Express & Star

Women in forefront of Black Country Business Festival

The second Black Country Business Festival has put women in the spotlight this year with many events focusing on the growing female role in the region's businesses.

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Sarah Thompson, of the Black Country Chamber; Sarah Moorhouse, BCRS Business Loans and chairman of WIL Steering Group; Karen Webb, head of business services at the chamber and Julie Cunningham, first female president of the chamber

More than 100 women from across the Black Country gathered at the Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton on Friday for the launch of the Black Country Women in Leadership initiative.

It, has been set up to highlight the achievements of women in leadership across the region, to promote them as role models for the next generation and to support and inspire females in business aiming for future leadership roles.

Yesterday West Bromwich Albion's Hawthorns ground was the venue for a Women Who Inspires networking event.

The festival runs to Friday, May 24, with tickets still available for many of the remaining events, which today include Express &Star Business Editor John Corser delivering a talk on the best way of sharing business news at the newspaper's Queen Street head office in Wolverhampton.

Tomorrow sees the Black Country Chamber of Commerce's business expo being hosted at the GTG West Midlands training academy in Bearing Drive, Wednesfield.

Black Country Women in Leadership will work to highlight the continuing gender pay gap, lobby for more flexible working practices and promote diversity across the region.

Julie Cunningham, first female chairman of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce in its 160-year history, said, “I am proud to be supporting this new initiative. Our launch event highlighted the journey our keynote speakers have taken and the barriers they had raised to be successful, we’ve had some amazing feedback from those who attended. We have to focus our energy on promoting the amazing women leaders we have in the Black Country region, encourage them to come forward as spokespeople, inspire the future generation and raise awareness of the obstacles we still incur including the gender pay gap.

“We have identified so many women in our region heading up some of the largest companies, councils, charities and centres of education, we want to shout about their work, highlight them as role models and mentor women coming through.

”Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for a gender balanced boardroom, gender balanced government and gender balance in wealth. Balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive."College and Sarah Thompson, Press / PR /Communications for Black Country Chamber.

Delegates taking part in one of the Black Country Business Festival events found themselves under pressure in an Escape Room at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

The theatre teamed up with Star Public Relations to stage the event, where attendees were plunged into a scenario, which saw them dealing with a crisis at a fictional company.

Cathy Dobbs, from Star PR, said: “We came up with the idea for Grand Star Hinges – a bogus manufacturing company based in Wolverhampton, that was suddenly dealing with a crisis.

“Attendees were able to experience what pressure they would be under if a crisis did strike at their company, and they had to work quickly to draft statements for the press, employees and for their customers.”

Charlotte Davies from the Grand Theatre added: “Delegates went away with tips and advice on crisis communications and we have had some fantastic feedback. They enjoyed the chance to participate and get involved – it is something we will definitely look at staging again.”

One of those who took on the challenge was Helen Nuttall, business development manager at Penny Post Credit Union, and she said it was an exciting and interactive session. “I thought it was a fantastic experience that was also thought provoking. By making it interactive I ended up working, and talking with people that I wouldn’t normally approach at a networking event. To have a souvenir front page from the Express & Star is wonderful – it will be going on my desk at work.”

Also, at the event was Paul Hull, director of KMB Shipping, who said: “It was an invaluable experience and a great insight into crisis communications. There has been nothing else like the Escape Room, and we will be implementing some of the advice into the workplace.”

Sam Bright, digital communications co-ordinator at Midlands Air Ambulance, said the event was very useful. “It was great how interactive the event was and it really made me think about what to say in the statements. One thing I will take away from it is that during a crisis you just need to have a small team of people, to ensure that the sign-off of statements happens quickly.”