What’s a Soroptimist?


There were no secret handshakes or strange costumes involved when I was invited to run a Stand Up to Stand Out workshop during the Annual Federation Conference of the Soroptimist International of Great Britain & Ireland, (SIGBI) in the stunning surroundings of the Brighton Dome last week.  I’ve always known a little bit about this organisation but its amazing work and global spread belies it’s ‘secret society’ image.  This is one well kept secret that now needs to shared, especially in a world where there is still a huge amount of poverty and inequality for women.

SIGBI is a vibrant, dynamic global organisation for today's professional and business women. It is committed to a world where women and girls together achieve their individual and collective potential, realise aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide.  Soroptimists inspire action and create opportunities to transform the lives of women and girls through a global network of members and international partnerships.

The name 'Soroptimist' was coined from the Latin 'soror' meaning sister, and 'optima' meaning best. Soroptimist is perhaps best interpreted as 'the best for women'. From the founding of the first Soroptimist club in Oakland, California, in 1921, through to the present day where over 3000 clubs are flourishing throughout the world, Soroptimists have continued to strive to achieve 'the best for women' in every sphere of their lives.

Since giving women an equal voice is something that Funny Women actively develops through comedy, public speaking or just helping women to have enough confidence and self-esteem to stand up for ‘the best for women’, I was very proud to be a part of this event.

So, at (for me!) the extremely early hour of 9.00am I was greeted (and treated) to a room full of wonderful enthusiastic women of all ages and ethnicity who were keen to find their female funny.  It was a great way to start their day and stimulate some conversations and new friendships.

I then stayed for the rest of the day and listened to presentations from various groups from the UK and overseas showcasing some of the amazing projects they have initiated.  Being a part of SIGBI means subscribing to values such as human rights for all, global peace and international goodwill, advancing women’s potential, integrity, democratic decision making, volunteering, diversity and friendship.  A heady but worthwhile list – just imagine if the whole world did subscribe to this!  The projects presented embodied these values unconditionally and modestly – I felt genuinely humble.

As an opener for this amazing day, I was particularly honoured to be sharing the programme (outlined HERE) with the wonderful Sandi Toksvig, who treated a very full auditorium to an amazing and hilarious Key note speech at the end of the day’s events. 

SIGBI are keen to develop a bigger and more diverse membership.  If you think you have something to offer then check them out HERE and tell them Funny Women sent you!

Lynne Parker.

Pictured top to bottom: 1939 Soroptimists meet on the eve of World War 2 – SEE HISTORY; 2011 Project Sierra – READ ABOUT IT HERE; Sandi Toksvig delivers her keynote speech on stage at the Brighton Dome.