Monmouthshire County Council marked International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th March with a series of motivational events reinforced by a social media campaign to nominate inspirational and influential females. The celebrations included a seminar at Caldicot School which was attended by 170 GCSE and “A” Level students.

The session entitled: “Empowering Women in the Workplace” featured four female speakers and centred on building and empowering future leaders. Liz Maher, director of tax specialists Centurion VAT shared one of her favourite phrases with the students – carpe diem/seize the day. Liz leads a team of seven – six are women – with an annual turnover of £0.5m. She said: “We are not here to be victims. We are here to be the best we can be. And it starts with your education.”

Rachel Jowitt, head of Monmouthshire’s Waste & Recycling Service described herself as a woman in a world traditionally associated with men. She leads a team of 180 of whom only 12 are female, yet leans on her experiences to achieve impressive results – Monmouthshire is one of the best recycling performers in Wales. Rachel said: ”While women in my team are under-represented in terms of statistics this does not necessarily mean we face inequality or have to address issues of sexism. As a leader in a predominantly male environment I have consciously avoided making an issue of my gender, but more importantly I haven’t needed to. Instead, I have focused on my values, behaviours, processes and actions to ensure the service delivers and individuals are able to do their job and have the opportunities to shine. My role is as a leader, looking ahead and creating the conditions for constant change, adaptation and opportunity. I lead a fantastic team, most of whom are men and I feel privileged to do so because I think every one of them is fantastic and I couldn’t ask for more of a job which I love”.

Dr Ami Jones of the Wales Air Ambulance shared her stories about the importance of leadership and clarity of roles heading teams for the charity together with her time saving lives while serving with the Army in Afghanistan. A video accompanying her speech illustrated the professional service provided by army medics together with the extreme dangers and pressures they face and the tough decisions to be made. Dr Jones said: “The way in which the military pushes medical interventions to the front line results in people surviving when we may not have expected them to do so. We now hope to replicate this performance with the work carried out by the Wales Air Ambulance.”

Monmouthshire’s Chief Officer for Social Care, Housing & Health Claire Marchant has worked for the council for four months. In depicting her career from school to present she told students about her lifelong passion to change things for the better, make a difference and enable people to overcome their barriers to achieving their dreams. She urged them: “Whatever you do, care about what you do”, as she described her many responsibilities including safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

The county’s communities joined the celebrations in the council’s community hubs where staff highlighted books about great women in history and encouraged people to read literature by inspiring female authors. In Abergavenny, senior information officer Julie Warburton and library officer Claire Cross joined in the spirit by dressing as suffragettes while some council staff wore purple – the traditional colour of the suffragette movement – pledging a pound to support Abergavenny-based charity Love Zimbabwe, which works directly with the Chinamhora community, near Harare to combat extreme poverty.

Underpinning the council’s International Women’s Day involvement is a social media campaign asking people to nominate the most inspirational and influential female in their lives by uploading images and text onto Twitter (@monmouthshirecc) and the council’s Facebook page – the Twitter hashtag is #PledgeForParity. The council will also employ its social media accounts to relate the stories of Monmouthshire’s many women who are making a difference in the Monmouthshire community every day.

Councillor Phil Hobson, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for equalities said: “We’re proud to mark the contribution of the county’s women and to participate in International Women’s Day. We’re very grateful for the contribution made by today’s speakers and we believe that the events organised will help to empower young people to realise that the sky really is the limit. I’m sure that everyone can think of an influential female in their lives so I hope the community will enthusiastically take to social media to tell us all about her.”