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Human Interest Feature

Rebecca Lewis Takes Lead Position for New Women’s Global Initiative – Department for International Trade
By Emma Silverstone, BABCPHL Coordinator and Senior at Temple University

In 2017 the Department for International Trade (DIT) launched a new initiative to empower women in the Department, and provide learning and development opportunities for female leaders. Concluding its first year and taking forward the overseas strategy as Co-Chair, is Rebecca Lewis, Deputy Head of Trade and Investment at the British Consulate General. Rebecca has also served as a BABCPHL Board Member for the past six years.

At the end of September 2018, Rebecca assumed the role of Overseas Global Co-Chair of the DIT Gender Equality Committee. Her tasks include: mirroring diversity and inclusivity of gender from the commercial world and adopting best practices within the Department; ensuring work is delivered through a gender diversity lens; creating opportunities for learning; appreciating cultural differences; and discussing the wage gap.

According to Rebecca, the objective is to “create and challenge leadership within the Department to ensure there is gender equality throughout all aspects of our work. We are fortunate to have senior leadership that is 100% supportive.  This is reflected through our core Department values – expert, engaged, enterprising, and inclusive – and of course supports the UK Government’s agenda for a global and modern Britain with ambitions for prosperity, stability and security worldwide.”

While the initiative is still developing, Rebecca says the group aims to address issues that are faced by women in the workplace in both the US and the UK. Topics of particular interest include: communications, workplace policies and engagement, promotion opportunities, mentorship, business growth support, learning from industry, and incorporating best practices into government departments.

Documented evidence suggests women face challenges in today’s work environment. For example, women owned businesses lack access to funding and support. According to a 2017 article from the Huffington Post, the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation reported insufficient investment for female-led businesses and continued disconnects between skills building and finance supporting growth of women led enterprises. Nonfinancial support necessary for women entrepreneurs to succeed in growing their businesses includes, but is not limited to: the support of families and communities; supportive messages in the media, as well as stories, role models, and examples of successful women entrepreneurs; access to networks and mentors to share ideas, information, and contacts; and soft skills, such as leadership development, pitching, negotiating, and time management, as well as building self-confidence and ability to deal with the extreme stress of juggling family life and the demands of running a business. All of this presents challenges for female entrepreneurs, and economic development at large.

Equal gender opportunities are just as important in the UK as in the US. The British workplace is an inclusive environment, with many different nationalities that call the UK home. While there are differences in each industry, one thing for sure, it’s important for women to be confident and persistent, notwithstanding which side of the Atlantic they are on. As for what women can do to overcome challenges they face in the workplace, Rebecca says, “promoting the issues, having leadership commit to a diverse work force, and encouraging senior management to set the tone are vital. Let’s continue to build each other up and champion the issues for evolvement.”

Rebecca grew up in the Greater London area. She attended the University of Plymouth, UK and also spent time at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. She started her career at Scottish Courage brewery in customer marketing before moving to the US in 2003. Rebecca has spent the last fifteen years in international trade and investment working across the Midwest and East Coast of the US. During her tenure, she has assumed various roles including leading the East Coast Energy and Environment team, US Head of London 2012 Olympics, US Head of Infrastructure, and currently is Deputy Head of Trade and Investment.

Stay tuned for additional information about this important topic as well as a BABCPHL sponsored roundtable later this year. The BABCPHL congratulates Rebecca on her new role.  We look forward to helping Rebecca champion DIT’s women’s initiative to promote gender equality in the workforce both in the US and the UK.

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