St Albans’ women movers and shakers lead International Women’s Day event

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper with guest speakers at the International Women's Day event.

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper with guest speakers at the International Women's Day event. - Credit: Archant

Five influential women involved in the district’s business community and charity work talked about their successes and challenges at a packed event to mark International Women’s Day.

They included Emma Bustamante, owner of Cositas on Holywell Hill, Ruby Raut, chief executive of Wuka, the period pants company, Alison Bainbridge, founder of St Albans-based market research business Kokoro, Laura Hussey, an environmentalist and human rights advocate, and Lisa Reiner, managing director of the European and Asia-Pacific arm of global branding agency Beanstalk.

Local entrepreneur Emma Bustamante highlighted the large number of women in St Albans who own and run independent retail businesses on the high street.

'It's incredible that St Albans is doing this,' Emma told the audience. 'What a great place to live that we're able to accommodate all these skilled workers in small companies where large corporations have failed them. It shows that by supporting the high street you're not just supporting local businesses - you're supporting women as well.'

Lisa Reiner spoke about achieving gender balance in the workplace: 'You need to break the stereotypes of what a leader should be. It's perfectly OK for women to be vulnerable, collaborative and empathetic. These are leadership qualities that are important today. They may once have been seen as stereotypes, as what holds women back, but these are exactly the qualities required in today's leaders. You need to have this emotional sensibility in order to be effective leaders.'

The annual event, held at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks public house in St Albans and hosted by St Albans MP Daisy Cooper, also marked the culmination of a campaigning week on gender inequality, which included:

- Meeting survivors of domestic abuse at St Albans and Harpenden Women's Refuge, and speaking to staff and volunteers about their funding needs and the importance of their work for women in distress.

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- Tabling a bill in Parliament to bring an end to jail sentences for women who commit non-violent crimes, but who suffer more widely than male prisoners from alcohol and drugs and mental health problems, with self-harm rates five times higher.

- Meeting Waspi women for the fourth time - locally, regionally and in parliament - to support their campaign to win compensation for millions of women born in the 1950s affected by poor implementation of changes to the state pension age.

Daisy said: 'It was inspiring to hear these five women talk about their achievements and the challenges they managed to overcome along the way, whether that was facing down financial barriers or discrimination, or overcoming personal challenges around health or juggling work and family commitments.

'Each year International Women's Day is a celebration of the movement for women's rights and of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

'Events such as these help women strengthen our networks and inspire the next generation of young women and girls, and for me, it's important that we do more of it here at home in St Albans.'