Malta 2016 – Conference Reflections
Let me introduce myself – I am Louise Milne. I joined Medway Town Soroptimists three years ago and in November 2016 I attended my first Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland Federation Conference which was held in Malta. The Conference Theme was Engineering The Future. Here are a few of my personal reflections about the event.
Despite being called Great Britain and Ireland, our Federation covers 29 countries including Great Britain, Ireland and countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Malta, with 8000 Members in 352 Clubs. We are one of 4 Soroptimist federations worldwide.
On one level I knew that our Federation was big, bigger than the UK alone, but it was not until I watching all the counties flags coming in during the Opening Ceremony that it really, really struck me – wow this is a big international organisation, and I am part of it. I was so proud when the UN Flag was brought in to mark our strong links with them.
Hearing Dame Sue Ion (leading woman engineer) speak about her passion in encouraging girls into science made me reflect on my own school experience where girls did biology, boys did physics and chemistry and a couple of brave girls did chemistry too. It was many years later that I discovered that physics makes more sense to me than biology ever did. Part of her talk was showing a video about how young school children already have a pre conception that firefighters, surgeons and fighter pilots are male, and were shocked to silenced by meeting 3 women who work in those roles, and the comment by one child of ‘Are you dressed up?’ stayed with me.
I enjoyed the AGM. I was voting delegate. Yet another case of me thinking I had just put my hand up for a coffee refill. It seems you are never short of an opportunity for personal development, growth and challenging opportunities as a Soroptimist.
Hearing the Best Practice in Programme Action Awards was inspiring. I especially liked SI Leigh – Winner of the Economic Empowerment Award, providing interview help and outfits for women applying for jobs. Having Soroptimists in your corner would, I feel, give any lady an added sense of confidence at an interview.
Dave Copeland, Chief Envisioning Officer of Microsoft was a very professional speaker, funny, down to earth, and though provoking.
Dr Helen Sharman (the first British astronaut in space) – well I could have listened to her stories all day. She was wonderful. Her reflection that when she was down to the last 2 candidates for space, she thought that the man would be chosen over her, brought together the whole theme of the conference, that attitudes need challenging as well as opportunities created. She was on the same flight home was us the next day and I was amused to see she had stars on her socks.
I am so very glad, heartened and pleased that I attended conference. I think it was summed up nicely by one Soroptimist sister at lunch on Saturday saying ‘Now you can see why we all like coming to conference.’ And I do. Book me a place in Cardiff for 2017.