Celebrating amazing women who inspire action and transform lives.
Our club is 70 years old this year and we wanted to recognise this milestone with other women – celebrating our Soroptimist vision that women and girls can achieve their potential. So, on 1 June 2019 we held a conference at the Hunters Lodge Hotel in Crewe to celebrate how women are making an impact in our communities in so many ways.
What a day we had! Over 90 women in the room, including our Regional President for Soroptimists in Cheshire, North Wales and The Wirral, Soroptimists from throughout the UK as well as from Szeged, Hungary and Berne Arcadia in Switzerland. We also welcomed delegates from other women’s organisations throughout South Cheshire, as well as our faithful band of friends who support us at all of our events. What was particularly pleasing was that many of the women were new to Soroptimism so we were reaching out to a wider audience.
We had an exciting line up of speakers – all inspiring in their own way, and it was a great privilege to hear them all in one day! They told their very different stories, but some key themes emerged that we can all learn from. Our President, Helen Piddock-Jones gave some reflections on the day and the take away moments for her.
Laura Smith, MP for Crewe and Nantwich spoke from the heart and showed her passionate belief in women’s equality, and how she is supportive of our mission and values. She said that her 3 year old daughter was already strong and independent and we thought that this was no wonder having met her mother!
Tracy Bullock, now Chief Executive of the University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM), and formerly of Leighton Hospital explained her rise up the career ladder by saying that she kept finding her bosses were “getting in her way and stopping her doing what she knew needed to be done” so said “I’ll be one of those”. She was driven to make a difference and has always thought that “if you’re not passionate about your job how can you expect others to be?”
Dame Janet Finch, former Vice-Chancellor at Keele University suggested that we don’t need to have a detailed life plan but be prepared to seize any opportunity throughout a career, but also in life itself. She encouraged us to see that everyone has “more talents than we think we have”.
Glynis Crowe, a recently retired District Judge, told us that it’s important to find your niche and do what you are good at, but most importantly, do what you enjoy. Throughout her life she faced many challenges including low expectations from teachers in school, but said “always have a go”! Another salient point she raised was that it is important to support other women travelling the same journey and “tell others what they are good at”.
Joanna Young was our final formal speaker and gave an energetic run through of what the word EMPOWER means to her. Her own motivation and passion came through, and she related the value of having someone who believed in her as being vital to her success.
This was inspiring enough, but then we heard a different kind of story, as the winner of this year’s writing competition, Katy Mann, read out her winning entry. This was an essay on a woman who inspired her, called “She”. It was a moving and very personal story, and you can read this for yourself on our website.
Finally, we saw a video highlighting six women from the UK who have volunteered to help tackle world poverty by using their skills and talents to support women in other parts of the world. Ordinary women doing extraordinary things.
Our conference though was not all about listening – we had opportunities during the day for people to get to know each other, chat about those who inspired them and discuss the qualities of inspiring women. We tried out the Menti app on our phones to produce a word cloud- What Qualities to we see in Inspiring Women? Tackling the technology and asking ourselves the question certainly got people talking!
Nantwich and District Soroptimists work very hard to support a number of local, national and international charities. Some of these joined us on the day to exhibit the work they are doing, including Cheshire Without Abuse, Samaritans, Dementia UK, The South Cheshire Rape and Sexual Assault Centre, and Myeloma UK. It was great to see them there, and to see the impact they are having. We also had a display showing some of the project work we have been involved with recently.
The day would not have been complete without a raffle, and this raised nearly £400 additional funds for local charities. Our charities will also benefit from two very generous donations of £100 each from SI Szeged and SI Berne Arcadia.All in all, we had great fun, learned new things, and came away feeling fired up and inspired!
We are very grateful to our speakers and supporters as well as our delegates for making the conference such a success – beyond our expectations!