Bright Futures Conference Highlights
Inspiring speeches, heartfelt stories and fantastically vibrant cultural attire – the Bright Futures Women’s Leadership and Enterprise Conference at RBS HQ was about as far from a stuffy, corporate conference as you can get.
Launched by community interest company Radiant and Brighter, the conference brought together women from BME communities across Scotland to debate, celebrate and highlight the role of diversity in driving economic growth and innovation in Scotland.
The conference was a natural progression from the successful Bright Futures Women’s Leadership and Enterprise programme, which has brought together over 90 BME women into a shared learning space where they have been able to develop ideas into businesses, published books which are now available on Amazon and gain employment.
Funded by the Scottish Government through the Aspiring Communities Fund and in partnership with RBS and Women’s Enterprise Scotland, the theme of the day was ‘visibly invisible’, with discussion surrounding how BME women are frequently and unfairly overlooked and the work that still has to be done to overcome this.
Visibly Invisible theme
After a warm welcome and introduction by Radiant and Brighter Co-founder Pheona Matovu, Yvonne Greeves, Head of Women in Business at NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland & Ulster Bank took to the stage to talk about her experience as one of the first women on the Bright Futures Mutual mentorship programme, emphasising that it’s not about charity, but instead mutual mentorship. She highlighted some of the barriers women in business face and what RBS are doing to encourage and support female entrepreneurship.
Up next was Radiant and Brighter Women’s Leadership and Enterprise Programme Leader, Mariarose Ngosi. Mariarose related the extreme hardship she and her young son faced, as without a visa she was unable to access any financial help or take up employment. At her lowest point, Mariarose was unable to pay her rent, surviving on food bank donations and facing eviction, until she eventually received the news her long awaited visa had been granted.
Despite being a graduate of Glasgow Caledonian University with multiple qualifications to her name, a lack of experience meant Mariarose struggled to gain employment. That is, until she attended an Adopt an Intern event which led her to meeting Pheona of Radiant and Brighter and being so inspired by Pheona’s journey that she joined the programme.
Carolyn Currie, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Scotland outlined what WES do, their perspective on diversity and how the organisation hopes to inspire more women to start their own business. She talked about why women are critical to the Scottish and global economy and also discussed what we can do as individuals in one diverse and united women’s business community to bring about positive change.
Cynthia Malikebu, Radiant and Brighter Volunteer Co-ordinator was introduced to Radiant and Brighter Programme Leader Mariarose after moving with her family from England to Scotland. Mariarose invited Cynthia to the programme, and Cynthia agreed, expecting to meet other women like her – stay-at-home mums with no hope but she met women with great skills and qualifications. On the mentorship program she met Yvonne Greeves, who became her mutual mentor. The programme gave Cynthia great confidence and she is now in the process of going back into education.
I am Fine play by Viana Maya
The afternoon session saw the performance of ‘I am Fine’, a play by the Bright Futures Scotland women, powerfully depicting their real-life stories and experiences, mirroring the experiences of women of colour in Scotland.
Keynote speech by Aileen Campbell MSP
Aileen Campbell MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government was the keynote speech of the day. Aileen recalled her visit to meet the Radiant and Brighter team and how she was struck by the strong bond, sisterhood and companionship evident in the organisation. She went on to talk about what women can do to support each other and to recognise the particular challenges and strains that BME women continue to face.
The afternoon drew to a close with the final speech by Radiant and Brighter Co-founder Pheona on leadership and how Radiant and Brighter start at the grassroots, the community, by providing a place for people to come together, learn and be inspired.
Closing Speech – Pheona Matovu, Strategic Director Radiant and Brighter
What was evident throughout the day was that behind every strong woman, is another one. Just by sharing their stories, experiences and listening to each other, this community of women have been inspired and supported to change their lives for the better. The Bright Futures programme has supported and provided a platform that gives a voice to BME women, placing them in a spotlight, with the hope that one day, BME women are no longer visibly invisible.
Written by Jacqueline Currie, Five Percent