Read it here, if you ain’t heard of these ladies ya’ll need to keep reading! These women are the leading ladies in a world constantly striving towards gender equality and self improvement, changing laws and breaking rules along the way.
I attended the annual Women of the Year lunch yesterday, for the first time. Not knowing what to expect I entered the room and looked for some familiar faces. As the awards went on, I became increasingly aware of my mediocre achievements and conquests in comparison to those being awarded. I explain below why each of these accomplished women are such rightful winners.
Dame Jocelyn Bell – Winner of the Prudential women of the year Lifetime achievement Award.
A scientist in the field of physics and astronomy, an inspirational role model and campaigner. Dame Jocelyn Bell is widely known for discovering the first radio pulsars, by constructing a radio telescope and recording data over many years, resulting in the discovery of what we now call a neutron star. Her campaigning began at a young age, when she and her parents protested against a policy (studying sciences) at her school. She has also campaigned to improve the number of women in professional and academic posts in the fields of physics and astronomy.
Her speech yesterday astounded me. She was witty, intelligent, controlled and yet totally unassuming. A true role model. I have to also mention her insanely cool glasses, she was way ahead of her time with those! (see picture above)
Agnes (Cokie) van der Velde – Winner of The Barclays women of the year award
Ebola is something we have all become used to hearing about over the past 18 months, and to this day, 11,000 people have lost their lives to this deadly virus. Although under control now, Cokie van der Velde has been at the forefront of this epidemic disposing of the victims bodies, which is when they are at their most infectious. It is impossible to convey in words the strength of this woman, this not being the only dangerous disease she has worked against. In 2008, she travelled to Zimbabwe to fight an outbreak of Cholera, in 2010 she was part of MSF’s response team after the Haiti earthquake, all while looking after her own family back her in the UK…puts a whole new spin on the word giving.
Jayne Senior – Winner of Good Housekeeping Outstanding Achievement Award
Between 1999 and 2011, Jayne Senior led an outreach programme for young people in Rotherham called ‘Risky Business’. During that time 1,700 cases of grooming or sexual exploitation were reported….shockingly all were ignored by the Police. At this point Jayne decided to move things forward by personally handing over countless pieces of evidence and records to Times Journalist Andrew Norfolk, putting her own identity at huge risk. With this new information and publicity, a full enquiry was made which showed 1,400 people had been abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. She is still fighting for Justice today.
Kristin Hallenga – dfs Outstanding Young Campaigner of The Year
When Kristin Hallenga found a lump in her breast aged just 23, she was told it was nothing to worry about. Now, as a result of this misdiagnosis she is 29, living with terminal cancer in her spine, pelvis, hips, brain and liver, kept alive by copious amounts of drugs. As a result of her misdiagnosis, driven by frustration and anger Kristin created CoppaFeel! an organisation that encourage and educates women on breast cancer, the signs of it and what we can do to prevent many others from suffering this awful disease. On collecting her award, Kristen was visibly emotional, as would be expected…however her strength, courage and raw experience shone through in her words of support to one and all in the room.
Read about Coppafeel! here
Dame Stephanie Shirley – Special 60th Anniversary Award, Women of The Year
Although not present at the lunch due to medical circumstances, her presence was felt around the room by her incredible achievements. Stephanie Shirley arrived in Britain many years ago as a refugee and started her working life as an experimental software programmer, building computers from scratch. Things were very different back then, for example when Stephanie got married, she had to leave her job because married couples weren’t allowed to work in the public sector together! However, she later set up her own software company in 1962 aged 29 with just £6. Her company only employed women and she was forced to call herself ‘Steve’ to bring in business. Since 1993, Stephanie Shirley has given an estimated £67 million to charities through the Shirley Foundation, which supports projects linked to Autism in memory of her son who suffered from the condition and died aged 37 from a seizure.
Read about Dame Shirley’s Foundation Here
So, after hearing what these women have accomplished over such a short space of time, makes me realise what we can and will achieve in the future. If there’s something you’re passionate about and want to support, go out there and do it. If there’s something you excel in, take control, lead your passions in the right direction and leave a legacy even your mum would be proud of.