It can’t have escaped your notice that today is International Women’s Day. I’ve seen a lot written about it and it’s really made me think about the women who have been, and continue to be, inspirational in my life.
I admit that I did have to google IWD to check my understanding, and it is indeed a day of recognition and celebration of the achievements of women worldwide, but it started as International Working Women’s Day in 1909 in New York. In recent years it has focused on the lack of women in leadership roles and the economic gender gap, with this year’s theme being ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030’ and supported by #BeBoldForChange.
What really surprised me was how many countries recognise the day as an official holiday or a holiday for women. In Italy, men give yellow mimosas to women and the custom of giving flowers to women prevails in many countries including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brazil, Croatia, Latvia, Poland and Russia.
I have been very lucky to work for, and with, some very inspirational women, and there are three in particular who made a massive impact on my life. The first was when I was working for a company owned by Whitbread. We had merged with another company and she came from the ‘other side’, inheriting half of a new team. She quickly set to benchmarking the team internally and externally and developing us. As the most junior in the team, she really championed me and seeing that my salary was lower than it should have been, set to rectify that. She was (and probably still is) bold, forthright, strong, independent and funny. I learnt a huge amount from her in a relatively short space of time, and quickly rose through the ranks until I was chosen to cover the maternity leave of a colleague who was the marketing manager for the main brand within the business – a move that didn’t go down well with one man in particular in the department, who made it very clear that he should be managing this brand!
At the same time, I worked with another inspirational women who was a consultant to the above business. She ran her own marketing training business and together we researched and devised a marketing training programme that was successfully rolled out across all the divisions within the business, delivered by this lady. She knew her subject inside out and was a do-er; she made things happen. She was also great fun to work with. We’re still in touch and since then she has developed a second career as a very successful photographer, photographing the Queen on numerous occasions.
The third inspirational woman was while I was working for TK Maxx. I was covering the maternity leave of the marketing manager (again; I have a lot of my career to thank for other women having babies!) and the woman I worked for was a real visionary; she knew where the brand was headed and was steering it with confidence and style. Bags of it. In fact, I wanted to be just like her when I grew up!
The thing these women, and many others I have worked with, have in common is they invested in me with time, mentoring and teaching me, and I in turn watched and learned from how they worked. They trusted me, gave me responsibility and inspired me.
Although I’m no longer in the corporate world, I have many friends who inspire me every day, with what they achieve and how they cope with life. I am often in awe of you all.
To my Marmite-loving friend, who often has the weight of the world on her shoulders.
To the friend that I used to work with (and loved working with), who has her dreams of setting up her own business and is having to fight to get there. One day I hope we can work together again but in the meantime, we meet for weekends of fun, fizz and shopping!
To the friend who has a huge job as a finance director, and works ridiculous hours, yet makes time for family and friends and if needed, will be there in a heartbeat.
To the friends who have members of their immediate family who are very ill, but they still make time for a coffee as well as working and looking after the rest of their families. I can see their strength shining through.
To my original mummy friend, who I left behind in Hertfordshire. I miss you but know we’ll always be friends, even though we’re no longer popping into each other’s houses every day.
And to someone very close who is going through her own trauma; I can see how strong you are and know where it comes from.
And to my own mini tribe, I will say this. To my son, I know you know it’s not okay to hit girls but you don’t understand why you can’t retaliate when they hit you (they also know it’s not okay to hit anybody). Life can be hard with an older sister and a twin sister, but you’ll thank us when you’re a teenager and their friends are hanging around our house! I know you’ll make the most kind, caring partner and all I can hope is that you are treated with the same respect by future girlfriends (yes, I will be the mother from hell!).
And to my daughters, you can do anything you want with your lives. Forget glass slippers, smash glass ceilings. Hard work and perseverance are what will see you through, not make up and selfies, fun though they are. Support your friends and be inspired by other women that you will meet. Learn from them as you walk your own path and follow your dreams.