Achievements of women in North Somerset

The Mercury and Times are celebrating International Women's Day #BreakTheBias.

The Mercury and Times are celebrating International Women's Day #BreakTheBias. - Credit: Archant

Today (Tuesday) the world celebrates International Women's Day. 

To recognise the great achievements of remarkable women in the county, the Mercury and Times is honouring the women who fight for our community to help #BreakTheBias.

From councillors smashing the glass ceiling to business women tackling prejudice in the work place, we would like to thank these women for their dedicated service to North Somerset and beyond. 

Debbie Apted - Cleaner Coastlines campaigner 

Debbie Apted is Plastic-free WSM community lead and project lead on Weston's Chamber of Commerce sustainability panel.

Debbie Apted donning her fairy wings as Plastic-free community lead and project lead on Weston's Chamber of Commerce sustainability panel. - Credit: Archie Byron

Debbie, age 64, first moved to Weston ten years ago and volunteered as Weston's Chamber of Commerce secretary to meet local people. 

Now Debbie is a keen plastic-free campaigner, helping to clean our coastline and educate people on waste to make it safe for people to enjoy in years to come.  

"The majority of women gave up work as soon as their children were born but thankfully the workplace has changed considerably since then, and the exciting career opportunities available now are something I could only have dreamt of when I was at school.

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"I’ve always loved nature since birdwatching with my dad, and my motivation comes from helping the environment for the next generations.

"I soon became involved in co-ordinating networking events, including the Weston Business Awards when I moved to Weston.

"It didn’t take long to recognise that a special community of volunteers work hard to make our town such a welcoming place to work, live and play - as an older woman, I love that there are places and events I can happily go to alone without worrying about safety.

"Life has been a whirlwind since 2017 when I first donned my litter fairy wings and the Chamber of Commerce co-founded the Cleaner Coastlines: Weston and North Somerset plastic-free campaign.

"The project works towards achieving a Surfers Against Sewage plastic-free community status which Weston was awarded in 2018. 

"We run beach cleans and work with businesses, councils, schools and community groups to raise awareness of plastic pollution, even our poor quality bathing water.

"Volunteering as part of Weston’s wonderful community scene is very special to me and it makes my heart sing that I chose to move to Weston with its wonderful and caring people."

Cllr Catherine Gibbons - Executive Member for Children’s Services and Lifelong Learning

North Somerset councillor Catherine Gibbons.

North Somerset councillor Catherine Gibbons. - Credit: NSC

As both a North Somerset councillor and Weston town councillor, Catherine Gibbons works in a role which is only represented by 30 pc of women in England and on the district council, only 28 per cent of women are elected representatives. 

Catherine wanted to be the change for young and vulnerable people on the council. 

She said: "Many people don't have a lot lot to do with services until something happens to them and they have to engage with it - I've spoken with people who found the whole experience of accessing help complicated.

"Before becoming a councillor I was doing voluntary work and the one thing that struck me is your life can change from one moment to the next without prior warning, and you can find yourself in need of council services but if you haven't got a really strong support network, it can be hard."

That change came when Catherine was first elected for Milton in 2011.

She said: "It's still very challenging for women to be a councillor, most remain the primary homemaker with caring responsibilities and that hasn't much changed from when I was young.

"But I'm proud there is a large number of women in empowered high roles at the council - we work collaboratively to make real changes and inspire the next generation to take up the role.

"I don’t think there's nearly enough women in these positions at the moment which is why us women in the council are fighting to be the change it needs.

"In my role at the council, I'm particularly proud to say I helped to bring the plastic-free motion and anti-racism motion forward as Labour group leader - these help to push a real change in our community."