International Women's Day 2020: My Inspirations

International Women’s Day 2020 Series:
My Inspirations 

March 8th 2020 is International Women’s Day.

WHAT IS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY?

International Women’s Day takes place annually on the 8th March to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political contributions and achievements of women around the world and has been established for over a century. Internationally-recognised, it raises awareness for the inequality still faced by many women globally.

DO WE STILL NEED INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY? 

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that there are still places in the world where women do not have the same legal rights as men, where young girls are unable to access education or are married off as child brides to much older men and so many other issues that are limiting the lives of people based on their gender. 

In the Western world where prejudice and discrimination can be harder to identify there are still cultural norms which need challenging and changing for the benefit of both men and women. This powerful video in the header of this article highlights just some of the conflicting expectations of women today.

And right here in the UK, Period Poverty means that 1 in 10 girls has been unable to afford sanitary products resulting in issues ranging from emotional distress to being unable to attend school. According to a BBC article Scotland trialled a scheme to offer free sanitary products in public places in 2018, later expanding it in 2019; Wales launched the free provision of sanitary products in schools in 2019 , one local authority in Northern Ireland makes products available in public places and England announced its own scheme for schools to make products available in January 2020. 

There is still work to be done to create a world in which women and girls are offered the same life opportunities as men and boys.

WHAT ABOUT MEN?

International Men’s Day is celebrated annually on 19th November. 

Let’s be clear; making the world a better place for girls and women need not and will not make it a worse world for men. None of us need to choose between respect for men and respect for women. Respect and love are unlimited resources and I encourage you to consider that next time you hear someone downplay anyone’s experience by offering that it can happen to the opposite gender too. That’s an invitation to help no one, instead, let’s work towards a better world for everyone. 

HOW I’M CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2020

I wanted to find a way to celebrate the day that felt personal to me so I have compiled a list of women that I personally admire and draw inspiration from for a number of reasons. And each day between Monday 2nd March to Sunday 8th March 2020 I will release an article about women I find inspiring. 

MY WEEK OF INSPIRING WOMEN

First on my list is… 

PRIYA LAKHANI OBE – FOUNDER CEO, CENTURY

Former libel barrister, Priya founded FMCG business Masala Masala in 2008 to address the lack of ready-made ethnic sauces available at nationwide retailers. The company’s charitable arm has provided over 1 million meals and 35,000 vaccinations to the underprivileged in India and Africa.

Through her role as part of Vince Cable’s advisory board at the Department of Business Innovation and Skills Priya became aware of the number of children underperforming in UK schools. Driven to see all children get equal access to education she founded CENTURY in 2013 with the goal of disrupting the education sector by utilising big data and data mining techniques to improve students’ learning outcomes.

A few years and awards later and CENTURY’s intervention tool combines learning science, AI and neuroscience and is having an impact on students’ and teachers’ lives in schools around the world.

Over the years she has won several awards for entrepreneurship and was awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2014.

Priya’s irrepressible drive and passion to improve the lives of others pushes her to tackle obstacles that others would likely consider impossible. Her unwavering commitment to make things happen is truly inspiring.  Read my article about Priya Lakhani OBE based on interviewing her in 2016. 

ANNE WILSON – AUTHOR AND FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT ACTIVIST

Next on my list of personal inspirations is Ann Wilson – best-selling author of The Wealth Chef, Wealth Expert on the hit Channel 4 TV series “Save Well – Spend Better”, trainer, speaker, entrepreneur and financial empowerment activist. 

Ann is a powerful role model showing others what’s possible and crucially helping to make it more accessible through her book and programs. In a world that still often portrays women with money as either trust fund airheads or cold megalomaniacs, Ann is a refreshing combination of sound financial knowledge and purpose-driven relatability. 

Her ‘wealth chef’ concept seeks to take the dry and often overly complex world of personal finance and use metaphor to make it easier to… well, ahem, digest… 

Ann champions living a fulfilling life whilst working towards financial freedom which helps relegate money to its rightful place as a tool, rather than a ruling power over our lives. 

Part of Ann’s fulfilling lifestyle includes giving back. 100% of the royalties from her best-selling Hay House published book, The Wealth Chef, are donated to The Small Enterprise Foundation – a foundation dedicated to eradicating poverty by empowering women through micro loans combined with financial literacy. 10% of the profit from her training programmes goes to Caring4Girls an organization providing sanitary pads to girls in poor communities so they can attend school.

Find out more about Ann Wilson’s story and read my interview with her here

NIKKI COLLINS – MANAGING DIRECTOR, MAX MINDPOWER

As a teen Nikki Collins was the victim of a tragic hit and run accident that left her physically disabled. Struggling to accept her new reality she was further diagnosed with several mental health disorders. 

After 2 years of her physical and mental health continuing to deteriorate a psychiatrist suggested she try mindfulness to help her cope.

