The Lumsden Club has always succeeded at bringing together impressive women to support good causes. This year’s leadership summit was no exception. Overcoming the challenges of COVID restrictions, this was the first year that the summit was held virtually. The talks, which took place every day, were streamed to St Andrian’s and our wider global community. The talks catered to various interests, focusing on law, international relations, sustainable fashion, and our defining decade. The speakers that gathered online to discuss the pressing questions in these areas did not disappoint. Drawn from all over the world, the speakers gave insights into their experiences as students, creators, employees, mothers, wives, professionals and leaders. Their discussions imparted knowledge, advice and helped raise over £1000 for the Lumsden Club’s chosen charity, Fife Women’s Aid.
According to Summit Convenor Ella Dow, maintaining the summit’s charitable goals was key to the planning process. Previous in-person summits have been massive fundraisers for the women’s charity that supports St Andrews and the wider Fife area. Considering the difficult year many charities have faced, the Lumsden Club endeavoured to broaden the summit’s audience and appeal to raise more money. This led to a long-awaited rebranding of the “Winning Women” conference to the “Lumsden Leadership Summit.” By refocusing the summit brand, the Lumsden Club hoped to avoid the misconception that the talks were only for women. Ms Dow stressed, “It so happens that all of our speakers identify as women. That does not mean that only women can attend.” However, broadening the summit audience did not just mean rebranding. The summit committee sought to widen access to the talks. They limited each ticket’s price, offered discount bundles and gave free tickets to schools. This ensured that anyone could attend the talks, regardless of location or socioeconomic status. The talks were worth the small ticket fee.
As many of us have experienced in the last year, online talks can sometimes be uncomfortable. This was certainly not the case. The law talk, held on Monday, kicked off a week of fascinating discussion. The panel included lawyers from various industry positions. The attendees were treated to a broad conversation encompassing career advice, industry insights, and the pandemic. The Lumsden Club must be applauded for its speaker selection. New York Deputy Attorney General Katherine Ryan spoke candidly about hiring during the pandemic, which fascinated the aspiring lawyers attending. Ms Ryan’s top tip for resumes? Check for typos.
In contrast, Deputy First Senior Treasury Counsel Sarah Whitehouse QC described her unconventional path to the bar. As a former banker and aspiring politician, Ms Whitehouse reassured the audience that plans are not always meant to work out and that admitting this can open up new and exciting opportunities. Interestingly, Ellen Seo, Director and Senior Counsel for Real Estate at Louis Vuitton Americas, addressed working from home. Miss Seo dispelled the myth that working from home makes a lawyer’s work-life balance easier and discussed the transition from firm to in-house counsel.
The international relations talk featured an equally exciting panel of speakers. Drawn from academia and practice, the speakers discussed issues that will continue to affect us in the coming decades. Of particular note was Ellen Wong, the Principal Officer of the US Consulate General in Edinburgh. Her previous posts with the US State Department have sent her to Bangladesh, Germany, China, Spain and Vietnam. A true inspiration for the IR students in the audience.
Those speaking on sustainable fashion were also inspirational in different ways. A certain level of excitement came from Ann Lindsay’s blouse. As an author and journalist, Ms Lindsay led a movement to sew scrubs for UK health workers during the pandemic, but her seamstress skills were showcased during the talk by her homemade blouse. Taken from her mother’s vogue sewing pattern, Ms Lindsay demonstrated to all in attendance that fashionable clothing need not be bought but can be made (even if it is finished 20 minutes before your online call). The other speakers, who represented the different parts of fashion supply chains, talked about textiles workers rights, fashion waste, and the need for a capsule wardrobe. It was a thought-provoking talk, especially in a town renowned for its fashion shows.
The final talk of the week was based on the summit’s theme, Defining Decade. Initially intended for the cancelled 2020 conference, the theme was too good to let go. Each talk began with the speakers introducing themselves and describing how they intend to define their decade. Notably, not a single speaker defined their decade with personal goals but goals for society and how they hope to affect positive change. The speakers in the Defining Decade talk were mixed. There was not an industry focus, instead, the panel included an Olympic swimmer, a beauty brand advisor, a fashion designer, a financial director, and a physician and researcher at Cambridge University. As I listened to the talk, I came to agree with Ms Dow; you can not listen to these women speak without becoming slightly obsessed with them. Each woman is an inspiration in their own right. It was a privilege to hear their views, listen to their insights, and encounter the mindset of leading women in this decade.
The Lumsden Club achieved a monumental task; hosting a summit online that was engaging, inspirational, and motivated people to watch the talks night after night. Each speaker was thought-provoking, and there is no doubt that all attendees will remember their advice for years to come. While the beginning of this decade was postponed slightly, the summit’s legacy will live on in its charitable contributions, new brand, and inspired attendees. The Lumsden Club is beginning its decade with unqualified success, and I can not wait to see how the coming years progress.