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Creating Positive Footprints....

Pink Shoe Winter Soiree

On the Winter Solstice in the Jubilee Room of the House of Commons, Pink Shoe members and guests were hosted by Loraine Midda as we gathered for an evening of seasonal networking and celebrations.

Arriving at an unusually quiet Parliament in time to enjoy the amazing Christmas tree in the Great Hall, some of the partygoers were also able to visit the stunning Palace of Westminster chapel, with its glorious Victorian décor – a very special start to the evening.

We were brilliantly looked after by Palace Police and Security Officers, who teased some of the guests for not wearing pink shoes!

Over the ubiquitous pink fizz we chatted and shared news and plans for the holidays, then tucked into a scrumptious buffet of favourite seasonal foods, laid out on a sparkling table with pink lights, holly and ivy.

As the party progressed we toasted the engagement of Pink Shoe Ambassador Cali Bird (below, 2nd right) to Graham, and admired her gorgeous diamond solitaire.

All too soon the evening was over, with some of the guests continuing on for drinks at Roux at Parliament Square before heading home.

Tea with the Serjeant at Arms

At the House of Commons we were fully booked for our 2nd Tête-à-Têtes Tea, this time the spotlight was on Parliament itself as we heard from Serjeant at Arms Jill Pay, in conversation with Úna Mcbride.

In almost 600 years, Jill is the first woman to hold the role. She took us through her early career, having worked in senior administrative roles and with some significant schools projects, Jill has had a very different career from the military men who preceded her.

We heard a fascinating explanation of the duties involved, such as the ceremonial that takes place each day, sitting in the Commons chamber and being responsible for security within the House of Commons. Jill told us that the Mace the Serjeant at Arms carries, and which is present in the Chamber whenever the House is sitting, represents the Sovereign, so can never be in the same room as the Queen herself.

Úna then asked Jill about the person who had been her biggest inspiration. We could certainly identify with Betty Boothroyd who was a magnificent Speaker of the House, commanding respect and admiration from MPs of all parties and bringing gravitas and style to the role in equal measure. It’s clear that Jill has succeeded in that too.

With such a high profile role, Úna asked about some of the sacrifices that have been necessary to do a job that’s constantly in the public eye. Jill said the lack of privacy had been difficult at times – especially where the media were concerned. However the benefits have been far greater and long lasting.

Jill described to us some of the many state visits she has been part of, such as President Obama’s last year. She gave us a true insight into the man himself – unusually for such an important figurehead Jill was impressed by the President’s naturalness and concern for others, as for example, she saw him go out of his way to shake hands with even the most junior staff.

Jill also related the visit of Pope Benedict and mentioned the charisma of one of his senior aides, who clearly made a lasting impression on the Serjeant at Arms! Of course security is a key part of the extensive preparation that goes into the planning of each state visit, and in fact is a crucial daily aspect of the work of the House of Commons.

With a more lighthearted focus, Úna asked the very stylish Serjeant which were her favourite shoe brands. Like many of us, Jill has a wide collection of shoes with many different styles and makes - when asked to choose just one, we could all agree with her choice as LK Bennett tops the list for Jill.

So, as she moves on from this historic job, what next for Jill Pay? Jill is involved in the reading campaign run by the Evening Standard and is already working with inner London school children, so plans to do more in such a vital role helping children learn to read.

We’re also delighted to announce that Jill will be joining Pink Shoe Club in Liverpool to help launch Pink Shoe Club North West at ‘Panoramic 34’ on January 26th!

Kick Starting Britain

Pink Shoe Club partnered with the W2W Professional Women’s Network for its second event, held in association with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Entrepreneurship at Smith & Williamson’s HQ in Moorgate.

The debate, whether Government should support new businesses or focus resources on established entrepreneurs with a proven business, was energetic and absorbing.

Chaired by Jackie Stevenson (above, 2nd left) Our panellists – Mark Field MP, Jo Gideon and Anna Sofat (above, L-R) each gave a short presentation putting forward their personal view.

Mark believes that practical measures such as NI holidays for new businesses or SMEs would boost employment and thus the economy. Jo Gideon agreed, telling us that if 1/3 of the UK’s SMEs each employed one trainee we would eradicate youth unemployment!

As a small business owner, Anna was keen to remind us of the passion inherent in entrepreneurs. And that the skills small businesses add to the economy benefit the wider environment in which they operate. Jo’s experience on TV’s Village SOS demonstrated that it is possible to create a small, viable business in even the most rural area.

There are a range of measures that will assist the long term success of small business especially education that is more relevant to the needs of employers, enabling greater flexibility, and a continued focus on reducing red tape.

Brilliantly chaired by Jackie, as the discussion expanded it was clear that with both the panel and the audience consensus was reached. Government needs to target resources at both new and established SMEs.

The evening continued with networking over drinks and canapés. It was a good chance to meet many of the senior women from Smith & Williamson, along with PWN members and guests.