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Inspirational women of the year

On 16/10/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I was hugely honoured to be invited to the Barclays' Women of the Year lunch on Monday. As many of you will know, I am neither a big fan of all female events (which is just as well since most of the members of the BBPA are male!), nor am I particularly fond of lunch! I did, however, feel attracted to this event, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and whose Financial Director is Diane Coyne from Brewers’ Hall.

It really was a hugely enjoyable and inspiring lunch: some 300 women attended from all walks of life. My table host was Sue MacGregor of Women’s Hour and for many years the voice to wake up to on ‘Today’ on Radio 4. I sat next to the CEO of AXA travel and a television producer who was the first women producer of BBC1. If that was not enough we had two musicians, one of whom taught music in Soweto and now has seven students at the Royal College of Music and Joanne Harris the author of ‘Chocolat’ - an eclectic and inspiring mix!

Our host, Sandra Toksvig, was very entertaining and ensured that the event led humourously up to the award ceremony. Dame Shirley Williams presented the award to the 187 Dagenham Ladies who in 1968 went on strike because as women who fitted the interiors in cars they were paid half of the sum paid to their male counterparts. As Dame Shirley said these women helped the make the shift from women working for pin money to women needing to work and choosing to work in the same way as men. Their fight led to equal pay legislation.
Marilyn Baldwin the inspiration behind ‘Think Jessica’, which warns older people and their families about scams, received the Inspiration of the Year Award from the television programme Lorraine. The Campaign of the Year Award went to Waris Dirie, a Somalia supermodel who campaigns against female genital mutilation. Finally, the overall Woman of the Year Award went to Andrea Coleman – a very unlikely looking biker who played truant from school and then went on to set up Riders for Health which provides and services bikes and cars to allow health works across Africa to reach communities more quickly without having to rely on public buses or walking.

It really was a privilege to be at such a fantastic event and, in case you were wondering what work I might have done… I spoke to Dame Tessa Jowell MP and Margaret Hodge MP, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, - who I updated on duty fraud. I also met Luciana Berger MP, the new Shadow Minister for Public Health who I hope I can now arrange to meet up with in a more formal capacity.


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