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  • Anastasia Karamzina

Celebrating International Women’s Day with CAMWIB and Race2Rise!

On the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, Cambridge Women Who Lead came together with Cambridge University Women in Business in our very first collaborative event to welcome the founders of Race2Rise: Renee Sterling and Rondette Amoy Smith. Race2Rise is a podcast dedicated to celebrating women and their journeys, covering themes like mental health, relationships and the workplace, with a focus on the female perspective. The discussion revolved around a wide range of topics, such as the limitations for women and non-binary individuals in the job market and the importance of intersectionality in feminist discussions with an emphasis on allyship among women and in society as a whole.

At the beginning of the event Renee and Rondette told us about how Race2Rise came to life and where the project is headed at the moment. The two became close friends a few years ago, with a shared experience of being Jamaican-American expats in the UK and working for large financial corporations. In the summer of 2019, Renee and Rondette decided to expand the daily conversations they were having with each other and their loved ones, turning them into a podcast which would share their thoughts on topics relevant to so many women around them. The main idea of Race2Rise is to have friendly and honest conversations about topics that are often glossed over, remaining authentic in the face of social stigmas. With the founders contributing some very personal thoughts and experiences to the podcast, Race2Rise has become a very intimate and informal space for meaningful discussion that has resonated with audiences across the world, while often being therapeutic for Renee and Rondette themselves.

We continued by looking more closely at the theme of the recent episode of Race2Rise ‘Stepping on Glass’ which centred around the glass ceiling analogy often used to describe the difficulties faced by women in society. Yet this was expanded further, towards the concept of a concrete ceiling, above the better-known glass ceiling, which represents the race-related discrimination that black women have to face alongside gendered discrimination. Renee and Rondette talked about the importance of diversity and inclusion on all levels in companies and industries, from the very bottom to the most executive positions. They highlighted the recent appointment of Rosalind Brewer as the CEO of Walgreens, a US Fortune 500 company, and the essentiality of working to ensure that the leaders of the biggest companies in the world accurately and fully represent its diverse population. Following on from this need to work together towards this goal, we talked to Renee and Rondette about the importance of allyship and discussed the key strategies to spread awareness and understanding of inequality and discrimination in society. They emphasised the idea of cultivating empathy and an awareness of privilege, as well as the irreplaceable role of active intersectional support manifested not only in words and online posts, but in actions. As new generations of students and workers begin to hold companies to a much higher standard of diversity, there is a real chance for everyone involved to speak up themselves and amplify the voices of those who cannot yet be heard due to inequality and underrepresentation.

The event continued with a Q&A session, in which Renee and Rondette answered questions from the CWWL and CAMWIB members, beginning with a question on the future of female leadership: Renee and Rondette are confident that female leaders will continue to be bold and authentic, no matter what society says . The discussion moved on to evaluating the progress that different industries have made in the direction of equality and diversity, with Renee and Rondette particularly highlighting the tech industry, which has focussed on providing opportunities for working from home, providing workers with the necessary tools they would otherwise have access to in the office. However, they concluded that every industry still has a lot of work to do in order to go beyond a simple process of checking the boxes for the sake of avoiding controversy. Renee and Rondette then shared some useful life advice with us, reminding us to appreciate ourselves and to follow our passion but also to ensure that the places we choose to work in align with our principles and create positive change. We also discussed the role of confidence and courage when you need to speak the truth in an environment that might be hostile to it, be it about race, gender, or any other social issues. The final question focused on Renee’s and Rondette’s experience of black female expats in the UK and the women discussed the challenges that have arisen throughout their lives .

In our now traditional live performance section, we were treated to an amazing performance by Roary Skaista with their song called ‘Forest’ from the EP ‘Alien’ which touches on the topics of queerness, personal growth and resilience – a brilliant way to finish the event and reflect on Renee’s and Rondette’s wise words. Cambridge Women Who Lead would like to thank our amazing guests for such a thought-provoking discussion and hope to see their project rise to even greater heights. We also thank CAMWIB for making this collaboration possible, as well as Rory for their beautiful music. We look forward to bringing our members other exciting events in the nearest future!

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