Published by Isabel Bucknall
Where We Started
WWID was established by Roisin Hood, Associate Director in BDO’s International Project’s Group, and Jess Toale, former Executive Director of the Centre for Development Results (CDR). “It struck me that there was an absence of spaces for women working in development to come together to share their experiences with a view to helping other women to succeed.” says Roisin. “That felt like a missed opportunity.”
Recent coverage of safeguarding concerns in communities where our organisations are working, and of discrimination faced by women working in the sector have made this type of network even more valuable. On the flip-side our members have often emphasised the unique opportunity that women in development have, in their ability to engage with marginalised groups (especially other women; sexual assault victims and others), with whom men may find it difficult or impossible to engage with due to cultural, religious or personal reasons. Finally, in a sector which can involve travelling to fragile or conflict affected countries, the intention has been to allow women to share experience on issues ranging from technical skills and professional development to managing their work-life balance when working internationally. For Roisin, becoming a mother was a key stimulus behind launching the group, as she found herself looking to role models within the sector to understand how they achieved a balance.
What have we Achieved
We have now successfully organised four events focusing on topics ranging from mentoring, working in fragile and conflict affected states, and working in technology for development. Participants and speakers at our networking events come from a range of Government, NGO, private sector, academic and media organisations, including everyone from interns to CEOs. “The support we’ve had from the beginning has been overwhelming,” Jess tells us. “It’s been particularly great to have representatives from government (both the FCO and DFID)… The opportunity to learn from and engage with government counterparts who work on the issues that are important to our attendees is really valuable.”
Response to our newly launched Linkedin Group has been overwhelming: after just over a month, we have almost 1,500 members. These are women from all across the world who are interested in sharing their experience and learning from others in the sector. Participants have been introducing themselves, sharing news of similar networks in other countries from Australia to Colombia, in addition to articles about women’s leadership and innovation.
Our Speakers have included women from a number of organisations including:
- UK Department for International Development
- Plan International
- Save the Children
- UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Care International
- Cherie Blair Foundation
BDO and CDR are excited about the opportunities open to the WWID Network in its second year. Plans are underway for our fifth event in September 2018, and we’ve had an excellent response to calls for topics for our panel discussions. High on our agenda for the coming months is to understand how to make the network more inclusive. As Roisin highlighted, “I’m keen to find ways to make the network more accessible to women working in development based outside of the UK, particularly those in developing countries.”
We welcome ideas and comments from members of the network and look forward to continuing to learn with the community in our second year.