Last Friday I was lucky enough to spend a day at the Southbank Centre to witness Women of the World, London (WOW). This inspirational event hosts talks, debates, workshops and performances from a diverse group of nationalities and backgrounds that all stand for gender equality.
The WOW marketplace in itself demonstrated the breadth of what was happening here. I spoke to an AIG sponsored initiative called Greenlight for Girls that try to spark an interest in young girls to get involved in STEM subjects via tech such as VR headsets. A vast group of stalls were dedicated to social enterprises both UK-based and internationally. One stall was pushing for gender parity in the UK political scene and others were simply SMEs selling their products.
The excited buzz in the air fluctuated as speakers got up to perform keynote speeches or sat amongst other leading women and men to hold debates on relevant topics. Talks ranged from women and technology to activism across borders and faith. The most refreshing aspect of this energising event was the focus on society. Not one speaker was there to create a division between genders or glorify women as some uncelebrated demigod, but rather, they led educated discussions that encompassed the world we live in as a whole. Yes, there was a focus on women, but this focus was aimed to inspire, to encourage men and women to work together. In fact, just the sheer number of men attending the event was comforting and encouraging.
The calibre of speakers that WOW gathered also left me speechless. In just one talk, I found myself sitting a few feet away from Baroness Martha Lane Fox (founder of lastminute.com), Romaney O’Malley (General Manager for Belgium and Luxembourg at AIG) and Sinead McSweeney (Senior Director for Public Policy at Twitter). I also attended a workshop led by none other than Lynne Franks, PR guru. Yet as I sat applauding in awe, I could not help but notice the educated audience that surrounded me. Sometimes the Q&A sessions were the best parts thanks to a select few audience members and their questions. It increased the scope of conversation and touched on subjects I’ve never even thought about like digital ethics linking to a lack of verbal confrontation and it’s relation to physical violence – this was in the context of social media platforms, education and how people hide behind the digital world when it comes to confrontation.
As one talk ended, a performance would start and all it took was to look for a crowd of people and the jubilant applause to know where the next thing was happening.
I could talk in-depth for hours about this wonderful occasion, but it would require pages and pages of writing. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, met fantastic people and felt inspired by the men and women at WOW. My fears of it being an extreme feminist event quickly dissipated the moment I walked through the door. It epitomised the true meaning of the word. Definitely an event to put in the calendar for next year!