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International Women’s Day: celebrating the women of Friends House

Date posted:08 Mar 2022      |      Author: Cecilia B

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”1 The first IWD was held in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March2. The day was later moved to March 8. More than a century later, women have achieved a lot, but gender inequalities and sexism are unfortunately far from being a thing from the past.

On this day, we want to celebrate the women who work at Friends House. What does it feel like to work in our venue? Have they faced sexism or bias in their professional lives? Read the stories below and see how they try to #BreakTheBias.

Cécilia Bouenissa, Media and Marketing Officer

I remember when I was looking for a job, just before starting at Friends House. I was looking at job adverts and often hesitated to apply because I was missing a few skills, even if I ticked most of the boxes. Then, I remembered one of the best pieces of advice I received from one of my flatmates (a woman): “men tend to apply for jobs even if they don’t fully fit the job description, while women tend to hesitate or not apply at all. Go for it!” Since then, I’ve read articles describing the same patterns and explaining the causes3. I think I lacked confidence because as women we’re too often expected to be perfect in every single part of our lives. Or at least, that’s the image society sends us back. Six and a half years down the line, I’m glad I listened to that piece of advice and applied for the Media and Marketing Officer role at Friends House. My fear of not being able to do the job has vanished and the skills I didn’t have, I’ve gained them along the way. When some of my girlfriends hesitate to apply for jobs, for the same reasons I did, I now know what to tell them: go for it! That’s my little contribution to #BreakTheBias on International Women’s Day.

In our workplace, I feel very supported by other women in the company and board of directors. Things are obviously not always perfect, but I can honestly say that I feel heard and valued. The Quaker values and ethos play a huge part in that.

Quote of the day: “Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet. In fact, often times, the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Joana Balsamski, Receptionist

I’ve been a receptionist at Friends House for seven years and I’ve always been proud of being part of a community that believes that all men and women are equal. Quakers have always played an important role in the women’s rights movement, starting in the 17th Century. They were really involved in the American women’s rights movement for example.

Friends House is continuing this legacy by giving the same professional opportunities to men and women (see our Careers page), providing regular training, and doing an effective manager assessment without gender comparison, which helps to raise awareness and consequently #BreakTheBias.

We, women, are much stronger than we think! From my own experience, I believe that it’s never too late to change when something isn’t right.

Quote of the day: “Strong women don’t have ‘attitudes’, we have standards.”

Marilyn Monroe

Marina Radojevic, Assistant Catering Manager

When I came to London five years ago, I knew I would have to prove myself all over again in this new city, with companies or people. I was prepared for challenges, but what I wasn’t prepared for, was being welcomed, praised, and supported by my managers. As a woman you’ve got to work extra hard to prove yourself, that’s true. So, what was so refreshing was to see many of us women just supporting each other and giving 150% of our energy in different roles. It’s amazing to see that more and more women feel empowered and are conscious of their strength, courage and just how great we are. Sometimes I feel that I belong to this big group of super women that is just getting bigger and bigger, and it’s the best feeling ever!

Working here at Friend house, with all these amazing people, I see that we’re breaking the bias. I’m just happy that I get to experience this every day. Encouraging women to step up, speak up, and to find themselves, is important and one way to #BreakTheBias.

Quote of the day: ‘’God hath put no such difference between the male and female as man would make.’’

Margaret Fell

Sou Manhsinh, Sales and Events Supervisor

When I joined Friends House almost 6 years ago now, I was fortunate enough to have female managers as my line managers. They’ve been so supportive throughout my journey and always encouraged me to do my very best every day. I wouldn’t be where I am without their guidance. The Quaker values of equality and justice are so important. They give everybody a chance to truly believe in themselves and stand up for what’s right. Yes, there’s still some resistance in society to us women  and our rights but if no one speaks up for us, who else will? We’ve got to do it and we all have to look out for each other. I feel lucky to be part of an organisation that leads by example and Friends House is one of those organisations. Let us continue to #BreakTheBias!

Quote of the day: “Surround yourself with people and things that inspire you. Learn everything you can.”

Jameela Jamil

This person is one of the many people I look up to throughout my life, I have watched their journey into becoming a strong-minded feminist and activist who only shouts about things that need to be heard.

Natascha Kilts, Business Development Officer

I can count myself very lucky having grown up surrounded by strong women, who have always instilled in me the belief that no matter who you are or what’s your background, one can and should always play an important and impactful part in society and strive for higher goals – even if as a woman there might be some additional struggles ahead. Since joining Friends House in late 2019, I’ve been glad and grateful to find myself amongst a like-minded team and it’s great to see women succeeding in their careers and being supported across the line. Unfortunately, many companies still have to evaluate how inclusive they actually are, not only in the hiring process, but for women’s advancement into executive positions.

Quote of the day:

“Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.”

Lady Gaga


1 https://www.internationalwomensday.com/about

2 https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Activity/15586/The-history-of-IWD

3 https://hbr.org/2014/08/why-women-dont-apply-for-jobs-unless-theyre-100-qualified


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