#IWD2022: An Interview with TAWS CEO Karen Creavin

All this week, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day #IWD2022, through stories of inspiring women who are #breakingthebias and motivating the next generation. 

Starting with our very own CEO Karen Creavin. She founded The Active Wellbeing Society in 2018, after working on the wellbeing programme at Birmingham City Council.

In 2021 TAWS received the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce, Outstanding Charity of the Year, Overall Business of the Year and Bikeability Award for Large Organisation of the Year.  

Karen tells us what the day means to her – and the importance of challenging stereotypes and breaking down barriers.  

Why is International Women’s Day important to you? 

 All around the world, women are working to support families and communities, and often in environments where they are underpaid, underappreciated, living in fear or restriction, unable to fulfill their true potential. Women give life and provide safety, yet all too often, ‘run like a girl, throw like a girl, cry like a girl,’ those and other terms are examples of how societies across the world provide negative value on women and our work.  

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to channel the power and strength of all those women, to tap into a collective sisterhood, and to focus on ensuring we continue to work to keep women safe and well.  

 What inspired you to start The Active Wellbeing Society? 

I guess had a strong passion for getting more done, we could see that more needed to be done in the communities we serve. Things are getting worse, and for the people with the least scope to withstand the additional knocks. 

 Working in the council was an excellent start on tackling injustice and breaking down some of the barriers that prevent people from being able to step into their power and agency, but it was clear that more was needed. I knew we knew how to do the work, we just needed the right environment to do it in. Some strong and visionary women helped us to bring the organization to life, women like the late and much loved Carol Coombes, board members like our chair, Lisa Trickett and a founder board member Sam Porter. Our organization has an over representation of women in management positions too…. As women we tap into our creative powers here at TAWS, and we have excellent male colleagues who work with us to distribute power across the organization and with our communities  

 How does the work of TAWS help to #breakthebias? 

TAWS shows up and behaves differently. We work with power differently. We try to hold ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’. We focus on identifying and removing barriers for engagement and behaviour change. We work within the system to try and change the system. We challenge the status quo. We are fearless, courageous, brave, and not at all scared to show our vulnerability.  

Which women have inspired you, either professionally or personally? 

So many of the women we work with inspire me. Colleagues, board members, and particularly the women using our services. They have often overcome real disadvantage and discrimination, they are running families and busy lives, coping with real difficulties with dignity, kindness, and often a fierceness that I really admire. A good example of that is Annie. She had so little as a child and now gives back so much.  

CLICK HERE to read Annie’s inspirational story about learning to cycle at 60.

Other women that inspire me include Anita Roddick, Maya Angelou, Brene Brown, Bjork, Georgia O’Keefe, Carol Coombes, and my daughter Antonia.

What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation? 

 I would love young women to grow up and feel truly equal to men. I would love them to live in a world where they didn’t fear strangers, darkness, unwanted advances… where they weren’t raped as a by product of war, or sold into sex slavery, or told to put their aspirations to one side to tend home. I would like them to have control over their own bodies, to be at peace with their bodies and their image, to know that they have every right to inhabit the space on the earth as their fellow men do. I want women to truly know freedom from fear.  

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be? 

Stop double guessing yourself. You are enough…  

Sameena Bibi
Author: Sameena Bibi

Marketing support officer at The Active Wellbeing Society.