International Women’s Day

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To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we asked some of ECI’s team which women inspired them when they were younger and helped them achieve their life’s goals and ambitions. From teachers to baronesses and authors to grandmothers and a Nobel Prize winner, their female inspiration came from lots of different places.

Skyler ver Bruggen & GG

A woman with two degrees by her early 20s, a BAFTA-winning director, journalist, and co-founder of an established PR firm – my inspiration growing up was my grandmother ‘GG’. GG showed me that it was possible to ‘break the glass ceiling’ before that term was coined. But while her ambition may have inspired me, GG’s sage advice and friendship are what have mattered, and continue to matter most as I navigate the twists and turns of life.

Mia Smith & Esther Duflo

One of the women I found inspiring while I was at university was Esther Duflo, the developmental economist who was the youngest, and only second woman, to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.

Her work centres on finding practical, results-driven (as opposed to ideology-driven) answers to world poverty and inequality. Her two most famous publications “Poor Economics” and “Good Economics for Hard Times” (for which she won the Nobel Prize) are astounding in terms of breadth of coverage and simplicity of argument. She can distil complicated issues that feel utterly insurmountable to their core parts and uses practical tests / time spent in communities most severely impacted to inform her work.

Beyond having found her work very interesting to read, I think she’s taught me the importance of the bigger picture. We are all part of a wider community and it’s important to consider how our views / actions impact those around us. It’s important to get away from our personal politics (particularly in such a polarising time!) and consider how we might help to build a fairer, more sustainable world.

Suzanne Pike & the Bronte sisters

Growing up, I found the Bronte sisters inspiring. As the eldest of four girls, I really related to, and admired, the way the Bronte sisters united to support one another and succeed.

I loved reading Jane Eyre and I remember a teacher at school telling me about the sisters’ incredible tenacity and perseverance, which didn’t falter even when their self-published volume of poems flopped.

They became even more determined to succeed in the face of countless knockbacks before their publications were widely accepted as masterpieces. At a time when writing was still viewed as a predominantly male domain, their talent and drive led them to become successful, published authors. Their works are also Protofeminist, focusing on female independence themes in an age when women weren’t independent, and had little, if any, voice.

Lesley Davies & Miss Kerr

As a child of the 80’s, I was surrounded by big hair, bad fashion and electronic music – so it’s no wonder that my photo looks like it was inspired by the women of Bananarama!

I was very lucky to be exposed to a number of strong, female influences in my formative years; at close hand, was the very personal influence of Miss Kerr, the Headteacher at my all-girls school (teachers did not have first names in the 80’s!)

She was dedicated to the concept of world citizenship, firmly believing that education had the power to breed understanding, widen perspectives and make better citizens of us all.

Against the run of play in 80’s Northern Ireland, she delivered doggedly on her vision, creating eye-opening opportunities for pupils to experience different world cultures and views. She gained an OBE for her achievements, which she used only to demonstrate to her pupils, that all things are possible.

At a young age she inspired in me the power of leading with purpose and the great value to be gained from seeing other perspectives. She was a positive role-model of what can be achieved, against the odds, when you engage people behind a single purpose. Her lasting influence on me as a leader, was to strive to make room for different perspectives and views to be heard.

Is she still a role model today? Very much so in spirit; whilst she is no longer with us, her presence as a strong female educator in my formative years, meant I saw no (gender) limits to setting and pursuing my own goals.

Brenda Fernandez & Baroness Doreen Miller

My inspiration is my former boss, the late Doreen Miller, Baroness Miller of Hendon.

I was 17 when I left school with no work experience and found Doreen’s “Why not” philosophy a great motivator. She gained a law degree from LSE and was an incredible entrepreneur, founding the highly successful cosmetics business, Universal Beauty Club. Doreen was also an active politician serving as a Government Whip for three years and a front-bench spokesperson in the Lords. During that time, she actively encouraged women into politics and supported their careers.

I’ll always remember and remain incredibly grateful to Doreen for spending time with me, encouraging me, and motivating me in every aspect of my life.

Her philosophy; “Wearing make-up is not what makes us women beautiful, it is being mindful, kind, and generous and helping others” will always stick with me and it’s why she’s been a great role model.

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