About The Adelaide Group
The Adelaide Group was founded in 1997 by Berwin Leighton, a firm of City Solicitors. The first speaker was Cherie Blair talking about the 'glass ceiling'. The group was at that point composed of senior business women known to Berwin Leighton and many of the senior female lawyers within the firm. 100 people attended this inaugural event.
The founding group, Janice Rothwell, Joanne Gubbay and Janet Day (a partner, a senior female associate and the IT Director), mailed the attendees after the event and asked if they would want to attend other all female events. The response was overwhelming; the view of the respondents being that there was no such networking group in existence. Why was there not such a group when there are so many female networking groups around. The answer was simple. The Group's primary aim and objective is to find opportunities to assist women to develop their business roles. In short form 'women developing women'.
Berwin Leighton responded to the request from the group by agreeing to host the events in their offices and to provide administrative facilities to the group. The group is still run out of the offices of Berwin Leighton Paisner (a merged firm from 2001 onwards) and is co-chaired by Kate Binedell and Sunita Chawla. The aim is to run about 5 or 6 formal events each year where senior business women, or women of influence in the community address the members of the group on a range of topics. The formal talk is followed by a question session from the floor, which is often exceptionally lively and a light buffet after this when members circulate and talk. The group now has its own momentum and many members use this as a business development forum.
Membership now stands at over 1400. It has grown by word of mouth only. There are no formal criteria for joining beyond a commitment to the general ethos of the group. Members are all senior business women, many working in London but an increasing number working in other areas of the UK. Members pay nothing for joining, nor to attend events and Berwin Leighton Paisner continue to host.
The inspiring women who have spoken at our events include:
- Commander Janet Williams
- Theresa May, MP
- Dame Anita Roddick, DBE
- Nicola Horlick
- HRH The Princess Royal
- Cherie Blair
- Mo Mowlam, former MP
- Dame Steve Shirley, DBE
- Alexandra Shulman, OBE, Editor in Chief Vogue
- Gwyneth Dunwoody MP
- Dame Stella Rimington, DCB
- Dr Vanessa Lawrence
- Dianne Thompson, CBE, Camelot
Every talk has had its high point, memorable moments include:
- Hearing Stella Rimington answering the question — 'why did you take on a role like Director General of MI5 when you knew it could impact on your home life?' The answer — 'I did it for my country'.
- Listening to Cheryl Carolus describe the emotional walk that she and all the other females in her family took when they first got the vote under Nelson Mandela.
- Watching the extraordinary courage of Mo Mowlam combing her hair before she came out to speak to the group.
- Listening to so many of the speakers describing the obstacles they faced in setting up business — just because they were female — these included Anita Roddick, Dame Steve Shirley and Nicola Horlick.
- Hearing first hand of the work behind scenes during the first of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks.
- Understanding a little more initiatives like the newly defined Monetary Policy Committee, the government e-gif commitment and the role the Consumers' Association.
- Looking at the immeasurable level of enthusiasm every speaker has brought to their role, the role of their organisation and their commitment to trying to do things well.
Every speaker has set their own agenda and decided the topic. The only limit the group places is that no event can be a political tool. Some speakers have elected to provide material on their organisation — from development course opportunities through to understanding a bit more about the Ordnance Survey.
The format of events has been consistent. They are generally hosted at Berwin Leighton Paisner's London office — Adelaide House. The audience (about 170 attendees which is the physical limitation of the room not a limit of members interest), are seated theatre style. The speaker has microphone, lectern if required and access to AV support if appropriate. The talk is at lunchtime — with the speaker starting at 12.45 pm and speaking for about 20 minutes. The question session normally last about 25/30 minutes and the buffet lunch continues until 2.30 pm.