Words Helen Jennings Photography Jackie King
I’ve been supporting I’mPOSSIBLE, a social enterprise promoting the achievements of women of colour in Britain, since it began hosting powerful panel discussions last June. So I wouldn't dreamed of missing its first anniversary instalment last week, not least because ARISE’s very own features editor Hannah Pool was on the esteemed line up. She sat alongside space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, England women’s football coach Hope Powell, BBC London arts correspondent Brenda Emmanus and budding film maker Sheila Nortley.
Hosted by Times newspaper journalist Eva Simpson, they each shared their life stories and career highlights with a sold out audience of women (and a handful of brave men) at Pearson Plc’s penthouse space in London.
Topics discussed included the challenges of working in white male dominated industries. Maggie was once mistaken for the cleaner at a new job while Brenda had experienced sexual harassment and Hannah felt that she’d had to “work twice as hard to gain half the recognition” in her early career. They all agreed though that the biggest obstacle had been their own self-doubt and self-censorship bred out of a fear of earning a reputation for being an “angry black woman”. Yet considerable success in their respective careers has meant they were now happy to laugh off and even embrace such labels.
When asked for advice by the audience, the panel gave the following responses:
Hope: “Believe in yourself and follow your dream. And when you get into a position of power, don’t think you have to behave like a man. Embrace other women and remember where you started.”
Brenda: “Lead by example and surround yourself with positive people. You have to learn to play the game but also try to make a difference.”
Maggie: “Make your own luck and get yourself out there.”
Sheila: “Stick to your intentions and have faith in yourself. The glass ceiling is tougher for us but networking events like this are important. Let’s grow together.”
Hannah: “Don’t be afraid to fail, look into mentorships – and don’t forget to moisturise daily!”
Simone Bresi-Ando, founder of I’mPOSSIBLE, was overwhelmed to look back at a year of events that have seen the likes of Bonnie Greer, Charlene White, Michelle Gayle and Angie Le Mar all join the conversation. “This event brings women from all walks of life together to hear stories and experiences that generally go unheard,” she said. “It’s moving to have created a platform that transcends generations and perceptions and leaves the audience feeling inspired, empowered and ultimately knowing they are possible.”
Stay tuned for the next I'mPOSSIBLE on September 11 at Mizani's HQ in Hammersmith.