UK small business essential services provider Verastar invited employees to discuss gender norms during its inaugural Celebrating Women in Verastar event on International Women’s Day (#IWD) Wednesday 8th March.

More than 130 attendees (male, female and non-binary) took part in the event which was delivered both remotely and in person at the company’s sites across the UK.  The full day event included talks, a speaker panel and break out groups to discuss gender norms in the workplace. Employees were able to open up about their personal experiences and the day to day challenges faced as a woman in the workplace.

Stacey Clarke, Customer Care Director at Verastar spearheaded the event: “To coincide with #IWD this year at Verastar we held our first ever Celebrating Women in Verastar Day.   We coordinated the event across all of our UK sites to encourage debate, acknowledgement and more importantly, action.”

Topics tackled during the event included: family focussed hybrid or part-time working; the biggest challenges facing working women and how to overcome them; and experience or examples of gender bias.  The event has triggered a series of further actions around support for ‘Menopause in the Workplace’, having confidence to challenge workplace bias and the availability of free period products.

Attendees contributed to the debate via a teams chat and some of the insights are below:

Matthew Sleight: “Today we heard that women value environments where they feel safe and supported to speak more openly…but I think organisations also need to learn to be more considerate.  It’s getting better, but still a long way to go.  Not all men are brave either, so changing the way organisations treat their staff will help everyone, not just women.”

Emma Hardy: “This event was one of the most useful events of my entire career, not just my time at Verastar. I have been given advice on being ‘tough’ as a female employee over the years and even told to change how I dress to be more masculine! I now follow how I feel and I dress in pink at every opportunity I get! It’s taken me years to have the confidence to be feminine!”

Patrick Herdman: “What an inspirational day! I haven’t been able to attend the sessions in full but what I have seen and heard today has been so thought provoking. As a man, I often don’t even consider or realise the challenges my female colleagues may face, each and every day – us men need educating and our eyes opening. Thank you again to everyone who has shared so openly, vulnerably and personally!”

Samantha Hales: “I agree that not everyone can speak up immediately and may not be confident to speak out – I can see the business trying to create this safe place for us to share when we have felt vulnerable.  I don’t often get asked if I feel comfortable with certain things it’s just the expectation that I shouldn’t feel vulnerable and get on with it.  We should ask more in the hope that we get people to speak up more.”

Celebrating Women in Verastar was opened by Georgina Lord, Verastar’s Chief Customer Officer and she added: “The last few years have celebrated successful women in a way that has allowed them to be seen, to be heard and most of all to lead the way forward. I’m proud of that.”

Delivering essential business services to over 160,000 UK SMEs, Verastar employs around 820 staff across its Sale, Central Manchester, Rutherglen, Leeds and Grimsby offices.