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International Women’s Day 2024: Finding your Element – From success to leadership

Following last year’s successful breakfast seminar ‘Women and Risk Taking’, COEL and Birketts once again hosted an insightful panel discussion to kick off International Women’s Day. 

With this year’s panel featuring incredible women, from industries varying from Health, Law, and Defense, through to the Built Environment and Communications, the theme of Finding Your Element’, led to lively discussion designed to break barriers and inspire inclusion, a key theme for 2024. 

Taking place at Birketts Cambridge Office, we explored elements of success and leadership, with discussion focused on how our panel tackled obstacles that hindered their journey. Did finding their element come at a cost to their personal or professional lives?  

Stories of success and leadership, through to dealing with imposter syndrome came from panelists:  

  • Shantha David, Head of Legal Services at UNISON 
  • Maiya Fleming, Assistant Quantity Surveyor at Henry Riley Consultants Ltd 
  • Dr Tamsin Holland Brown BEM, Paediatrician & Clinical Lead on the NHS England clinical entrepreneur programme 
  • Inspector Hannah Ellis, Ministry of Defence Inspector 
  • Faye Holland, Founder of cofinitive  

Hosted by our Chair, Suzie Thorpe (Producer & Presenter/Broadcaster of Women Making Waves, & Cambridge105 Radio), the first question of the day was to Shantha ‘What is success to you?’.  

“Winning a major case didn’t make me feel successful. The greatest success was to realise that I needed time to stop and find peace and enjoy the people around me. It’s all about enjoying the moment.” 

The morning also touched upon wider industry topics including women in construction and we heard from Maiya on how she actively supports young people in considering apprenticeships in the industry. Women in fields such as construction are still underrepresented with under 11% across the global workforce 

Paying it forward was a key take away from the morning’s discussions, with encouragement to support things that align with you, and that you share values with. Faye specifically called to ‘Give people that leg up whenever you can’ whilst Tamsin talked of how her work in developing a groundbreaking intervention to improve children’s lives in low income countries, was a great example of ‘paying it forward’.

“If you’re in a storm where you can’t see the way forward, hold fast and stay true (to your values)” 

Our audience joined in for the final Q&A, representing companies from across the region, including the University of Cambridge, Savills, Cheffins, Feilden+Mawson Architects, Carter Jonas, Gleeds, Cambridge Building Society, Barclays, Owers Warwick Architects through to Bidwells, CB3 Consulting and the Babraham Research Campus. 

IWD collage

Lizzie Bradbury, Communication and Engagement Manager at COEL, who lead on arranging this unique event:

“ COEL consistently looks to raise the profile of women in property and construction, our delivery of this is made stronger by collaborating with others in the industry, which is why we are delighted to partner with Birketts in hosting a celebration of International Women’s Day. Our panel discussion which includes representatives from diverse disciplines and varied age groups allows for an inclusive debate on helping activate positive societal and cultural change.”

Maria-Christina Peyman, Partner at Birketts LLP stated:

“Birketts was delighted to partner with COEL to mark International Women’s Day 2024. This year’s IWD theme was ‘Inspire Inclusion’ and our panel event set out to do just that, bringing together Cambridge’s leading female voices to debate purpose and professional fulfilment. Addressing gender diversity is a core focus for the firm, with the proportion of women in the Birketts partnership increasing by 13% since 2019-20 thanks to the introduction of a number of meaningful initiatives and actions.”

More about our host and panelists

Our Host:  

Suzie Thorpe 

Suzie is a radio presenter for Cambridge 105 Radio and previously for a commercial online radio station. Presenting weekly radio shows and outside broadcasts gave Suzie a new insight into appreciating that radio is a brilliant medium, especially in the art of listening. Suzie also co-presents and co-produces a podcast and radio show. On a mission to showcase what women do, the Women Making Waves podcast and radio show was launched in 2018. 

Our Panel:

Shantha David 

Shantha David is the Head of Legal Services at UNISON and an award-winning solicitor-advocate (and non-practising barrister) who has won many ground-breaking employment-law cases in the UK/Europe’s highest courts. Named the Lawyer Magazine’s #Hot100 lawyer in 2020, Liberty’s Human Rights lawyer of 2017, Shantha also featured in the 2023 Law Society montage celebrating 100-years of women solicitors. She sings (mezzo-soprano) and performs locally in her spare time! 

Maiya Fleming 

Maiya Fleming is an Assistant Quantity Surveyor at Henry Riley Consultants Ltd. Since starting her apprenticeship in July 2021, Maiya has spoken at 2nr UK Construction Week Panels to discuss women in construction and how we can revolutionise the industry. Maiya is passionate about sharing her experience as an apprentice and enjoys going into schools and colleges to educate students on the opportunities available to them and empower them to start their career. Outside of work, Maiya spends a lot of her free time as a netball coach to 3nr clubs in Cambridgeshire and enjoys spending time with her Cockerdor, Cooper. 

Dr Tamsin Holland Brown BEM 

Dr Tamsin Holland Brown BEM, is a paediatrician who has developed a device and the Hear Glue Ear app to help children with hearing loss that has been used across the world, particularly low income settings. This led to her working with the World Health Organisation in the World Hearing Forum. She has a role as clinical lead on the NHS England clinical entrepreneur program and is a mother to five children. 

Inspector Hannah Ellis 

Inspector Hannah Ellis works within the Ministry of Defence Police and currently has a portfolio that includes; The Tactical Firearms Unit, Servator, General purpose police dogs and search dogs. She is the lead maternity coordinator for the MDP and is proud of the organisational changes she has made following her own maternity leave and empirical evidence from within the MDP gained through a recent MSc she completed in Leadership and Management. Socially, she enjoys spending time with her Partner Kris, Step-daughter Penelope, Son Koa and sausage dog Dinky and any other spare time is spent either running or playing golf. 

Faye Holland 

Faye Holland is Founder of cofinitive, the region’s #1 communications and PR company which raises the profile of tech businesses globally. Faye is well known for #21toWatch, a programme that showcases the early-stage innovators that have the potential to change the world; and also, for co-hosting Cambridge Tech Podcast to talk all things tech from the heart of the UK’s busiest tech cluster. Faye also has a strong pay-it-forward ethos that runs through the company. When not working: You’ll mostly find me in the kitchen cooking and hosting dinner parties, although I have line-danced on a very rough cruise once which was hilarious. 

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