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United Molasses’ women champion ‘Inspire Inclusion’ message

Posted on 25 March, 2024

United Molasses Group took an active part in marking this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD).

Five members of the UM team came together with colleagues from the wider W&R Barnett Group to take part in two days of activities in Belfast.

The five were Sarah Cripps, Chartering & Logistics, Agnieszka Sriskanthan-Reksa, Financial Controller, Jo Winning, Compliance Manager, Vicki Brough, Group HR Manager and Dean Jackson, Trading Director.

The inclusion of Dean along with three other male colleagues from W&R Barnett was a deliberate effort to include them in the conversation around some of the ongoing issues and challenges facing females in the workplace.

The IWD hashtag for this year was ‘Inspire Inclusion’ while the theme for the Institute of Directors’ Women’s Leaders Conference, which took place on March 8 at the AC Marriott in Belfast, was US businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg’s famous quote “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders”.

The first of two days of activities kicked off on March 7 with an internal afternoon for W&R Barnett colleagues with a focus on looking at the team’s perceptions of their environment based on the five senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell.

This started with lunch at a Japanese restaurant called Zen and continued with a sensorium experience across three floors at The National with interactive sensory experiments and cocktails (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).

Sarah said: “This was a great icebreaker, allowing colleagues to get to know each other. It was fascinating to see how different people’s sense of smell was.”

From there, the group moved on to a tour of Belfast’s vibrant and flourishing street art scene, a visual test of the everyday art that is around people living and working in the city.

The tour guide helped bring to life many of the pieces of art in the city, highlighting what happens when you open your eyes and look beyond the everyday norm.

The first day concluded with a wonderful private dining experience at acclaimed restaurant Deanes with ‘The Irish Magician’ Rodd Hogg bamboozling colleagues with his dazzling array of tricks.

The focus for Day 2 centred on the IoD’s Women’s Leaders Conference with a range of keynote speakers providing attendees with many thought-provoking discussion points.

The principal celebrity speaker was the radio and TV personality Mariella Frostrup.

Agnieszka commented: “Mariella gave an extremely feisty talk and while agreeing that things had improved for women, we shouldn’t be just accepting and grateful for it but expect further improvements.”

A particular highlight for Sarah was the address given by Marie Gleeson, a former Irish Navy Ships Captain turned leadership consultant.

Sarah said: “Marie gave a good talk looking back at her career in the Navy and what it was like working in such a regimented environment. She also discussed the different approach women can sometimes take to leadership issues.”

Other speakers included Danni Barry, the Irish Michelin-starred chef, who discussed how much work still needed to be done to create a level playing field for female chefs, while the author Anna Burns talked about the creative process involved in writing a Booker Prize-winning novel.

Sarah added: “It was a great couple of days, full of stimulating activities and the chance to spend time with colleagues from the wider W&R Barnett Group.

“The addition of four male colleagues also worked really well and they all said how much they got from the experience. It is not uncommon for women to find themselves hugely outnumbered at a business event, so it was interesting to show what this can be like. The topics of conversation were also very different, less about sport and more about childcare duties and the weekend taxi service!”

Reflecting on this year’s IWD, Agnieszka said: “There are still women who think that because they are working in a male-dominated environment that they have to behave like a man to be respected and taken into consideration, but this is simply not necessary.”

Colleague Vicki Brough commented: “As a new member of UM I was so grateful for the opportunity to travel to Belfast to celebrate International Women’s Day. It was amazing to meet and spend time with the team from the wider W&R Barnett Group and we had such a laugh together – I will never forget the magician and learning that I’m a super taster!

“The IWD conference itself was utterly inspiring and motivating and I felt so privileged to be in the room with such strong women.”

Jo Winning said: “The two days were inspiring and energising. Having shared time getting to know other Barnetts colleagues, along with attending the IoD event, I came away with a reinvigorated sense of confidence and purpose.

“The stories shared by the speakers at the event were truly inspiring and I felt proud to be at an event that honoured the achievements of women from all walks of life who are succeeding in all aspects of their life, including in the professional world.”

A final highlight was the collection of £685 in donations from those taking part in the two days’ of activities on behalf of the National Autistic Society, an amount that was match-funded through the generosity of the W&R Barnett Charity Matching Scheme giving a final total of £2,000.


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