Incredibly this was the catalyst to her making a full recovery which then became the inspiration behind her launching her children’s toy company Max Mindpower who make a range of mindfulness toys and books for children. 

Formerly a horse dealer, Nikki found a new passion in psychology which she went on to study as well hypnotherapy, meditation and since setting us her business she is now also a part-time law student to ensure she has a grasp on all areas of her business. 

Whilst studying psychology Nikki became aware of the rise in mental health issues affecting children and in 2018 she launched Max Mindpower – a bear and book series designed to help improve children’s overall wellbeing as well as target specific problems such as anxiety and disturbed sleep. 

Read my full interview with Nikki Collins to find out more about her incredible story.

RACHEL WOOD – FOUNDER, BIBADO

What Rachel Cook and her team have achieved within a few short years is truly remarkable. From an idea born out of frustration to an award-winning product stocked by retail giant Jojo Maman Bebe, regularly launches new versions of their patented coverall bib and as well recently launching a new range of dribble bibs. Oh and then there’s the recent TV appearance on Channel 4’s ‘Buy It Now For Christmas’. 

You’d be forgiven for assuming Rachel had a background in creating physical products and growing retail brands. You might therefore be surprised to learn that prior to BIBaDO, Rachel Wood was a dentist. 

Starting out as a military dentist in the Royal Army Dental Corps for 5 years, it’s here that Rachel met her now-husband and once married she decided to leave the military so they could pursue their dreams of starting a family.  

Rachel spent the next 5 years working part-time in local dental practices and raising their twin daughters, born prematurely in 2010. Between her own career, her husband’s long working hours and the twins’ additional medical appointments on top of normal life with a young family Rachel was exhausted and knew something had to change. 

Her inspiration came from the daily challenge that was feeding her twins. Double trouble meant she spent hours a day on the task of feeding them both and the inevitably large clean up job that followed.

Rachel couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better solution for taking the stress out mealtimes and that’s when the pieces fell into place.

She realised that improving on the standard bib design would not only make mealtimes easier but the ability to run her own business online from home could improve their lifestyle as a family overall. 

Read my interview with Rachel Wood to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey. 

JESSICA HUIE MBE – ENTREPRENEUR AND AUTHOR

Raised on a council estate, expelled from school at 15 and pregnant at 17, Jessica Huie MBE was determined to build a life that made her feel like ‘more than a statistic’. 

After gaining a degree in journalism, Jessica Huie MBE built an impressive career as a publicist working alongside big names like Simon Cowell, Samuel L. Jackson and Kelly Rowland.

But it was when she struggled to find a birthday card for her little girl that featured an image of anyone of mixed race or black ethnicity she saw an opportunity to do something different.

With the goal of creating a range of inclusive greetings cards that would appeal to a wide range of people, Jessica launched Color Blind Cards in 2006, winning multiple awards and becoming the first independent brand to secure a high street presence for black cards in the UK. 

The brand went on to grow internationally and helped drive important conversations about representation in retail more generally. In 2014 Jessica was honoured with an MBE for entrepreneurship and her contribution to diversity.

In 2016 Jessica’s life path took another twist when she took time away from work to care for her terminally-ill father. It was during this period that she began to question the beliefs she’d held around what it means to live an authentic and successful life.

Propelled by her new ideas she inspired to write her first book, Purpose: Find Your Truth And Embrace Your Calling. In its pages she invites us to get to know ourselves more deeply by letting go of who we think society and those around us want us to be. 

Combining her wealth of experience in PR and entrepreneurship with her passion for helping others to lead more purposeful lives, she has launched the Transformational Visibility Academy. This incredible eight month programme is for purpose-driven small business owners who are ready to step out of the shadows and embrace visibility and be seen and heard in 2020 – it is currently open for applications until the 13th March 2020.

Learn more about Jessica’s story and read her advice to other entepreneurs. 

EMMA KENNEDY – FOUNDER, LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS

Mum to two daughters, adoptive mum to two elderly and slightly neurotic spaniels and London-based Sales Director – ‘cancer patient’ was not a label Emma Kennedy had expected or wanted to add to the list.

But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 she managed to find a way of turning her difficult experience into a force for good.

Inspired by her own frustration at trying to find the products and resources she needed following her diagnosis, Emma made the brave and heart-driven decision to found the business that she wished already existed and whilst still undergoing her own treatment. 

Lions, Tigers and Bears is an online hub set up to as a place for anyone affected by cancer to find the products, services and information they need.

Emma created it as a social enterprise meaning the profits are reinvested into the business to further its mission to promote and support an empowered, informed and holistic approach to living life with and after cancer, and to help support individuals and families directly affected by cancer.

More impressive still is that Emma is still working part-time in her old career alongside running Lions, Tigers and Bears.

Read my interview with Emma Kennedy to find more about her inspiring story.  

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