Recap: Women2Win at Conservative Party Conference

Another Conservative Party Conference has come to a close, and for the Women2Win team, this year’s gathering in Manchester was a great one!

Thank you to everyone who came to our Sunday night reception, ‘Your Journey’ session and Make it Your Business events in partnership with the CWO. And for those of you who couldn’t make it, our Director Virginia Crosbie and Head of Engagement, Resham Kotecha and Make it Your Business Moderator Alison Cork have provided a handy recap! 

Resham: On Sunday night, we kicked off conference with our annual reception. We were delighted to see many of our wonderful female MPs, candidates, and supporters – and especially thrilled to have two of our newly elected MPs, Kemi Badenoch and Gillian Keegan. The room was packed and Baroness Jenkin kicked off the evening by talking about the fabulous female candidates we had for the 2017 election, and our hopes that we would see many more of them on the green benches after the next election. I spoke about her inspiration for the “Women2Win Spotlight” project – an exciting series of interviews with our female MPs talking about their backgrounds and motivations. 

Our director, Virginia, then spoke about her experiences as a candidate and her desire to be ‘out of a job’ in the next decade, once Parliament is more representative.

Patrick McLoughlin, Party Chair, was vocal about the difference Women2Win has made in changing the face of the Parliamentary party and we had a special visit from the Prime Minister, Theresa May – a cofounder of W2W. The PM spoke of her sadness at losing great female MPs, her delight at seeing Kemi, Gillian and others elected, and her desire to see more of our talented candidates in Parliament.

As ever, special thanks to the ABI who sponsored the event and to Huw Evans, the Director General, who explained his desire to continue supporting us in our endeavours to get more wonderful women elected.

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Virginia: Thank you to our brilliant ‘Your Journey’ panel - Kemi Badenoch MP, Julie Iles CWO chair, Jade Marsden Candidate and Cllr, and Cllr Melanie Hampton  - for sharing their experiences and giving their advice so freely and honestly. This was an informative session chaired by myself, aimed at helping candidates navigate the political maze. 

The role of a Councillor and being elected to County Council were discussed in detail. So too was being elected to the GLA and standing as a General Election candidate. The key message was it's ‘your journey’ and no two journeys are the same. 

Getting a support network of friends and family to help you through the highs and lows of political life repeatedly featured. So too did being resilient and not giving up. By being open minded and having a ‘yes’ attitude, candidates are better able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. 

A top tip was always to be ‘Election ready’; you never know when you might get ‘the call’. It is hard to hear disappointing news but take heart as there is usually no rhyme or reason why things go the way they do - just pick yourself up and learn from the lesson. It is vitally important to get the role that is right for you. 

The best of luck to everyone on their journeys. We look forward to welcoming you back to feature on the ‘Your Journey’ panel! 

On Tuesday afternoon, our Head of Engagement, Resham, was a panellist for a members’ only event on ‘Showcasing our Party’s groups’. The panel was made up of representatives for Women2Win, Conservative Policy Forum, LGBT Tories, Conservative Friends of India and the Outreach team. The party has a vast number of different groups (and we would recommend getting involved with lots of them!) The panel event aimed to show members a few of the groups and to give them the opportunity to question the panel about their objectives and to feed in their views. We were delighted that the members in the hall were passionate about getting more women elected, and several candidates in the room talked about how Women2Win helped them in the most recent election. You can watch Resham's presentation here.

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Alison: Standing room only! To a packed room both of Party members and local Mancunians (but mostly the latter I am pleased to say), we delivered our CPC17 Make It Your Business seminar. 

Designed to support and encourage women to start their own business, MIYB welcomed an impressive panel of female entrepreneurs - Tabitha Goldstaub, co- founder of AI firm Cognition X; Amy Le Coz, co-founder of digital media company DMS Ltd, and local girl Lisa Tse MBE, CEO of Sweet Mandarin restaurant and sauce brand. 

We were also delighted to hear from W2W director Virginia Crosbie how W2W and the CWO help women enter public life, and honoured to welcome Margot James, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility who talked about the economic importance of small businesses for the UK economy. 

As ever, the overarching aim was to let 'would be' female entrepreneurs hear the stories of those who had already trodden the path and our panel both inspired and entertained with their tales of triumph over adversity. 

We were particularly pleased that so many local women joined us, and were clearly appreciative of the experience and honesty of the panel. The audience questions could easily have flowed well beyond the allotted hour. 

A great event and one of many to come. 

- - 

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Women2Win was also featured in a series of articles in The Independent. Hear from our Founder, Baroness Jenkin, Director Virginia Crosbie, and former Director and MP for Chichester Gillian Keegan about the work of Women2Win and why we need more women in Parliament. 

Baroness Jenkin: "The Conservatives may have a female leader, but the party still needs more women"

Virginia Crosbie: "Forget Twitter: the Conservative Party Conference is where the real debate happens"

Gillian Keegan MP: "Theresa May helped me become an MP, and tonight I'm introducing her onstage at Conservative conference"