opportunities.”

How you can participate in IWD:

  • Celebrate women's achievements
  • Educate and raise awareness for women's equality
  • Call for positive change, advancing women
  • Lobby for accelerated gender parity
  • Fundraise for female-focused charities