A pioneering conference celebrating prominent Black women is to be held in Birmingham later this month, providing a platform for attendees to share their stories. 

The ‘Women in the Shade’ summit is set to take place on 18 January, with the aim of providing “a safe platform for Black women to share their stories” as well as discuss the challenges they face and propose innovative solutions to combat the injustices they encounter on a daily basis.

According to organisers, “this pioneering forum is the first of its kind, dedicated exclusively to exploring the experiences of Black women in policing, public sector and uniformed services.”

The event is the brainchild of Karen Geddes QPM and Marcia Ore, who have both transitioned from policing but “remain deeply committed to the value and impact of the police”.

Karen Geddes was the first Black female to reach the rank of Superintendent in West Midlands Police historyWMP
Karen Geddes was the first Black female to reach the rank of Superintendent in West Midlands Police history

Karen Geddes QPM

Karen Geddes joined West Midlands Police in 1992 before retiring in 2022. During her career, she rose to become the first Black Female Superintendent in the force and to this date remains the only one to have attained this rank.

She was awarded QPM (Queens Police Medal) and was the first Black female to reach the rank of Superintendent in West Midlands Police history. In 2022 she created The Thin Black Line to work with organisations such as policing to reduce disparity affecting the Black community and to build stronger organisations that work for everyone.

“I am proud to have been able to serve my community for 30 years. As I transition away from policing, I still retain a passion to ensure people like me have a sit at the table of change,” Karen said.

“This conference is an opportunity for people inside the police, other organisations and our community to come together to ensure Black female continue to have a visible part in the conversation about policing.”

Marcia Ore was the first Black woman in force training at West Midlands Police The Thin Black Line
Marcia Ore was the first Black woman in force training at West Midlands Police

Marcia Ore

Co-organiser Marcia Ore is a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. Ore’s professional life began as a serving Police Officer from 1982 and was the ‘first’ in a number of roles including being the first Black woman in force training at West Midlands Police.

She has spent 30 years championing equality, diversity and inclusion, and held various roles promoting access to policing, served as Vice-chair of the West Midlands Black and Asian Police Association; and organised the first conference for Black and ethnic minority women in UK police forces, called Women In The Shade.

” I still deeply believe in policing and the influence it has on society as a role model. Failing to listen to the perspectives of different identities undermines the principles of policing by consent and having the trust and confidence of all those committed to providing a fair and equitable service,” said Marcia.

Women in the Shade

The Women in the Shade conference is set to feature additional speakers including Mina Smallman, the Church of England’s first female archdeacon, and a range of panellists including OPCC Strategic Police and Crime Board member Charmaine Burton.

Joining them will be Wendy Williams CBE, a solicitor, who led the independent inquiry into the Windrush scandal. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham will also be attending the conference as a special guest, as will Birmingham first Black MP Paulette Hamilton.

Hosted by media personality Marverine Cole, the event will explore topics including Black female representation, amplifying impact and diverse perspectives in policing through a series of panel discussions and interactive workshops.


The Women in the Shade will be held at Three Snowhill, Queensway, Birmingham B4 6GA on Thursday 18 January. To find out more, visit: www.thethinblackline.co.uk.


Celebrating Black excellence, inspiration, history and heritage in Birmingham and the West Midlands, from 'I Am Birmingham' news and features.
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