The International Law Commission joined forces with Berkits LLP to host a celebration of International Women’s Day with a breakfast symposium including a panel discussion on women and risk-taking.
Caroline Hyde, Head of Ecosystem Initiatives and Partnerships at Cambridge Enterprise, took questions to an impressive group of speakers including Adelina Chalmers, aka The Geek Whisperer, Naily Makagu, founder of Athena Leaders, Catherine Stewart of the Cambridgeshire Community Foundations, and Jane Hutchins, director of the Cambridge Science Park, and Katy Searle, chief observer at the BBC.
The speakers revealed personal experiences that prompted them to take risks. For Katherine, it was her husband dying in his 40s leaving her with two kids and an online business. Her thinking was “risk was imposed on me” and the need to “get ahead” helped her gain the confidence to move forward.
Adelina shared her experience arriving in the UK with £80 in her pocket and for her it was a do or die situation. After a number of challenging years, Adelina now runs a successful business advising engineering leadership on how to accelerate delivery and proving bottom line impact.
Naili worked for Siemens and Featurespace when she decided to start her own technology consulting firm. She stressed the importance of being flexible and taking a step back when getting knocked. Her advice was: “Jump in first and work on the rest later. What’s the worst that could happen? If you don’t take a risk, you’ll never know.”
Jane drew on her experience starting out in a new city. A conversation 14 years ago led her to revisit sailing and the thrill encouraged her to try harder and not hold back. Since then, she has run incubation programs and continues to provide support and advice to entrepreneurs and startups.
Katie joined the BBC at 19 and explained that it was hard not to be intimidated when so many of her group were Oxbridge-educated men. She said hard work and determination propelled her forward — after three decades, she’d gone from production assistant in the World Service to chief proctor.
The combined experience and expertise of Caroline and the management committee attracted the entirety. After the discussion, Caroline asked the audience members who had been persuaded to take more risks to stand up – about two-thirds of them got to their feet.
Lizzie Bradbury, Director of Marketing at COEL and one of the event organisers, said: “The idea of exploring women and taking risks on International Women’s Day seemed so fitting, and given the amazing lineup of speakers, we had a good feeling this would make for an exciting morning. It proved to be true. , with a fantastic turnout, honest anecdotes and reflections from the panel on their experiences and prospects.
“The COEL team is very grateful to Birketts LLP for being so advocates in hosting an event celebrating International Women’s Day in their Cambridge office.”
Berkits recently announced that 40 percent of its partners are female, and since 2019-2020 the proportion of female partners has increased by 13 percent.
Maria Beeman, Partner, Berketts LLP, said: “We were extremely pleased to be hosting this event with COEL and to welcome guests to our Cambridge office. The host and speakers all had inspiring stories that reflected how risk can be approached as a deliberate choice, but often as a result of circumstance.
“The varied and interesting journeys of the speakers also reflected the reality of modern life and the professional journeys of many women.”
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