As we near the end of Women’s History Month in the UK, the United States and Australia, we’ve been speaking to a number of our colleagues from APCO’s London office, about women in time who have truly inspired them, and why. Have a read below to see what they had to say.
Polly Kennedy, Deputy Managing Director UK, Senior Director Global Solutions
How do I pick just one woman from history? There are so many women who have inspired me but, as I began to think about this question in the middle of a global pandemic, I was drawn to women in medicine and science, and to Professor Sarah Gilbert.
As most of the world is now aware, Professor Gilbert is the lead researcher on the Oxford vaccine team. What struck me about her from the beginning was her confidence. She said from the outset: I know how to get this done, it’s going to take just a few months and I’m 80% certain it will work. A lot of people were skeptical, but she was completely right. When asked how she dealt with the pressure, she said, “you just get on with it.” And, when asked how she was handling the relentless and all-consuming challenge, she said, “I’m trained for it—I’m the mother of triplets.”
Professor Gilbert now has a place in history, and I hope she and her work will inspire other girls and women to work hard and to persevere, as you never know when the world will need you.
Nesta Smith, Project Assistant
Angela Davis is an American activist, philosopher and feminist, and someone I consider to be one of the biggest inspirations in modern history. Unafraid of pushing boundaries to challenge the problems of our time, her books such as “Women, Race and Class and Are Prisons Obsolete” present critical questions that are increasingly relevant to the political landscape today.
Davis’ powerful speeches and bold written works confront racism, sexism and exploitation, and can teach us about how to pursue an equal and just society.
Lottie Wistow, Associate Consultant
With so many amazing women to look up to over our history, I found choosing just one incredibly difficult! But the person I kept coming back to was Michelle Obama. Having served as the First Lady of the United States, she was determined to use—and was successful in using—her position to create her own legacy separate from her husband’s.
Amongst the many initiatives she led during this time, were those aimed at empowering women and fighting for their equal opportunities. This included her “Let Girls Learn” program, which worked to provide young women across the globe with greater access to education.
And, with the scrutiny she undoubtedly faced as a Black woman on one of the biggest public stages in the world, Michelle was able to rally so many with her inspirational speeches on the importance of supporting and championing one another, striving to make the world a more equal—and therefore stronger—place. She once said, “when you’ve worked hard and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back.” Of her many inspiring words, I know these will stay with me as I make my way through my own career.
Priya Shourie, Project Assistant
As the media has become such a daily presence in our lives over the past 12 months, we now more than ever seek quality in journalism. I consider BBC News anchor, Mishal Husain, to be an inspiration—she is fearless in addressing the pertinent issues at hand.
Mishal has interviewed Prime Ministers and other leading figures including Malala Yousafzai, to reporting on election debates and world events, such as the Beijing Olympics. Making her mark in history, she was the first news presenter to cover Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement. In her interview style, she is calmly insistent upon getting to the truth and asking the right questions at the right time.
An influential voice in the British South Asian community, she was also the first Asian presenter of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme and, since, has called for more diversity and equality in the workplace.
Mishal has a place in shaping modern history, with her work in journalism taking us on an interesting journey to examine pressing issues of the day, and powerfully communicating messages to engage the audience and listeners across the world.
Aileen Kearney, Intern
Although history is full of pioneering women, I find the bravery Patsy Mink showed, when standing up for her beliefs, particularly inspiring. Patsy never shied away from speaking her mind even when her opinions were unpopular, stepping up to address the US on national television in support of civil rights, participating in protest marches against sex discrimination, and openly advocating for Peace during the Vietnam war.
Her stellar career as the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress, epitomized by the 1972 Title IX Amendment she co-drafted—now renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act—shows what can be achieved when you put your mind to it.
I believe that we can all learn from Patsy’s example and strive to be authentic to our values, by always speaking up in defense of what we believe to be right.
Holly Bryden, Consultant
My biggest female inspiration in history is Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the earliest feminist thinkers. Her philosophy and writing were revolutionary for the 1700s, and the fact she stood for what she believed in—social equality for women and the role of education in achieving this—and endeavored to communicate this to an audience of that time and influence change is admirable.
Given the nature of her thinking and the potential for political backlash from a society entrenched in inequality, she also demonstrated bravery and confidence, which are qualities I value.