We celebrated International Women's Day on Monday 8 March at 13:30-15:00 (CET) with an inspirational and interactive panel discussion.

A diverse panel from different sectors discussed gender equality in the workplace and female leadership, and celebrated women’s achievements. The panellists also touched on how working in lockdown amid the pandemic is affecting working women, with many having to simultaneously juggle career and childcare while working from home. The panellists expressed different views and personal experiences and shared practical tips.

The event was opened by Kate Ewart-Biggs, Interim Chief Executive British Council. After the opening speech, BBC journalist Manuela Saragosa moderated the panel discussion. The panel consisted of Joanna Roper - UK Ambassador to the Netherlands and former Special Envoy for Gender Equality, Professor Rianne Letschert - Rector Maastricht University, Conny Dorrestijn - Founding Partner BankiFi and Marwa Ahmed, Master's student at University of Amsterdam.

The event welcomed anyone, regardless their gender, who is interested in celebrating and encouraging female leadership.

The panel discussion was organised by British Council Netherlands and British Embassy in The Hague. As the representation for the UK in the Netherlands, we have put female leadership at the forefront of our work. Under the EmbasShe initiative, we want to stimulate conversation, challenge gender bias, and work towards equal opportunities for all.

About the speakers

Manuela Saragosa
Manuela Saragosa is a BBC journalist. She hosts Business Daily, the award-winning flagship business programme on BBC World Service radio, and has presented and reported for a range of other shows across the BBC, including Europe Today, Outlook, In The Balance and The Food Chain, as well as Radio 4’s Today, The World Tonight and In Business. Her career has seen her report from across the European Union, Southeast Asia and the US. She is Anglo-Dutch-Italian but was born in Sweden and grew up in Indonesia, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey. She lives in London.

Kate Ewart-Biggs OBE
Kate Ewart-Biggs OBE is Interim Chief Executive of the British Council.Kate joined the British Council after working for organisations helping to improve life for street children around the world. Her British Council career has included postings as Country Director in Uganda and Tanzania. Prior to being named Interim Chief Executive Officer, Kate was Director Global Network – giving British Council staff overseas the backing of a strong support network of colleagues at home. Each of Kate’s roles has allowed her to support the British Council’s purpose – to build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. 

Joanna Roper CMG
Joanna Roper CMG was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in October 2020. Previously, Joanna was the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Special Envoy for Gender Equality from April 2017 until July 2020. Joanna was the first female Director for Consular Services in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and also served in Beijing, Tokyo and Islamabad. For 3 years she was the Chair of FCO Women, the internal staff association that supports women throughout their career in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.  Joanna started her career in the Home Office, joining the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 2001. She was awarded a CMG in the June 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours, and an Honorary Doctorate for her public service by the University of Kent in July 2019.

Professor Rianne Letschert
Professor Rianne Letschert (1976) studied Dutch Law and International Law at Tilburg University, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Montpellier and received her PhD in 2005. Her research focuses on the impact of international tribunals on societies and people who are confronted with serious violations of human rights and international crimes. Since 1 September 2016, Professor Letschert is Rector Magnificus of Maastricht University. She is member of the Supervisory Board of Catharina Hospital Eindhoven and the Bonnefanten museum Maastricht. She is member of the Board of Trustees of Redress the Netherlands. In 2019, she was awarded the title Topwoman of the year in the Netherlands. One of her main tasks as the administrative leader of a national programme by the VSNU is to implement the position paper 'Room for Everyone's Talent', not only in Maastricht but in the entire sector.

Conny Dorrestijn
BankiFi’s Founding partner Conny Dorrestijn has worked in the international financial technology industry in a wide range of marketing and business development roles, most recently at Clear2Pay / FIS. She is an Advisory Board Member to Holland FinTech, Chair of the Supervisory Board at Blanco Services and an Associate of the Digital Insurance Agenda (DIA) and a Global Innovation Awards Judge at BAI (US). She is a co-host of the regular Fintech Cappuccino podcast. With inclusion across gender, age and culture high on her agenda, she is a Global Ambassador of the EWPN – European Women in Payments Network. She is an Advisory Board Member and mentor for Money2020 Europe Rise Up programme. Her passion for generation Y and Z is translated in active student mentoring and her voluntary work for the Global Give Back Circle, where she is also active as a mentor for Kenyan students.

Marwa Ahmed
Marwa Ahmed is a Master’s student in Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam, where she also obtained her bachelor’s degree in Natural and Social Sciences (Bachelor Bèta-gamma). As student assistant to the Faculty Diversity Officer (FDO), board member of the Student Impact Centre (SIC), and co-founder and board member of the Women in the Faculty of Science – Student Chapter (WiF Students), she is committed to making the Faculty of Science a more inclusive work and study place. Together with the FDO team and the WiF Students Marwa strives for equity at the university. With the SIC team she tries to encourage student engagement in combating inequality in education, by organizing outreach programs for children from underrepresented groups to introduce them to STEM and to help them find their way to the university. For her commitment to create a more inclusive university, she won the national ECHO Bèta Techniek (STEM) award in 2020.