The women who have made a difference in my life

The women who have made a difference in my life

Happy International Women’s Day 2023!

Who are the women that have made a difference in your life?

To celebrate of International Women’s Day, I would like to honour the women who have made a difference in my life in this post.

The motivation behind International Women’s Day is to globally celebrate

the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. I was explaining the importance of this to my children in the car on the way to school this morning.

My simple explanation was that throughout history, women have not always had an easy run. In centuries past, women were denied education, not permitted or encouraged to work outside of the home, were not allowed to vote. Women in some parts of the world still experience these limitations today.  

My son raised the point that many men have not had easy lives either, like when they were sent to fight on the war fronts. I agreed with this, but explained that in many situations, men often had more freedom and choice than women, and were often more highly recognised for the contributions they made. Whilst not based in the trenches during war, women faced their own challenges during this time.  

In many parts of the world, the role of women has transformed dramatically over the centuries, and whilst there’s still more work to do, I am grateful for the opportunities available to my daughter and I today.

For me personally, International Women’s Day is about celebrating the women I have been fortunate to meet throughout my life so far, who have set a positive example and been role models for the type of life I aspire to live.

None of these women are celebrities. You won’t hear about their daily struggles or life challenges on YouTube. These special women are people I have encountered through education, work, and within my own family and friendship groups.  

I’ll begin with my education circle. When I was 5 or 6 years old, my little primary school attended a joint athletics carnival at the larger primary school nearby. I was swept up in the excitement of the day, going from race to race, and forgot to go to the toilet during the day.

By the end of the day, I was BUSTING! Thankfully I made it through the marching routine at the end of the day, and thought I was home and hosed, until they made us stand in our marching formation for the medal presentation! I couldn’t hold it any longer, and the inevitable happened. I was mortified. My beautiful teacher rushed over and wrapped me in a blanket and looked after me until my mum arrived to collect me. She assured me that accidents happened, and there was no shame in that. This happened around 35 years ago, but to this day, I am so grateful for her kindness. Through a friend’s Facebook post recently, I learned that she is now the principal of a country school. I was so heartened to see that she was still a teacher, and continuing to share her kindness in a leadership role. Thank you, Sharon Littlewood.

Fast forward a few years to high school, and I find myself at a private girls school in country NSW, where I am introduced to the principal, Anna Abbott. Mrs Abbott had a commanding presence and poise. She moved with elegance, and her energy filled a room. She had trained as a lawyer, and was intelligent and quick-witted. She had a knack for remembering everyone’s name. Everyone. Every student and parent. It was her super power…and you knew you could never get away with anything under her watchful eye. During our weekly assembly, she shared inspiring stories about courage, confidence and self-worth. She made it clear that men who cat-called women weren’t worth a second of one’s time, and insisted on integrity and honestly at all times. Whilst we mocked her traditional style, deep down we appreciated the routines and boundaries.

It wasn’t until I left school and started to make my way in the word that I fully appreciated all that Mrs Abbott had imparted on us during her tenure. Anna Abbott, and her team of progressive teachers had instilled in us the belief that we could achieve absolutely anything we set our mind to. I never for a second entertained the thought I wasn’t capable of doing something, least of all because I was a woman. I was shocked when I entered the world of further education and work that anyone would think like this. But some still did, and I came to appreciate my high school education experience even more.

When I commenced my university degree in Fashion Design in Wales, I was enthused to see the majority of my cohort and lecturers were women, as this is what I had been used to in high school. It is a commonly held belief that groups of women are bitchy, but I would disagree. The experience I have had working and studying with women has been positive. Whilst I have encountered the odd nasty person, this is not a gender determined quality, and for the most part I have found predominantly female groups to be encouraging and supportive.

My lecturers at university were fantastic role models for working mums. Most of them had school-aged children and families. They were intelligent, confident leaders who sought to turn out a generation of students with a strong work ethic, as well as an awareness of the issues that effected the fashion industry, such as social and environmental impact from garment manufacturing.  

Even though I was only in my early 20s at university, subconsciously I looked to my lecturers as examples of what was possible for me as a working mum in the future. Sharon, Tracy, Jane and Karen all made the future seem bright.

When I finished Uni, my career commenced in a fashion buying role for a British department store. Once again I was fortunate to work in a female dominated workplace with women from different backgrounds, age groups and cultures. Some women were gifted designers with incredible creative talents, while others were spreadsheet wizards. The leadership team also included a number of experienced, talented women. I was fortunate to work under some wonderful female bosses during my time here, and was encouraged to see it was possible to lead with confidence and be respected without having to be ‘one of the boys’. In this workplace, it was acceptable to embrace our femininity in the way we dressed and interacted. I am so grateful for the knowledge and experience I acquired from the amazing women leaders and colleagues in this role.

Finally, I would not be the person I am today without the influence of my family and friends. My mum is the most patient, kind person I know. As a school teacher for decades, alongside maths and English, she has tolerantly taught many a child how to tie their own shoes, use scissors and swim – all essential life skills! She is compassionate and giving, and always looking out for the needs of others. It makes me smile to think about the thousands of kids she has had a positive influence on throughout her teaching career.

I met my step-mum when I was in my early teens. I have to confess, I was a proper pain in the arse when she first moved in, but I warmed to her over time, and now think the world of her. She is a kind, gentle soul, but not afraid to whip anyone’s arse in a game of Scrabble! She is always up for a robust discussion on philosophy. She is also an accomplished marathon runner. In fact, I attribute my love of running and exercise to her.

I have also been blessed with some pretty spectacular friends. Many have worked exceeding hard to become accomplished in their careers. Some have made rich lives for themselves and their families whilst living with chronic health issues. Others have experienced relationship breakdowns and are solo parenting, or juggling careers and family. I have endless admiration for you all.   

No matter where you are in life, never underestimate the ability you have to lead and inspire other women through your positive influences of kindness, tenacity, determination and confidence.

Today, as well as any other day, I encourage you to take a moment to give thanks to the women that have made a difference in your life. Without them, you would not be the woman that you are. Write a thank you card, or simply  drop them a text or message of thanks. I guarantee it will make their day!