Countess of Wessex champions gender equality in New York and Toronto

The Countess of Wessex last week visited New York and Toronto in her role as Global Ambassador to 100 Women in Finance’s Next Generation Initiative. Sophie also undertook other engagements, relating to other areas of her royal work.

100WF’s Next Generation Initiative aims to support and encourage young women to consider taking up a career in finance by creating more pathways into the industry. Sophie has been Global Ambassador since 2015, and champions increasing female representation within the finance industry. It also feeds into the Countess’ work in promoting gender equality in the workplace.

The first part of the visit began in New York where, on Tuesday 12th, The Countess of Wessex joined a panel and round table discussions during 100WF’s First Impressions event. The evening brought 77 young women aged 12-18 together with female industry professionals, to equip and inspire the next generation to explore finance as a career path. Discussions were centred around different pathways into the industry, opportunities within, and the visibility of female role models.

Sophie at 100WF’s First Impressions event, to connect young women with females in the finance industry (Royal Family)

The Countess spoke to individuals before addressing them all together as part of the panel discussion. She encouraged them to “be brave, speak up” and ask questions as they embark on their careers.

The next day, the Countess attended a 100WF breakfast meeting at Winston & Strawn LLP, where she participated in conversations with women and men on the topic of reaching gender parity in the workplace.

The Countess attended a 100WF breakfast meeting at Winston & Strawn LLP in New York (Royal Family)

She attended a Women, Peace and Security Agenda, a UN initiative The Countess pledged support to earlier this year, for a working lunch, where she met thought-leaders who are working to increase female participation in peace processes.

The Royal also met with representatives from the Awareness Foundation, of which she is patron. The Foundation empowers people of faith to become peacemakers within their communities.


That night, The Countess of Wessex attended 100WF’s 18th Annual Gala. The Gala celebrated the work of the organisation in investing in the next generation of female finance professional. Sophie gave a speech during the evening, where she highlighted the importance of gender equality in the workplace and how everyone is needed to achieve balance and diversity. She invited all women present to “become more visible, to be great examples to young women and, if you aren’t already, to become champions and mentors”.

And so it was on to Toronto, for the second part of the North American visit and some engagements away from 100WF. It began on the 14th, with visits to Toronto Western and Toronto General Hospitals, hospitals of which Sophie is patron. Both hospitals specialise in cardiology, the treatment of strokes, and transplants. The Countess made her first visit to the hospitals back in 2005 with her husband.

During her visit, the Countess learned about the hospitals use of technology and innovation – this month doctors performed the first robot-assisted brain surgery- and met with patients and staff. The Queen’s daughter-in-law even saw how some of the technology was used to help patients.

At Toronto General Hospital, Sophie received some artwork as a gift from a patient.

The Countess of Wessex paid a visit to some of her patronages in Toronto; Toronto Western and Toronto General Hospitals (Royal Family)

On the very last day, the Countess attended a 100WF business breakfast where she participated in a Q&A session with students Katherine and Anjana. Questions were about the development opportunities for young women in the industry and about the promotion of gender equality in the workplace. Sophie also spoke with the two girls about their aspirations for the future and 100WF’s work to inspire young women to pursue careers in the finance sector. Had she any advice for women present? “Take every opportunity that comes your way.”


The Countess then joined Duke of Edinburgh Canada Award participants and partner charities to explore how the education framework can help young women reach their full potential. The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a global, non-formal education framework which challenges young people to develop new skills, become active, volunteer and break outside their comfort zone. Both the Countess and her husband, The Earl of Wessex, have become big supporters of the Award in the last few years, especially since Prince Philip’s retirement in 2017.

The last engagement of the day, and of the whole visit, was a meeting with Governor General Julie Payette. The Governor General of Canada is the Monarch’s representative in the Commonwealth country.

And so an inspiring visit drew to a close. No doubt the Countess will be hopeful that her work over the past few days, and her continued work for gender equality, will make some change and inspire many women in Canada.


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