Today at work we had a lunchtime event, led by Michelle Gadsden-Williams, our new global Head of Diversity and Inclusion. She talked today about the fact that we are standing on the shoulders of the female pioneers, who went before us. They had already pre-cracked the glass ceiling.
I had the pleasure of intervewing her a few weeks ago, for an internal publication. At the end of our meeting, she showed me her photo gallery of inspiring women, telling me how and why they inspired her. I felt honoured that she had "introduced me" and thought this was a fantastic, visual idea.
On a related theme, a new expat friend of mine in Zurich recently wrote about her Wild Women on her blog
She writes: We all need our wild women: women who are creative and outspoken; fierce, loyal and loving women living their passions, pursuing their dreams; women who stand beside us, arms linked… who celebrate with us and grab hold to support us when we need it most.
My thought for today is - Who is my wild women? I have no big names, but a woman (sadly no longer with me) who showed me that the seemingly "ordinary" lives of women hold hidden stories. Here is her potted history and what it taught me.
My maternal Grandmother, Betty Channer, left school at 18 and became a draughtswomen (sometime pre second world war). Working was unusual enough for a middle class, educated woman at that time. She got married at 21 (not unusual at that time) but was one of the first women in the UK to hold a driving licence. When war broke out, she worked as a chaffeur for the Ministry of Defence, driving important people around. One day (or so her story goes!), she was driving some big wig through the new forest (a beautiful area of England) and in conversation, the big wig finds out that she'd never driven or been in this area before. So he instructs her to swap places and he drives her, so she can enjoy the view!
Anyway, she had 3 children during and immediately after the second world war (1942, 44 and 46). I can't imagine the courage of raising a family at this time of hardship and danger. She never worked outside the house again, but did a great job on her 3 kids! At 40, she decided that she really should learn to ride a motorcycle, so borrowed the bike of her second son and off she went. She doted on her 6 grandchildren and until we were 18, painted an original birthday card for each one of us, each and every year. After her husband died when she was in her sixties, she defined a new life for herself out of her grief. Found a group of women in a similar situation and was forever "gadding about" (her expression) with them. We called them "Granny's mafia"!
My Granny taught me to learn new things, to be confident and try things. She showed how important family was and is. I have so many childhood memories and young adult memories linked to her. I admire so much her courage in raising her family at such an awful time in our history. As her family grew up, they all worked and lived overseas and I never heard her complain that her two sons didn't live close by. Between them I think they had lived, worked and travelled on all the continents and they never "came home" to raise their families in the UK. We were a global family and my Gran was just so proud of all of us.
I think we sometimes search for role models and women to inspire us. We think women need to be famous, to have won the big life prizes. My Gran's life taught me, that in every "ordinary" woman's life, there is sacrifice, courage, inspiration and fun. And just as an after thought, her favourite saying was "I'm tickled pink". She found joy in everything.
I leave you with this final thought - Who are your wild women?
Gran in the early 1970s