International Women's Day

The Chamber of Commerce Network is proud to celebrate International Women's Day 2021 on Monday 8 March

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

The campaign theme for International Women's Day 2021 is 'Choose To Challenge'. A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. So let's all #ChooseToChallenge.

Get involved and find out more about how our Chamber Network is marking the day by taking part in some of the events below:

In conversation with Alison Rose

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BCC's Adam Marshall is joined by Alison to discuss:

  • International Women's Day 2021 and this year's theme Choose to Challenge;
  • The impact of the economic downturn on women and female-owned businesses; and
  • How to restart, rebuild and renew.

Alison Rose

Alison Rose was appointed Chief Executive of NatWest Group plc in 2019 having joined the bank as a graduate in 1992. The first woman to lead one of the UK’s big four banks, Alison has previously been shortlisted for the 'most influential woman in investment banking' award by Financial News, included in the Women in FinTech Powerlist and named in Vogue’s Top 25 Most Influential Women.

Alison’s diverse career at NatWest has included a number of senior leadership roles, including Deputy CEO NatWest Holdings, Chief Executive of Commercial & Private Banking, Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Markets & International Banking and Global Head of International Banking Capital and Balance Sheet.

A passionate supporter of diversity and executive sponsor for the bank’s employee-led networks, Alison was commissioned by the UK government to report on the barriers to women starting businesses. She now sits on the Rose Review Board and is responsible for driving forward its recommendations.

Alison sits on the Board of Directors for the Institute of International Finance and is a member of the International Business Council for the World Economic Forum. A Trustee of Business in the Community (BITC) and Chair of the Scottish BITC Advisory Board, Alison is also a Non-Executive Director of Great Portland Estates plc and sits on the board of the Coutts Charitable Foundation.

Events across the Chamber Network

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4 - 11 March

5 March

8 March

9 March

10 March

12 March

18 March

25 March

Reflections from our Chamber Network

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Why is supporting the women in our Networks so important?

Sharing knowledge, support, best practice and lessons learnt is so valuable to your young, aspiring and inspiring young women leaders - Louise Bennett, Chief Executive, Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce

With a national skills shortage in some areas, women are a vital part of the solution and its so important that we encourage and attract this part of the labour force into roles to support the economy. Women in the workforce are also essential for balance in team dynamics – the diversification that gender balance brings is critical to any successful team - Sharon Smith, Chief Executive, Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce

We have responded to the Women in our local network by providing a new “women with Vision” network which provides a safe place for Women in business to share their stories, barriers to success and how they overcome them. It’s a crucial network to empower women and give them the confidence and tools to progress - Louise Wall, Interim CEO, Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce

Because in spite of huge progress there are still many barriers holding women back. Imposter syndrome and confidence are two big barriers. Honesty about our own self-doubt and mistakes can help women believe in themselves and that they are not the only ones battling their insecurities - Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

We need to encourage and nurture young females and change attitudes where needed to reinforce the importance and value of women in the workplace - Briege Leahy, Chief Executive, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce

Through mutual support, women can learn from each others experiences and best practices, share advice, build a support network, address challenges together - Francesca Ortiz, Executive Director of the British Chamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic

Women bring significant skills and talent to business, yet many are not comfortable in singing their own praises. In order to really get organisations to appreciate their unique skills my advice would be to be vocal about their strengths and let everyone know why their expertise and contribution is important - Babs Murphy, Chief Executive, North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

What advice would you give male colleagues to support women in the workplace?

Treat women colleagues the same with regard to the role and tasks needed to be done but allow for flexibility and encourage confidence building activities - Louise Punter, Chief Executive, Surrey Chambers of Commerce

Having a diverse workforce really does make your business BETTER and more successful - Miranda Barker, Chief Executive Officer, East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

What skills do you feel are our biggest asset as women in the workplace?

Our courage - Asta Raicevičiūtė, Executive Director, British Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania

Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?

I think one of the best pieces of advice I was given was along the lines of “Ask yourself does it really matter? How important is it in the grand scheme of things? And do you really care what they say/think? - Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber

Explore more options and network widely, be less afraid and worry less about what others (including family) think or you THINK they might think! - Cecilia Albertyn, VP: Membership and International Networks, British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa

To believe in your gut instinct and always keep learning. Change is ever present and how you cope with that will give you confidence - Alison Henderson, CEO, Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce

Believe in yourself, be brave - Ana Christie, Chief Executive at Sussex Chamber of Commerce

With the challenges we have all faced this last year, what would you say has been the most challenging part of living during a global pandemic, be it work/ business, personal or family related?

From a work perspective remote working has worked well but it has been difficult to continue to build a strong team when you are only seeing each other remotely, but it is possible, just takes more effort. Not being with family is definitely the hardest part and of course, not getting my weekly dose of retail therapy - Jo James, Chief Executive, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

IWD videos

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Some of the BCC team share their thoughts about the importance of International Women's Day. Take a look by clicking the images below:


While it will be a relief to some businesses in England that select critical workers can be exempt from self-isolation, it will leave many more still facing critical staff shortages and lost revenue as the number of people being asked to isolate remains high.

BCC Calls for Negotiated Settlement Following Latest NI Protocol Announcement

Responding to the announcement of the new UK approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol, William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the BCC, said: “Businesses in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland need durable, workable, negotiated solutions on compliance with the Protocol to ensure the continued two-way flow of goods East-West and North-South. The UK Government and EU need to work together to find solutions which work for business."


The UK government should seek to expand trade opportunities for UK businesses in the switch to greener technologies and practices.


Hard-pressed companies will need further support into next year as they adjust to this new phase of the biggest change in trading terms with the rest of Europe for half a century.