VCD Blog - Celebrating International Women’s Day 2024

Publication Date: 08th Mar 2024

Today (Friday 8 March) is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is a chance to reflect on the remarkable feats of women, past and present, while also recognising the amazing women we encounter in our own personal and professional lives. Ultimately, International Women’s Day is about forging a gender equal world, free from bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world where people of all genders have equal opportunities to thrive.

The travel and tourism sector employs more women than any other. However, just like in the wider workforce, more must be done to ensure women in our sector are given the opportunities to progress to senior roles.

In Durham, great strides towards gender equality have already been made, with women holding top positions at some of the county’s leading tourism businesses and demonstrating incredible entrepreneurship.

Michelle Gorman

Michelle Gorman – managing director, Visit County Durham

Michelle has worked for Visit County Durham for 18 years and has been managing director since 2015. She oversees the development and promotion of Durham’s tourism offer, helping to grow the county’s visitor economy and position Durham as a great place to live, work, visit, study and invest.

“At Visit County Durham we recognise the importance of International Women’s Day. The county’s visitor economy is inclusive, with female leaders holding key positions in the accommodation, attraction and food and drink sectors, and entrepreneurs leading and developing successful businesses. This International Women’s Day, join us in celebrating women’s accomplishments as we #EmbraceEquity.”

Rhiannon Hiles – chief executive, Beamish Museum

Rhiannon started her career at Beamish as a demonstrator and volunteer and is now at the forefront of leading open air and independent museum practice.

“I’ve always expected equality of opportunity and that merit and evidence should provide opportunity rather than gender, and value knowledge and experience over gender assumptions. At Beamish we discuss women’s history in ways which highlight inequalities, as well as shining a light on women who made a difference. I am proud to be leading Beamish and to be a female leader, and hope that young women look to me as inspiration and motivation for their own development and achievements.”

Rhiannon Hiles
Hannah Fox

Hannah Fox – director, The Bowes Museum

Hannah was appointed director of The Bowes Museum in May 2022, and has championed equal rights all her life, thinking carefully about how she can effect change.

“As someone leading a museum, I don’t take that position lightly. The conditions we make for equality are urgent and must be radical. Equality is only possible when we understand that people have unique circumstances needing resources and interventions. The story of Josephine Bowes’ life and work is an excellent starting point. This museum wouldn’t exist without her tenacity, creativity and ambition. She broke the boundaries of society and her situation to create a museum, championing others as she went.”

Dr Sarah Price, head of Locomotion

Sarah was appointed head of Locomotion, part of the Science Museum Group, in 2018 and is the first woman to lead the museum.

“Although the railways have traditionally been seen as a male-dominated industry, the museum has a broad appeal, and this is demonstrated by the fact that close to half (43 per cent) of our visitors are women.  It’s also important that we provide a programme of public events and activities which appeal to a diverse range of people and communities."

Dr Sarah Price
Susan Mosier

Susan Moiser – co-owner of the South Causey Inn

Susan runs the award-winning South Causey Inn with her husband, Philip, and the couple’s three daughters and their partners. Over the last 16 years, the South Causey has grown from a 16-bedroom hotel to a 60-bedroom hotel, with three function rooms and more than 150 employees.

“As a family business powered by women, we are at the forefront of flexible working and strive to offer training that can see staff start as a food runner and end up as heads of reception, head of accounts, wages, running kitchen teams, and managing our really busy wedding department. We all know that life is hard but on International Women Day, let us reflect on how lucky we are to be women in the North East of England, the finest and most beautiful area in my humble opinion. Let us lead by example and spread some joy and be kind to others. This is the core motto for all hospitality workers and if, as women, we can make the world a nicer place to be, what greater way could we celebrate International Women's Day.”

Allison Raper – co-owner of Teesdale Cheesemakers

Allison Raper runs the multi-award-winning Teesdale Cheesemakers with her husband, Jonathan. After starting out making cheese in their utility room eight years ago, Allison and Jonathan relocated the business to a 20-acre small holding, where they built a new dairy, cheese café, shop and shepherd’s huts.

“For me, International Women’s Day isn’t just about women’s equality, it’s about equality in all areas of life, for all people. My childhood was one of chaos and poverty with all the judgements that came along with that, so I recognise that being female was only one of the barriers I needed to overcome to succeed. I am excited by the developments we are making to create a more open and accepting society, we’ve come a long way since I was a child, but there’s more to do, especially with the increase in levels of childhood poverty. International Women’s Day gives us a unique important opportunity to reflect on our businesses, our culture and our society and ask ourselves, ‘what can I do to improve equality in my part of this world?”

Alison Raper
Claire Jones

Claire Jones - head of leisure and tourism at Raby Estates

As head of leisure and tourism at Raby Estates, Claire is not only responsible for leading operations in these areas, but is also directing the ‘Rising’ development, overseeing the project, design and constructions of the ambitious development which will create a one-of-a-kind attraction in the region.

“Every year Raby celebrates its long history of strong, independent women who were pivotal in the castle’s rich history, and this continues today with strong female leaders continuing to pioneer change and improvement at Raby. Raby provides a supportive and collaborative environment for all our team, and I am proud to stand alongside so many inspirational men and women, working together, within the leisure and tourism sector”

Niccy Halifax - festival director for S&DR200

Niccy is the festival director for S&DR200, which will take place across the region in 2025. S&DR200 is a heritage and arts festival celebrating 200 years since the birth of the modern railways, through free large-scale outdoor spectacles, events, exhibitions and art commissions in the public spaces and world-class museums of Durham. 

“Women are well represented in our festival story – from the team creating the festival programme, to the artists, performers, educators, historians, and curators we will work with. This is a far cry from the women of S&DR in 1825 who have been largely overlooked. As part of our celebrations in 2025 we will be telling some of their forgotten stories. Including those of the female Quakers who took a risk and invested in S&DR (at a time before women had the vote), to the powerhouse women who ran some of the first railways cafes, weigh-houses, and inns to the wives of S&DR pioneers who gave invaluable support and counsel to their husbands.”

Niccy Halifax

Find out more about International Women’s Day and how to get involved.