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A year in review from from our President Uma Cresswell

A year in review from from our President Uma Cresswell, Non-Executive Director and CEO of Paradigm HR Ltd | CWN Board President

How do you even begin to find the right words to adequately reflect on 2020?

The year started off with a couple of very busy months for City Women Network. In January, we held our winter drinks at Carlton House Terrace with the superbly talented Viv Groskop as our keynote speaker. We also introduced you to our new charity partner, Wellbeing of Women (WoW).

Also in January and February, the CWN board convened for two strategy days at the offices of our corporate partner BCS Consulting to reflect on 2019, review feedback from our membership and to set priorities for 2020.

March consisted of the CWN prospective members breakfast at 1 Lombard (which was oversubscribed), the International Women’s Day event with our corporate partner Nomura (subsequently cancelled due to Covid) and our annual CWN AGM.

Looking back to my March 2020 calendar, I see entries (both personal and professional) littered with various London street names/establishments which I regularly frequented…until March the 12th when my personal ‘physical’ world of work and socialising came to an abrupt halt. Soon after this, a new language sprouted up - words such as ‘Covid-19’, ‘pandemic’ and lockdown’ were the daily headlines across all media platforms. The world of business and socialising was catapulted onto virtual platforms such as Zoom and Teams where I found myself frequently repeating ‘you’re on mute’!

As a network that had previously operated and existed entirely in the context of ‘physical’ networking and ‘in person’ events, we needed to respond quickly to this strange and uncertain world. We very successfully moved all our events to an on-line platform in a matter of days and kick-started our virtual CWN journey with our first ever remote AGM.

The CWN Board and committee members worked tirelessly to ensure that we were able to continue delivering and communicating to you, our valued membership community. It was a very exhausting and insightful few weeks as we came to terms with our ‘new norm’ and adapted to new technology and on-line event management amongst other things.

I am incredibly thankful to the CWN board and committee members for all their hard work and commitment to make this transition happen seamlessly.

This smooth transition meant that we could continue the dialogue with you, our membership community. Hearing your feedback and words of support this year has been incredibly helpful and insightful in the planning and delivering of our events.

To date, we have delivered over 31 virtual events - from fireside chats with prominent business and public figures (with our biggest attendance of approximately 400 people tuning in globally to hear from actress Caitriona Balfe), to a range of professional development events, a summer concert, topical seminars relating to working in Covid times, as well as a number of events around professional and personal wellbeing. These have been delivered both in webinar and interactive workshop format as requested by you.

Our charity partner, WoW also delivered a range of online webinars over this period that were open to all CWN members.

As you are aware, CWN is a networking community that has existed for over 42 years. I am immensely proud of how this highly spirited and resilient community has continued to thrive and grow during these challenging times. We have welcomed 26 new individual members to our network this year and at a time when we are unable to meet in person.

We are extremely grateful to our corporate partners: ANZ, BCS Consulting, Derwent London, Nomura, RBC and Wipro and would like to extend our thanks and gratitude for all their incredible support.

As we look ahead to 2021, we are planning our schedule of future events whilst keeping in mind our theme of Wellbeing, including personal, physical, career and financial wellbeing. We look forward to the time when we can welcome you back in person - when it is safe to do so. That will be some reunion and we will celebrate accordingly!

We may wish to put many aspects of 2020 behind us and there are not enough words to describe the myriad of emotions that we have experienced this year - uncertainty, isolation, despair, fear, loss. But also, collaboration, support, tolerance, understanding and kindness.

This year, we have had to hit the pause button on much of our pre-Covid life. However, 2020 has also provided us with the opportunity to reflect and I am reminded of the wise words of the American author, columnist and businessman Dov Seidman (founder of Legal Research Network):

“When you hit the pause button on a machine, it stops. But when you press the pause button on human beings, they start. You start to reflect, you start to rethink your assumptions, you start to reimagine what is possible and, most importantly, you start to reconnect with your most deeply held beliefs. Once you’ve done that, you can begin to reimagine a better path.”

On behalf of CWN, I would like to wish you good health and peace of mind as we enter the festive season and firmly close the door on 2020.

We look forward to reconnecting with you in 2021.

Uma Cresswell