Looking back at 2021: A WeAreTheCity round-up

WeAreTheCity 2021 Looking back

2021 is nearly over and to celebrate the year gone by, WeAreTheCity is taking a look back at our top moments this year.

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve had to once again continue to adapt and innovate to host our events, conferences and awards virtually.

This year, we have published over 2,000 articles on WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen; promoted over 500 learning events; profiled over 500 women and men who shared their stories and experiences; collaborated on 35 new partnerships with other organisations; and supported 30 difference campaigns and 15 charities. Our WeAreVirtual webinar series delivered 45 webinars from leading speakers, experts and coaches to a global audience of 25,000.

We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without our supporters. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who has supported us this year. A huge thank you to our clients, sponsors, speakers, judges, partners, champions, advocates and above all, our community. We look forward to supporting you and your progression in 2022.

Check out what happened during our 2021 below:

Rising Star Awards 2021 BannerJanuary

WeAreTheCity shook off the January blues by kicking off the year with a bang – announcing our 2021 Rising Star Awards.

In its seventh year, the Rising Star Awards are the first to focus on the UK’s female talent pipeline below management level. Our strategic goal, set in 2015, aims to showcase 1,000 outstanding women by 2022. By highlighting the accolades of these women, WeAreTheCity are not only promoting the amazing female talent that exists across the UK, but actively encouraging organisations and business leaders to invest in and recognise these women as leaders of tomorrow and individual contributors to their respective industries.

These awards will recognise and celebrate a further 100 female individual contributors from over 20 different industries that represent the leaders and role models of tomorrow. These winners will join our award’s alumni of 650 previous winners, across the UK and India.

New for this year, we are also excited to introduce a new “Global Award for Achievement” category to our awards to expand our search for global talent. This category is a female individual who works within any industry, outside of the UK, whose current position is below director level.

Our 2022 Rising Star Awards open for nominations on 10 January 2022 – subscribe to our newsletter or register your interest here.


February saw us joining the campaign to reinstate Gender Pay Gap reporting.

It is a legal requirement of organisations with over 250 employers report their gender pay gaps. The gender pay gap is the difference between the average (mean or median) earnings of men and women across a workforce. In 2020 the enforcement of gender pay gap reporting was suspended for employers due to the coronavirus pandemic. The requirement to publish their gender pay gap ensures there is transparency on the gender pay gap within businesses and encourages employers to consider and take action on their gender pay gap.

Responding to the suspension of gender pay gap reporting enforcement, the campaign called on the government to reinstate enforcement and require all larger employees to provide their gender pay gap data to ensure the pandemic does not turn back the clock on women and work.

#ChooseToChallenge100, Speakers, 400x300March

In March, we celebrated Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.

Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8, with the first day being held in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.

This year’s theme was #ChooseToChallenge – which looked to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.

We marked the occasion by creating our #ChooseToChallenge100 campaign, asking 100 women and the public to share their stories as to how and why they choose to challenge for gender equality.

Our campaign included stories of challenge from Helen Pankhurst CBE, Women’s Rights Campaigner and Senior Advisor, Care International; Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley; June Angelides CBE, Early Stage Investor, Entrepreneur, Speaker and Advocate for the Rights of Working Mothers; Jacqueline Gold CBE, CEO, Ann Summers; Catherine Mayer, Author & Co-Founder, Women’s Equality Party and Primadonna Festival; Deborah Francis-White, Comedian, Writer, Podcaster, The Guilty Feminist; Claire Cohen, Women’s Editor, The Telegraph; and Liv Cooke, Freestyle Football World Champion, plus so many more incredible women.

The month also saw us launch our Behind the Cover series, a new series of interviews with incredible authors. To launch the series, our founder, Vanessa Vallely OBE, interviewed Sheree Atcheson, a leading Equity, Diversity and inclusion expert about her upcoming book, Demanding More.

You can watch Sheree’s video below


In April, we showcased our amazing Rising Star Awards shortlist for 2021!

Over an eight week period, we received over 1,000 nominations from across the UK and Northern Ireland. The calibre of entries for this year’s awards was exceptional.

