BUSINESSES and people across the Sunderland are shining a spotlight on the need for gender equality, as part of International Women’s Day celebrations, today.


Male and females from across the city are welcoming the annual awareness day, and activities and events have been organised across the North East, which aims to provoke discussion about gender parity, and break down the barriers that exist for women.


Businesses in Sunderland have jumped on the occasion, with a number of them holding events and activities, as well as communications campaigns, to ensure the city sends a strong message to their networks about the contribution women make to society.


Sunderland College, Sunderland BID, and Sunderland City Council have all recorded impactful videos that highlight the importance of gender parity. The college has used the occasion to profile its female members of staff, as well as sharing stories of female students that are breaking the mould in traditionally male dominated industries.


Abbie Kitching is one such student. She is taking part in a Next Gen course, geared towards gaming and tech.  She said: “If you just work hard and put a lot of effort and determination in then you can achieve what you want to achieve and there is no limit – even if you’re a girl in any industry, you can do what you want to do.


Enterprise and innovation centre, Hope Street Xchange, played host to an International Women’s Day event at Hope Street Xchange, building on the success of similar events held since it opened its doors three years ago. Working with colleagues from the University of Sunderland, the hub used the event to focus on the work being done to support women and girls through education and into work, especially those who may have to overcome difficult or complex barriers.


Initially the team worked with Smart Works and The Red Box Project, with Sunderland Food Bank and Wearside Women in Need coming on board too to raise donations and awareness, alongside speakers who shared their personal stories and examples of the work they do to support others.


Businesses from other enterprise hubs have also spoken out, to draw attention to the inspirational female leaders that are running their own businesses.


Sunderland Software Centre tenant, MMC, a strategic marketing business headed up by Natasha McDonough, was quick to use today to talk about why equality is important.


Natasha, who is chair of the Sunderland committee of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “I think everybody should have a chance.


“For me, it’s moved on from suffragettes and first female prime minister, for example, to be about pay parity for instance. And about people knowing they can have a career, regardless of gender.  I hope International Women’s Day just lets people know that anything is possible.”


Neighbouring HR company owner Louise Kennedy has also backed the day. Louise has previously organised well-attended events to help female leaders grow their networks, while coming together to celebrate the day.


Housing association, Gentoo, held an event with tenants that was profiled on Twitter. Examples of inspirational women are being shared with staff as well as on social media, to show the contribution they make to the business and the community. The University of Sunderland has also used case studies to draw attention to females that are doing something inspirational every day and The Bridges shopping centre has used the day to celebrate its female team members.


An exhibition of work by a group of Sunderland artists will also mark the day.


Twelve artists from Sangini’s Sunderland Women’s Art Group (SWAG) have produced artwork to commemorate International Women’s Day.


It has been supported by Sunderland Culture through its Unlock initiative, which is funded through the Great Place Scheme, a joint fund from Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of communities.


Each of the women have produced a piece of art that will be exhibited at Mackie’s Corner, High Street West, in Sunderland city centre. The exhibition will open on International Women’s Day, from 10.30am – 5pm. The exhibition is then open on Thursdays and Fridays only over the following fortnight from 10.30 am – 4pm.

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