• Rachel Firth

Introducing Women in Dev - Why Women, Why Now?

There are high-profile examples of women facing personal challenges while trying to action change. A young woman sails across the Atlantic to attend the UN climate summits, she is attacked and mocked for her appearance. A woman who stands alone against nineteen male candidates in an election, promising to empower women and girls and deliver education for all, faces her personal life being sensationalised.

There are also the examples that do not get the press coverage; ones faced by women in development every day. Women struggling to start a career in a sector they are passionate about because of the expectation of working for free – to get the experience – to get the job. Women wanting to build a career in the sector but struggling with the pressure of balancing a career and family. Women leading organisations and facing the realities of gender bias and bullying from board members. Women working in iconic institutions but dealing with bureaucracy, harassment and institutionally-accepted bad behaviour. Women struggling to have their voice heard in an industry of ‘bigger issues’ leaving personal challenges unheard, unresolved and feeding into a growing sense of imposter syndrome and disappointment with a career and industry that should be delivering so much more.

As a woman (and more recently a mother) in the sector, these are the conversations I have been having for the past 10 years working in international development. These are the realities of my colleagues and peers. These are my realities. The conversations I have had (often daily) revolve around the unique challenges faced by women in the sector, while giving rise to other key intersecting issues such as class, cultural differences, time poverty, and institutional and systemic inequality.

This year I started to formalise those conversations, speaking to women from across the sector at every stage of their careers about their experiences. We have much in common, of course, but also a great deal to learn from one another. That is how ‘Women in Dev’ was born – as a forum for leadership, gender equity and personal development for women in the development space.

The one-day conference, which will take place in London in the run up to International Women’s Day, will provide an inclusive atmosphere for women-led conversations around some of the most significant challenges of our time. The conference has been – and will continue to be – shaped by women. It will be both outward-facing and introspective. The future of the sector itself will be on the table as much as the issues we face in our daily work. ​Through inspirational keynote speakers, educational panels, and workshops, you can expect to learn more about the political, economic and social trends and issues underlying much of what we do in the development space, a focus on personal growth and stories exploring how women can and are inspiring change.

Most importantly, Women in Dev has been developed as a platform for you. It will be an engaging space for you to share your story, your work, your realities in a supportive atmosphere, encouraging individual expression and nuance.

Whatever your experience or stage of your career, I hope that you will join us as we take this day, this moment in time, to have these conversations. As we continue to navigate the development world in the context of current political and economic climates, this is a chance for us all to come together: to learn, grow, to inspire. I have been inspired to create this platform, by the stories I have heard every day for the last 10 years. I am excited to hear more of your stories. I am excited to bring together women who want to grow and help others grow in their careers and as individuals. And I can’t wait to learn from and with you all. I would love to hear from all of you, if you have an idea we should explore, or whether as a speaker, attendee, or sponsor; or if you have a view on how to shape the conference itself.

Let’s take this journey together.

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