Saturday, 12 March 2016

WYO Women: Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Last Tuesday, on International Women's Day (8th March), I travelled to London with two of my best friends, Gabi and Chloe, to speak at the World Youth Organisation's International Women's Day Summit. It was a fantastic experience and honestly I'm still happy thinking about it. 

So here's what happened.

Gabi and I slept over at Chloe's house the night before (I got the train and two buses up right after my French mock oral) and got up at 4 am Tuesday morning to reach the airport by 4.30 am (shudder). We went through security, got Burger King and talked about Maths. 

We all got to sit together on the plane and saw the sunrise, then had a lovely private taxi ride sorted by WYO (feat. wifi and plug sockets). We reached the conference venue, 15 Hatfields, around 10.30 and went in to watch the talks.

We were in time to watch two speeches and a panel before lunch, including fellow Outbox Exec Nyasha! (OB Execs are everywhere). The speeches were awesome. We participated in a workshop then along with some school students who'd come to the event, where we came up with pitches to the UK government to improve the gender balance in the office. (In case anyone's wondering, I am very much in favour of unconscious bias training over gender quotas). 

Photo by Starnie Photography

Lunch was awesome, I must say. I'm very impressed with the caterers, and would like to thank them for all the Jaffa cakes I ate. One thing: events, please have salad sandwiches. 

After that it was the afternoon session and I was the first speaker - but of course half my PowerPoint got lost (nothing to do with me, I'd like to stress) three minutes before I was due to go on but we sorted it out. I never panic in these situations because I'm so used to things going wrong.

So on I went. I honestly can't remember what I said or even if people clapped (they did, apparently) because I always completely blank on important things, but the speech flew and I'm pretty sure it went fine. Got good feedback anyway. My speech was on women in STEM and the take-away message was how important it is to get yourself off the ground because things get a lot easier after that. I'm a big proponent of "sticky floor" theory over the more common glass ceiling. I talked about other stuff too but that's the moral of the story.


Jane from Starnie photography got this photo of Gabi and I being cute.

I then listened to Chloe talking about her experiences growing up non-binary (I'd heard the speech before but I still loved it, she has an amazing way of phrasing things and the fact that it was personal made it brilliantly authentic. The "and, somewhat inexplicably, our pens" referring to how pens are gendered was so funny), then Gabi talking about women in politics. Gabi's become such a good orator from debating and all the other things they do that I'm honestly pretty jel. I'm so proud of both of them.

After our speeches, the three of us went into the refreshments room and had a brilliant conversation with Tanya Laird of Digital Jam Media and then to Kate from EmilyMatters, which is an organisation that shows young people the power of their vote in regards to the struggle the suffragettes went through. 

I just want to say now how lovely everyone was. It was so great to hang out with and talk to WYO's CEO Kieran, plus Ayath and the MC and other speakers. The amount of work Kieran and everyone at WYO did to organise the event was phenomenal and I think they deserve a virtual round of applause. Double that for their sincere but ultimately doomed efforts to learn Irish slang like "grand" and "craic". (So funny.)

After a bunch of photos, we left and went to explore London. By explore, I mean "get lost in for two hours and find out London bridge is not actually a big deal", but it was still fun and we got photos beside random landmarks in case they were important. We were such incredibly enormous tourists.

We just about made it back to Hatfield for our taxi back to the airport, in which Gabi and Chloe were very grateful for the sockets to charge their phones (ha, say I with my iPad's superior battery life). We got Burger King in Stansted airport and had very tired conversations about religion and the meaning of life before taking the plane back (where we again got to sit together, woo!). 

We hugged goodbye at the airport and I went back to Chloe's and got the bus and train to school the next morning. I'll be seeing Chloe in two days and Gabi probably not too long after that, so it's not the worst goodbye. Birmingham in six days with the British Science Association!

In summary? Another successful conquest for the inimitable trio, forged in CTYI and Outbox Incubator and lucky and hard-working enough to have opportunities like this thanks to a bunch of organisations, most recently the World Youth Organisation.*

What a day. Thanks, lads!

*I know this is cringey, but so what? We're happy.

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