The 200-strong shortlist showcases remarkable women within the UK from over 20 categories representing different industries/professions. An example of the amazing women shortlisted this year are; Alice Hendy, who founded R;pple Suicide Prevention after the tragic loss of her brother, Josh, in 2020; Asha Mohammed, an award winning second year junior doctor and an activist who has made it her mission to tackle gender-based violence with a specific focus on female genital mutilation; and Sherrie Smith, who was born and raised in a traditional Romany Gypsy family and now dedicates her time to challenging prejudice, racism and bias directed at Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.


May saw us announce our Rising Star winners for 2021!

The list of winners showcases remarkable women within the UK from across 20 categories representing different industries and professions. Those highlighted include Alice Hendy, who founded R;pple Suicide Prevention after the tragic loss of her brother, Josh, in 2020; Asha Mohammed, an award winning second year junior doctor and an activist who has made it her mission to tackle gender-based violence with a specific focus on female genital mutilation; Jennifer Ogunyemi, Founder of Sisters In Business, which focuses on changing the narrative of the Muslim business woman; and Samantha Gould, Head of PR, NOW: Pensions, who is passionate about creating a fairer UK pension system for herself and her young daughter and future generations.


In June, we celebrated Pride Month – a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ communities around the world. Over the month, we interviewed amazing men and women within the community; shared events and networking groups across a variety of industries; and promoted resources designed to educate and understand.

At WeAreTheCity, we believe in equality for all and will continue to help increase representation of the LGBTQ+ community and share a variety of voices and opinions – and never has it been more important.


We celebrated the inspiring winners of our Rising Star Awards in July.

Due to the ongoing circumstances, the team at WeAreTheCity once again had to do things a little differently with the Rising Star Awards. The event was attended by winners, judges, sponsors and special guests and our winners had the opportunity to network with each other in our interactive breakout rooms. Each winner received a goodie box with their award, complete with champagne, chocolates, books and other treats.

The virtual award’s ceremony was hosted by Julia Streets, CEO, Streets Consulting. Throughout the evening, guests were entertained by singer Jermain Jackman; singer-songwriter Elle Yaya; poet and Rising Star alumni, Jaspreet Kaur; and the Southend Vox Choir.


We held our learning event for our Rising Star alumni, in partnership with Oxford Said Business School. The full day, complimentary seminar gave our attendees insights into how to own their career and discuss success strategies and skills, specifically aimed at women.

Black History Month Featured ImageOctober

October was a busy time as we shined a spotlight on Black History Month, Menopause Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Over the month, we shared events, resources, inspiring interviews and much more to promote and raise awareness of these important campaigns.


We joined the fight against Gender-Based Violence in the 16 Days of Activism campaign. The campaign kicked off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ended on Human Rights Day on 10 December.

We stand strongly against violence, abuse and harassment of any kind and will continue to raise awareness and call for the elimination of violence against women and girls.

Our Gender Networks members were also given an extra bonus session from the amazing Joeli Brearley, Founder, Pregnant Then Screwed. Joeli explains how big the issue of pregnancy and maternity discrimination is, how NDAs are being used to mask abhorrent behaviour, what needs to change, and what steps you can take to improve your workplace for parents.

Trailblazer 50 2021 featuredDecember

We published our first Top 50 Trailblazers in December.

Our 2021 trailblazers are responsible for several campaigns that will have a significant impact for gender equality. They have used their voices to raise awareness of key issues that women and men face both in society and in the workplace that will impact our ability to achieve gender equality. They have built communities for the underrepresented and created spaces where women from different backgrounds can thrive. They have used their own personal platforms to champion gender equality and opened their networks so that others can make connections and feel supported. They have spearheaded and driven campaigns that raise awareness around gendered health and well-being issues, pay inequality as well as women’s rights. They have given their time and expertise freely to charities and social enterprises that are driving gender equality, often below the radar and without any desire to be recognised for their efforts.

December also saw us celebrate the end of the year with our friends, colleagues, clients, sponsors, supporters, members and our readers at our Virtual Holiday Party.

Our virtual networking world allowed us to gather for a drink at the bar, a dance on the dance floor, and a catch-up in the lounge. There was no networking awkwardness of breaking into a conversation in our virtual world, as you could just rock up to anyone on the platform and say hello.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.
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