'Be Bold For Change' and 'Make It Happen' were the messages passed on to women on the Costa del Sol at two events last week. The first was a networking event at Avanto restuarant in La Cala de Mijas for ladies to share their 'bold' experiences. The evening included an inspirational talk by Kati van der Hoeven, a Finnish former supermodel whose career was cut short after she suffered an undiagnosed stroke in her 20s. She now suffers from 'locked-in syndrome' but has learnt to communicate by using eye movements.
Ali Meehan, founder of Costa Women, invited Kati to share her "truly inspirational" story and encourage others to realise that there is no need to feel "restricted" by health, gender or surroundings. Ali said: "Rather than complaining about what you don't have, Kati has made the most out of what she does have. We can all achieve something if we set our minds to it".
'Make It Happen' was the theme of the 5th annual International Women's Day Conference which took place the following day, Friday 10 March, at Andalucia Lab in Marbella. Seven international speakers delivered talks about various issues women face in business, offering the 130 attendees tips on how to 'make it happen' in a corporate and personal sense.
Ticket sales and donations on the day helped raise over one thousand euros for two charities - AMUSUVIG (Asociación de Mujeres Superviviente de la Violencia de Genero) and Asociación Knitted Knockers Costa del Sol, a charity that makes and distributes hand-knitted breast prostheses to ladies who have had a mastectomy.
One of the speakers on Friday was Georgina Shaw, who set up her own marketing business on the Costa del Sol during the recession in 2008. Despite noticing gradual changes over recent years she thinks that, even in modern day society, "women tend not to be taken as seriously" as men in business, "as they are perceived as care givers rather than naturally career-oriented".
She highlighted the importance of events like the IWD conference to "acknowledge the particular challenges women in business face, share ideas and coping strategies and come together to support one another".
Georgina, originally from London, thinks one of the main challenges women now face is the decision between whether they should focus on family or a career - or "try to juggle both and deal with the guilt of feeling you can't give either role 100%".
She told SUR in English: "There are so many talented and bright women who bring a huge amount to the business world and should be recognised. Our traditional skills of empathy and nurturing are excellent in management and offer insights that are very valuable to companies of all kinds."
Costa Women is a free community for women living in, or thinking of relocating to, Spain; a connection point offering advice, tips and support for women all over the country.