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Critical Mass Summit 2024 

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Angela Owen OBE

Founder of Women in Defence UK

5 min read

Jul 01, 2024

On 24th June 2024, sponsored by our Pankhurst Partner, Babcock, representatives from over sixty companies and organisations gathered to engage with experts from within and outside of defence on the retention conundrum, how do we keep women in the sector.

Charlotte Woodworth, Campaign Director of Business in the Community, drew on insight from their Times Top 50 Employers for Gender Equality 2024 list and wider BITC knowledge saying: “really interrogate your data. It’s vital to understand what might act as an incentive to stay, what might push people out. Use pulse surveys to target questions such as are people afraid about speaking up if they witness or experience sexual harassment.”

Elliott Rae, talked about ‘Parenting out loud: why supporting working dads is key to gender equality’. Elliott spoke about how 80% of the gender pay gap in the UK is attributed to the motherhood penalty. He said “If we want to get really get sustainable long term gender equality for women, we absolutely must support dads to be equal parents, to have the option to parent loudly, to take enhanced paternity leave. It’s also really good for men too, the state of the world Father’s report said that 85% of men wanted to spend more time with their children.”

Eleanor Mills, Founder of Noon and Queenager-in-Chief talked about Queenagers (women over 45) and why they matter. She said “there’s a gendered ageism operating in our society, I’m really passionate about how we get companies to value our Queenagers, see them and retain them. When it comes to Queenagers, flexibility is sixteen times more important to them than status. Companies make huge effort when it comes to retaining women post maternity then take their eye off the ball when it comes to gendered aging.”

The afternoon was equally enriching, featuring breakout sessions on pivotal topics. One standout session was given by Petty Officer Physical Trainer Mel Haslam Royal Navy, on ‘Preparing women for arduous training and operations, the menstrual cycle, nutrition and how best to manage the body.’ Mel has reached week eleven of the All Arms Commando Couse and brought her learning from that experience to the table. Another session, ‘Policy and Society Change – What next?’ looked at ideas to take to the new Government on obstacles for women who work in defence of the Nation and possible solutions. ‘Reflections on the Day – Your Questions Answered’, facilitated a lively Q&A, allowing attendees to engage directly with the experts. As the day drew to a close, cake was eaten, peers connected, shared insights, and built lasting connections during a dedicated networking session.

For those keen to delve deeper into the discussions, you can watch the individual recordings from our speakers, linked below.