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Home Park Stadium Hosts International Women’s Day Conference

250 people were united at Home Park Stadium on Monday for the Southwest International Women’s Day Conference.

Organised by Clare Baker Halton, Director of the Devon & Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, and delivered by an all-female Home Park Stadium events team, the conference saw a number of inspirational women deliver seminars on professional and personal topics.

Clare said: “I thought it went really, really well. We must have had 250 here today and there are at least 30 watching on the live streaming, but it’s also on our YouTube channel. So there will be more people who will be able to catch up with it afterwards as well.

“We covered a lot of topics today. We had four main topics and they were all around Breaking The Bias, which is this year’s theme for International Women’s Day.”

Speakers included Plymouth Argyle Women captain Zoe Cunningham and manager Ryan Perks, discussing the development of women’s football.

Away from sport, Babcock International’s Dr Lorna Dallas – named in the UK’s top 50 women engineers in 2018 –  and Veena Shivane, lecturer at City College Plymouth, spoke on the importance of enhancing the role of women in STEM.

In a wide-ranging and challenging schedule of subjects, topics like diversity and violence against women and girls were also tackled, before American television star and author April Hernandez-Castillo delivered the keynote speech via video link. The event was rounded off by live music from Charlie Harris.

“One of the really important things that’s happening in Plymouth at the moment is the Violence Against Women and Girls Commission, and all that’s going on and how we can make the city safer.

“We had Rebecca Smith, who is leading the panel, speaking to us via video as to what’s happened so far and why it’s important. And then we had Asmi Stanley’s story, which was extremely emotional and had a standing ovation from the entire room at the end.

“She very bravely stood up and told her personal story, which I don’t think there was much of a dry eye in the room to be honest. From there, the next topic that we looked at was broader diversity and how its biases – not just in gender, but also in ethnic diversity, and also in mental health and physical disabilities – affect how people are responded to in the world.”

Auguste Krasnickaite, part of the all-female events management team that co-ordinated the International Women’s Day Conference on behalf of Home Park Stadium, said: “We were delighted to play our part in hosting such an inspiring event, with a room full of so many people with amazing stories to tell.

“The Home Park Stadium events team is mostly women, from myself, Rita [Martins, food and beverage manager], and Laura [Lezemore, match-day executive], through to the hospitality team, so it was a real pleasure to be involved in such an important event.”

Having held the event at Home Park Stadium in 2020, just after the new Mayflower Grandstand was built, the 2021 Southwest International Women’s Day Conference had to be held remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions. Clare was thrilled to see a full house on the event’s return to a familiar setting.

She said: “Last year, everything was virtual. But the year before we were here [at Home Park, so we feel like we have bookended the bulk of the pandemic with International Women’s Day on both occasions. It was amazing, absolutely amazing. I think everyone was ready for it.

“One of the things that we really wanted to do was show people what a phenomenal venue this is – in the middle of the city, with parking, great views, excellent hospitality. The tech in here is exceptional. You couldn’t have a better place to host an event in my opinion.

“Just a massive thank you to Home Park, PL1 Events, all our event sponsors and all the speakers – we couldn’t have done it without the support.”