Published: 16 March 2022

Darlington Building Society Future Female Founders brunch

Darlington Building Society celebrated International Women’s Day with several events across the region, in partnership with Teesside University.

The key event was a ‘Future Female Founders Brunch’ which was hosted at the Society’s Redcar branch. The brunch featured an impressive line-up of speakers delivering important messages about inclusion and equality.

Niki Barker, the Society’s Director of People and Culture, who compered the event, said:  “This event is part of our journey to supporting future females both in our organisation and in the local community. We’ve heard many powerful stories today, and there are more within our organisation that I’m wholly proud of. We look forward to bringing more people together through events like this in our branches.”

Jessica Williams, a Non-Executive Director of Darlington Building Society, said: “It’s been fantastic and has helped to raise the profile of International Women’s Day far in excess of previous years.”

Championing the consistency of opportunity

Sharon Davies, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise, called on audience members make a difference by being role models and “championing the consistency of opportunity.

“Like it or not, there is no silver bullet to breaking the bias, but we are all in a position to do something about it,” she said.

Sue Kearney, The Hope Foundation Chief Executive grew up on a council estate, seeing a women around her without hope. She said: “More women at the moment are more worried about how to feed their kids than having a career. There are more opportunities for girls today but there are still issues like childcare. I see that all around me: women who carry the burden of managing a family yet feel they have no skills.”

“The best decision I ever made”

Michelle Boldison told of the inequality she had encountered during her career. She progressed in the male-dominated IT sector before joining Darlington Building Society as a Senior IT Technician last year.

Michelle praised the Society for its enlightened approach to inclusion and diversity.

She said: “I’ve never seen anything like the way it is at Darlington Building Society. It really is like a family. The way women are treated within the organisation makes you feel there is hope for the future. Coming here is the best decision I ever made.”

Lisa Sidgwick, Redcar Branch Manager, talked about her five years’ experience serving with the Royal Navy before building her career with Darlington Building Society.

“We all need to be able to carve out our own paths in life and nothing should be unachievable because of gender,” she said.

The final speaker was Lisa’s 16-year-old daughter, Emily, who works as a Customer Services Assistant for the Society on Saturdays. Emily talked about the prejudice she faced from men while serving as a football referee in junior matches in Teesside.

“One particular comment by a manager made me quite upset. It made me question whether I wanted to carry on. But it also taught me to stand up for myself, and not let anyone tell me I can’t do something that I want to do,” she said.

Events across the region

Other events hosted by the Society as part of Teesside University’s week-long International Women’s Day celebrations included;

  • delivering ‘Workplace stereotypes’ workshops to Year 5 pupils across the region, and
  • presenting ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ workshops to staff, led by Sharon Davies.

The Society sponsored the Thursday of the University’s celebratory week. Other sponsors throughout the week included Tees Valley Combined Authority, Just Williams & PDP Ports. All events followed the theme ‘Breaking the Bias’.

Speaking on the wider topic of gender diversity, Niki Barker commented: “The financial sector must do more to address the gender gap. We are getting it right in lots of ways at Darlington Building Society and are committed to improving by working with the Building Societies Association.”

To learn more about Darlington Building Society’s community work, please visit our community page.