Carol Stewart shares her inspiration behind Black Northern Women’s annual International Women’s Day Conference, which turns a spotlight on women in the North
According to the 2021 Census, in England and Wales the population of Black, Black British, Caribbean or African was 4%, with 49% of Black people living in London. As we approach International Women’s Day 2024, it is an opportunity to highlight the disparities that Black women face whilst taking a stand to bring about change.
Black women in the UK face many disadvantages in society and in the workplace. A 2021 study from the London School of Economics, drawing on the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (the main survey of individual economic activity in the UK, which provides the official measure of the national unemployment rate), shows that Black women have the lowest probability of being top earners. UK-born Black women are the most underrepresented in the top percentile of incomes, as compared to all other women and men.
There are many other disparities that Black women face because of their gender and ethnicity in the workplace and society. Black women in areas where there is a significantly lower concentration of people who look like them can often feel marginalised and isolated. That is why the annual Black Northern Women’s International Women’s Day Conference was started in 2019.
Taking place in Sheffield, the Conference brings together Black women from northern cities for a day that empowers and inspires them to navigate gender and racial barriers. Women from as many as 22 cities throughout the UK attend for what has been described as a transformational experience. Such is the experience that women even travel up from London.
Attendees are empowered and feel a sense of sisterhood as they connect with other Black women with similar lived experiences. Last year, during a panel discussion, one attendee shared her experience of racism in the workplace. It had taken its toll on her self-confidence, mood and motivation. She said she nearly never came to the conference, but she was glad she did because she felt empowered to change her situation.
Such was the transformation for her that when unforeseen circumstances meant a panel speaker could not make the afternoon panel, she stepped in, and she was a natural. It was hard to believe this was the same woman who, just a few hours earlier, was broken and lacking in confidence.
Added to the enrichment of the day are the many Black women-owned businesses, showcasing their products and services. With a diverse range of businesses, it is a vibrant place to support these businesses whilst purchasing amazing products and services.
This year’s conference is on 9 March at the Cutlers Hall in Sheffield. The theme is ‘Reclaiming Your Power’ and will be all about removing limitations that prevent Black women from achieving their full potential, so they can become all they are meant to be.
For the first time, it is open to men. When it comes to achieving equity for Black women, men need to be part of the conversation. Not only so they can be allies and advocates, but also so they can better understand and support the Black women in their lives.
An example of how attending a women’s event helped a Black man better support his wife is that of a friend and her husband who attended a webinar on the menopause. This equipped him with knowledge and insight as to what his wife was experiencing. Now, when he sees signs of menopausal symptoms, he is quick to do what he can to support her.
Paul Carrick Brunson is the keynote speaker this year. He is a renowned relationship counsellor, matchmaker, serial entrepreneur, television host, and author, who specialises in the science of interpersonal relationships and personal development. His expertise has earned him international recognition, and he currently serves as the co-host of Married at First Sight UK and Celebs Go Dating, in addition to being the relationship expert for ITV’s Lorraine and Good Morning America. His latest book, ‘Find Love’, launches on 1 February.
Paul is also the founder and chair of Give Love, Build Hope – a non-profit organisation dedicated to transforming schools in rural areas of the Caribbean. Paul’s professional accomplishments are matched only by his personal achievements. As a proud second-generation son of Jamaica, he takes great pride in his roles as a husband and father.
‘Reclaiming Your Power’ is set to be a day of empowerment, inspiration, and transformation for Black women. You can find out more at https://reclaimingyourpower.eventbrite.co.uk.
Carol Stewart is an executive, career, and leadership coach, and author of Quietly Visible: Leading With Influence and Impact as an Introverted Woman. Visit www.aboundingsolutions.com