Students at Stockland Green School heard inspiring testimonies from five incredible local women at their International Women’s Day Conference.

The event at the school, which is part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, showcased the success of women from diverse backgrounds and different career paths.

Speaking to the students at the event on Monday March 11, were Emma Armstrong of EmPro Consultants, former police superintendent and cultural mentor Karen Geddes, dancer Kate Portlock, published author Jenny Skyers and solicitor Annie Vithathayil.

Emma Armstrong is the Director of EmPro Consultants, a predominately female-led company which specialises in corporate real estate and facilities. She told the students about how perseverance had brought her success.

Emma said: “Facilities management and construction generally can be seen as a boys’ club, and we’re really passionate about displacing that myth.

“My mental resilience was strengthened by my own experiences of trauma and hardship. It’s important not to give up and push forward.”

Karen Geddes was a Police Superintendent at West Midlands Police for thirty years, the first black female to rise to the rank. She now works as a cultural mentor for PoliceNow, and has two projects of her own in development – Thin Black Line, which draws on her lived experience of policing as a person of colour, and Women In The Shade, which strives to empower Black women working in uniform services.

Karen said: “Being invited to speak today was a humbling experience. I want to inspire young people to believe in themselves and potentially consider a career in policing.”

Jenny Skyers is a published author, an Ordained Minister, Advocate, and inspirational conference speaker. She spoke to the students about how overcoming adversity in an often-traumatic childhood had inspired her to reach for her dreams.

Jenny said: “I wanted to share my inspiring story with young people. I grew up being labelled stupid, with nobody believing I had any prospects. I overcame it all – I turned my life around. I want to empower anyone who’s going through something to see the light at the end of it.”

Kate Portlock, a professional dancer, told the students the students there are opportunities available outside of traditional academic pathways such as univertsity.

She said: “I didn’t really take the academic route, I followed my passion as a performer. I wanted the students to know if they don’t want to go to university, if they have a dream they want to follow, they can make it.

“The students were great, they showed a lot of interest. I think it was nice that all the women speaking had such different stories and careers.”

Assistant Headteacher Katerina Lee said that the diversity of the speakers was a key highlight of the event.

She said: “The conference was a great success, and I think the students got a lot from it.

“From a careers point of view, I found women to speak from all walks of life, including those who have broken the stereotype in industries such as engineering and construction.

“I wanted to use this event to inspire our students on a number of levels. I wanted them to see themselves represented in terms of diversity, identity, interests, hardships and for them to see the phenomenal success that comes as a result of hard work.

“I wanted them to see that your past does not define your future.

“The messages given by our speakers are integral to our students’ transition into adulthood, the world of work and beyond.”

Headteacher Rebecca Goode said: “We are very grateful to all the wonderful women who gave up their time and came along to inspire our students.”