International Women’s Day

in Community Insight

‘Harness Your Power…the Journey is Yours’ Conference Report

On Thursday 5 March, Gibraltar’s International Women’s Day celebrations got into full swing with the conference, ‘Harness Your Power, the Journey is Yours’, hosted by the GFSB & WIB (Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses & Women in Business (now united). This was the first IWD conference Gibraltar has seen and was a hugely successful day, attended by 150 people on the Sunborn. A much wider audience than originally anticipated was reached due to the event’s partnership with GBC and a Viewpoint broadcast and much buzz in social media. Attendees enjoyed a packed programme with discussions that ranged from ‘Women and Financial Empowerment’ to ‘Change Management’ and ‘Advancing Your Career or Business’.

There was an international array of panellists that also pulled from Gibraltar’s talent pool to highlight some hidden gems.  Delegates appreciated the energy and advice of keynote speaker, Nina Vaca (Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, listed as the USA’s fastest growing woman-owned business in 2015 & 2018) to use its assets to its advantage:  small = mighty and nimble.  The second keynote, Catherine Hankinson showcased how in the UK women in policing had ‘broken the glass ceiling’ since policing’s establishment in 1829, with Peel’s rules encouraging the ‘wearing of beards’, to the top two police jobs in the UK now being held by women: the Met Commissioner and the National Crime Agency. There was a palpable positivity and energy in the room, a recognition of how far issues that women face have come and yet the continued journey. The event was sponsored by Hassans, EY, Ince, PlayTech and The Parasol Foundation, and was officially opened by Minister for Equality, Hon Samantha Sacramento MP.

Nina Vaca – Chairman & CEO, Pinnacle Group

  • One single idea: be crazy good.
  • I started my business to help my family: this is the no.1 reason that women globally start businesses.
  • Women have 85% purchasing power in the home and corporations are starting to realise this. Having women at the table isn’t just about doing good; it’s about doing good business.
  • The perspective you have of yourself and how you view yourself will be who you will become.
  • Gibraltar is small but mighty! If you are small, know your assets (small businesses have the advantage in personalisation, localisation, and superior customer service).
  • Always believe better days are ahead of us.
  • Networks are important: use social media, and local programmes such as WIB/GFSB.
  • Raise your hand, applaud yourself, have no fear.
  • Finding the right partner who will support your dreams and do 50% of the work is the most important decision we will make.
  • Women try to be so many things. Be a strong example to our children.
  • Be clear on your why – in life and in business. If your why is not clear you could fall into a negative outlook. When you find out what your why is, you can find multiple paths to get there.
  • The hardest moments can bring out your biggest strengths.

Michaela Rees – Director, Knightsbridge Incorporations

I have always worked flexibly around my children and feel that being a mother shouldn’t be a barrier to entrepreneurship. We need to make daughters robust, and our sons part of this and supportive of women at work. Children don’t see these differences that we do. I have always tried to involve my children in my business and they help out in the office. They have been given small budgets to manage from an early age. We deal with a lot of women needing financial planning and can’t stress enough the importance of having the education in the first place. Another issue is that women are not big risk takers and so obtaining finance is barrier as women don’t want to take a loan to get business off the ground. NatWest offer the ‘Back her Business’ programme which allows an individual to raise up to £10,000. If you have an idea, work out the forecast and try to get investment to make dream a reality.

Dineen Garcia – Diversity Global Consulting, LLC and co-organiser of the conference 

  • Embrace lifes pivots.
  • Be kind to others and yourself.
  • Better to try and not succeed than not try at all: noble failures (attributed to former Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren).
  • Having it ‘All” is subjective; my “All” doesn’t equate with yours.
  • Perfection does not exist.
  • Challenges are stepping stones: they aren’t drawbacks they are opportunities.
  • Remember the Madeleine Albright quote: “there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women”.

Catherine Hankinson – Assistant Chief Constable, West Yorkshire Police

  • Dont underestimate the value of a mentor: be careful not to pull up the ladder behind you.
  • Ask for help: it helps with learning and helps other people to share their vulnerability too.
  • Flexible working discussion is not just a female issue, it’s a parenting issue and it needs to move away from gender.
  • It will be 170 years until women have full economic equality with men: as estimated by World Economic Foundation .
  • I particularly notice a lack of confidence when talking to female colleagues. The little voice inside tells you that you can’t do something, then it’s reinforced in everything else you do. 
  • I focus on being a role model for the types of behaviours I expect my team to exhibit and meet directly with junior colleagues to talk to them about expectations.
  • A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong it is until it is in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt 
  • Be kind: nobody cares what you know, until they know you care. People will always remember how you made them feel.
  • Build your resilience before you need it. Make time to indulge in the things you like so you are physically and mentally strong to build for when you need it.
  • FAIL is merely an acronym for First Attempt In Learning.
  • Know yourself – really know yourself. What are your stakes in the ground? 

Mandy Gaggero – Marketing Director, MH Brand 

Is there a double standard between the vocabulary used to describe the character traits between men and women?

A man is commanding; a woman is demanding.
A man is forceful; a woman is pushy.
He’s assertive; she’s aggressive.
He strategizes; she manipulates.
He shows leadership; she’s controlling.
He’s committed; she’s obsessed.
He’s persevering; she’s relentless.
A man is a perfectionist; a woman is a pain in the ass.  

So, to the women who are labelled: 

Aggressive: keep being assertive
Bossy: keep on leading 
Difficult: keep telling the truth
Too much: keep taking up space
Awkward: keep asking hard questions

There are kind people (of both sexes) who are positive, reliable and supportive.  Find them and align yourself with them, use them as role models and ask for help when you need advice.  Asking for help is not giving up, it is refusing to give up.

Kathryn Morgan – Previously Director of Regulatory Operations at Financial Services Commission

The local gender pay gap in Gibraltar is just over 19%, compared to 17% in the UK.  About 12% can be explained by the “mummy tax” – having two kids and taking a year off for each one will reduce lifetime earning by about 12%.  And that doesn’t allow for missing out on promotion opportunities, or working part-time.  

Divorce is a time when it’s important to think about money – not just for the short term, but longer term.  Sharing of pensions is difficult and divorcing couples should get proper advice from a pensions expert, not just their lawyer.  Interestingly, it costs about £3,000 to divorce in Gibraltar.  This could be a barrier to women leaving abusive relationships.  

Make sure you pay yourself before other bills, for example, by putting money into a pension and building up a fund for rainy days.


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