From education to employment

Principal leads celebration in recognition of women leaders in the Borders

Pictured (left to right) are Clare de Bolle (Chief Officer, Youth Borders), Barbara Smith (Health Improvement Practitioner, Youth Borders), Rosie McLeman (Pupil, Galashiels Academy), Sara Shinton (Borders College Regional Board member), Angela Cox (Principal and Chief Executive, Borders College), Nicola Brown (Finance Assistant, Borders College), Donna Manson (Service Director - Children and Young People, Scottish Borders Council), Emma Pearce (Probationer Teacher, Scottish Borders Council), and Rachael Hamilton MSP

Borders College Principal and Chief Executive, Angela Cox, recently held a special lunch in celebration of women in leadership roles and the impact they make to our economy and society. This coincided with the 100 year anniversary of the suffragette movement successfully getting legislation passed to give some women the right to vote.

Attended by women in senior positions (from organisations including Scottish Borders Council, Eildon Housing, Youth Borders, CGI, and Borders College itself) and potential future leaders from across the region, the celebratory lunch provided a unique opportunity to bring together existing female role models and rising professional women, with each leader acting as a mentor to their guest.

Angela Cox began by thanking guests for finding time in their busy schedules to attend, suggesting:

“We should be proud of the progress we’ve made, but we still have a considerable way to go in being recognised as equal, and should remain restless until we get there.”

Despite a strong growth in female entrepreneurship overall since 2009, the UK still lags behind countries such as Canada and the US, costing the UK economy £1bn a year. Angela added:

“I am committed to making a difference in the Borders and I believe if we all used our knowledge, experience and networks to support our future talent, the Borders would be an exciting, dynamic and economically vibrant place to live and work.”

Guest Alex Feechan (Founder of Findra) is herself a successful entrepreneur – with a background in knitwear design and a keen mountain biker, Alex and her all-female group of cyclists found that they were struggling to find suitable clothing designed for women. This motivated Alex to carry out research, and she discovered that, following the Rational Dress movement in 1881 where women campaigned for more practical cycle wear, the bike has become a recognised symbol for the liberation and freedom of women. She added:

“All of this inspired me to launch my business, Findra, in December 2014, which specialises in outdoor and lifestyle clothing for women.”

Guests were all asked to bring along a photo, poem or other symbolic item relating to their own personal female role models, which were displayed upon arrival for other guests to view.

In recognition of her chosen role model, Alex’s guest – Peebles High School pupil Eve Bennett, brought a ceramic bowl crafted by Clarice Cliff, who was not only the most successful female ceramic artist of her time, she was appointed as head of her factory’s artistic department and was also a well-known feminist.

To conclude, Angela encouraged everyone to consider what their collective and individual legacy should be for every young female wishing to be a future captain of industry, inviting each guest to write a pledge.

Rachael Hamilton MSP commented:

“It was fantastic to have such a mixed group of women with different backgrounds and experience, and the input from young people is valuable. Together we came up with amazing, constructive ideas to get more young women into employment locally.”

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