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International Women's Day? Boring!

Who wants to talk about International Women’s Day? Weirdly, not Sussex’s premier women-only business networking and social club. Co-founder, Becky, explains why she'd like to change the conversation…

I tried. I tried really hard. On several occasions.

I read and re-read the United Nations page about the International Women’s Day theme for 2024.

And it’s just so.fucking.boring. At Co-Women, we hate boring. We’re kind of allergic to it.

Because the campaign this year is “accelerate progress”. And I just had to laugh. Because when you consider that, this time four years ago, we were about to be plunged into a situation which set equality back by what feels like decades, I don’t think the patriarchy would know the accelerator if it smacked them in the backside. It suits them to have their big bullying feet attached firmly to the brake, and so that’s where they keep them.

IWD has a branding problem. It technically belongs to the UN, but it’s been co-opted by a corporate organisation who bought the recognisable domain, and ranks higher via internet searches. So the whole thing has shot itself in the foot.

It’s also become yet another excuse for brands to bandy about discount codes and events about empowerment and the gender pay gap on the day itself, as if consumerism and sitting around chatting will solve our problems. When our problems are violence against women and girls, disparity in domestic labour, and chronic lack of representation of women in scientific studies – to the extent that period products were tested using liquids similar to water, rather than menstrual blood until 2023 – I don’t see what the point is.

So we’re going to do what we do best with this day – take care of our community.

At Co-Women, we’ve nurtured a brilliant group of women based in Sussex who have businesses ranging from solo enterprises to larger ventures. We are retailers, leisure providers, coaches, photographers, SEO experts and so much more. Day to day, our community shares information via a buzzing WhatsApp group, where members are invited to ask anything they like about life or business, often finding the answer within minutes thanks to the wealth of expertise at their fingertips. We also offer a specific chat for accountability – members share the tasks on their to-do list that they’re struggling to accomplish, because when you’re self-employed, there’s nobody else to force you to do them! So we offer encouragement that’s as gentle as the request is for, and give a round of applause when the mission is successful.

When a new member joins the ranks, they are welcomed warmly, and shown the ropes by our well-established tribe. It’s lovely to see new people accepted quickly, rather than being left on the periphery to figure things out as can be the way with some groups.

And we put ourselves first. We prioritise joy and fun as much as we do the progress of our businesses. Which is why our in-person events are often something beyond what you’d expect. Whether that’s our raucous Christmas party with games and Secret Santa; a Talks at Dinner session where speakers are encouraged to use the language that suits them, and read off notes should they need them, rather than being forced to know their script by heart; or one of the more unique experiences we offer members the chance to try – from pottery throwing to tarot reading, and axe throwing (we promise it’s not all throwing) to silent discoing, we cover a broad range of activities to suit all kinds of tastes and allow you to get to know other members in a truly different environment, as well as letting your hair down.

So rather than sending your cash in the direction of one of the big boys, how about joining the coolest group of local women you haven’t met yet?

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