The day is here! 6th February 2018 officially marks 100 years since propertied women over 30 got the right to vote in the UK. Although there was work to be done after this day to achieve full voting equality, this was still a momentous moment for women, and a great victory for the Suffragettes who had battled for so long to secure the right to vote.
Who knows where Jess and I would be right now had these women (and men) not fought so hard for equality all those years ago? A big part of what we do involves continuing the conversation around gender injustice and highlighting the very long road we still need to travel along to achieve full equality and visibility for the big issues still affecting women today.
When we first began to make our way in the world of work, there were far fewer women in senior positions that we could learn from, and even less examples on TV. So where did we look for inspiration? We’ve decided to give you a rundown of the female role models in our life that we found much closer to home … and from the world of music.
Enjoy … and we’d love to hear about the inspirational ladies in your life in the comments.
Who are a couple of the people in your life you would consider to be your female role models and why?
Jess: I’m very lucky to have come from a family of very strong women so if I could name them all, I would, as I think I’ve learned something from all of them. However when it came to writing this post I have been particularly in awe of my grandmothers strength and resilience in 2017 and this seemed like the best way to celebrate this particular MacIntyre lady!
My grandmother Moira continues to be one of my biggest inspirations. She’s lived in Brazil, Malaysia and India at a time when many barely left home soil. For the past 20 years she’s chaired the Women’s Overseas club in London, connecting women who’ve re-located back to the UK after years abroad. In the past year she’s made a heroic recovery from breast cancer aged 88 and I haven’t heard her complain once. Well, except for when I don’t drink my glass of Chenin Blanc fast enough. She has a tenacious spirit and is strong willed but also very caring and kind. She’s always supported us and had a fearless attitude which I like to think i've definitely inherited. I've never seen her let anything stop her and I know if she was my age today she’d be taking over the world.
Nat: I am fortunate enough to be in a very similar position to Jess. My family is packed full of strong, independent women who have been a continued source of inspiration to me. I could write several War and Peace length novels covering them all, but for this blog I'm going to whittle the list down to two.
My mum, Helen. Despite growing up in a very different landscape when it came to gender equality, my mum has drilled into me from a very young age that anything I need, and anything I want to do ... I can do myself. I really believe that being truly self-sufficient is a skill that you have to develop and practise, it's not something we're born with, and through her expert guidance over the years she has encouraged me to stand on my own two feet, and not be afraid of wobbling occasionally. She has faced a lot of difficult times, but has always faced them head on, with grit, determination and an unrelenting positive attitude. She also happens to be one of the funniest people I know, she can do just about any accent and gives a great rendition of Dido's White Flag after a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. She has spent the last 30 years caring for other people as a nurse and I have definitely got my work ethic from both of my parents. I hope I've inherited enough of her grit and unwavering inner strength to tackle anything that comes my way, and I hope I can do it with the same smile on my face.
My Nan, Violet. She grew up in Liverpool, became a widow after her first husband drowned in the war, and when she subsequently married my Grandpa (also a widower) she took in his three children from his previous marriage AND his mother-in-law. They didn't have a lot of money but she'd always make ends meet and ensure there was enough food to fill the bellies of everyone, including the 3 children they went on to have together. The real reason my Nan is one of my main role models however is because of her attitude towards life. No matter what, she managed to find the good in every person and every situation. She was also fearless, living on her own well into her 90s, doing her own shopping, lighting a coal fire every morning and even chasing an intruder down the road when he broke in. She taught me that life is what you make it, and there's always a silver lining if you look hard enough for it. A true matriarch, she taught my mum her zero tolerance attitude for BS, which has subsequently made its way down to me!
What do you think the qualities in a female role model are/should be in your opinion?
Jess: Smart, have considered opinions and be able to listen as well as impart advice/wisdom. Authenticity is very important to me, I think female role models should have a strong sense of identity and own who they are if they’re to inspire and push others forward.
Nat: For me it's about inclusivity. Being a role model doesn't mean inspiring someone else to follow exactly the same path as you. It's about supporting others to achieve by sharing knowledge, displaying qualities that others can embody for the greater good of everyone and being VISIBLE ... so people can actually learn from you.
What has your experience with female role models been as you've grown up? Have you had lots, none at all? Have they tended to come from the workspace, friend space or home space?
Jess: Like a lot of young girls, I was absolutely obsessed with music. Apart from a fleeting love affair with the band Hanson (let’s face it – they do have a lot of feminine qualities) my favourite artists when I was young were all women.
Here are few that were the soundtrack to my teenage years:
· The Spice Girls. I’m not ashamed to say I adored The Spice Girls (I still do) and everything they stood for. It’s safe to say they kicked off my love for the #GirlPower movement I’m still championing today. I also really enjoyed dressing up my younger brothers as baby/scary spice and making them do dance routines with my sister and I. I’m sure they miss these experiences too. Deep down.
· Alanis Morrisette. My first album ever purchased was Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrisette – arguably one of the best angst album of the nineties. Many a weekend was spent singing these lyrics to an invisible audience in my bedroom. I loved her “I don’t give a f**k” attitude and sass and decided aged 13 to adopt this demeanor. My parents were thrilled.
· TLC. Crazy, Sexy Cool to this day is still one of my favourite albums of all time. The authenticity and honesty that comes through on this record means it’s still hugely relatable 20 years on as a 33-year-old woman. They were not afraid to hold back writing lyrics about sex, drugs and relationships from a women’s point of view. It was refreshing in a time where a lot of music was so sugar coated.
· Lauryn Hill. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is arguably one of the most beautiful records of the 90s. Lyrically this album is a masterpiece exploring many different subjects from religion, her former band The Fugees, love, heartbreak and motherhood. At that time the charts were full of bland pop hits that had no substance or meaning. I could escape into this music and listen to her sing her own stories/journey with heart, soul and meaning. It also taught me the importance of having a voice and speaking your truth.
Music continues to be a huge influence today and although my style/tastes has changed throughout the years I often come back to the soundtrack of my youth. There are some incredible female artists today that I knowI will continue to draw inspiration from. I love how music continues to offer strong and empowered female role models to girls around the world.
Shout outs also go too these #GirlBosses I also loved throughout my teenage years: Aaliyah, Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Robyn, Joni Mitchell, Gwen Stefani, Stevie Nicks, Carol King, Mariah Carey, All Saints, Ashanti, Missy Elliot, Destiny’s Child, Kate Bush, Kate Nash, En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Ace of Base, Mis-Teeq and JLO!
It's exciting to think where we'll be in 100 more years (well not Jess and I... Unless Olay bring out a more heavy duty anti-ageing solution it's unlikely we'll still be lurking around, spouting on about gender equality (and hopefully, by that point, we wouldn't have to). We spend a lot of time looking forward that sometimes it's important to pause, look back and see how far we've come. A big part of that is remembering how we got to where we are, and while the country looks back to the sacrifices that were made in order to allow women to get the vote, we wanted to look back and remember the influences that have made us the women we are today. Please leave us a comment with the stories of the female role models in your life, we'd love to read them!
Image credit/source: Claire Huntley Illustrations