International Women’s day

What does it mean to me? The newspapers, BBC and other radio stations are giving women’s achievements additional coverage.

We are asked to celebrate the work of women politicians, composers, bankers and regulators, but what about the rest of us? Taking my focus down to my life and the life of the women I know and have known, those that have impact on me now and those whom I have experienced over the last half century?

Women before the 1950s are a total mystery to me, either romantic heroines or the wives of great men, so it is best to talk about what I know not what I read. After all, their stories were written from a different mind-set, when the world was smaller and a woman headed an Empire, with the assistance of many thousands of men and their wives.

My first encounter with a powerful woman was as a British voter with a woman Prime minister. The era also included Shirley Williams and Barbara Castle. Then, there is the ever present figure of Elizabeth 2nd, a friend to all and never courts controversy – that was until her son married Diane. A meek shy girl, who would know her place!

On reflection there were two more important role models in my earlier life: Mrs Robinson, my head teacher and my mother. Mrs Robinson, handsome women, taller than any other I had encountered, straight backed, wore spectacles with upward sweeps to the frames and spoke in a Scottish accent.

My mother who became my hero when I was 11, was a woman who flared to anger whenever she saw an injustice. She had been very beautiful but, by then, she was tired and unhappy. She had given birth four times and felt the pain of losing her two sons. I was the third child and the survivor, my sister, younger than me by six years, the cause of her failing health. A tiny moment in a coffee house made her my lifetime hero, when I heard her rebuke the manager for her rude treatment of some well-behaved youngsters at the next table, for not drinking their coffee quickly enough! My mum was fierce and I was proud of her, even more so because those same young people came over and thanked her! Mum, who was never too sick or tired to care about others. Just like so many other mothers, who would protect their children with their own lives.

These reflections lead me to the thought that we all have something special to give. It’s not the leaders who are necessarily the best indication of how well women are doing in the world but the state of the world when we leave it. Our legacy, whether as mothers, teachers, business leaders, politicians is what matters. And that needs to be celebrated.

If nothing else, having a day each year to celebrate women’s achievements gives our daughters a vision of what is possible. We can become whatever we are prepared to work for. Seeing women making good decisions and influencing the way society operates is a powerful influence on young minds. Any woman can be her own beautiful, powerful, generous self, we just need to get our vision, a strong moral compass and remember we are all role models. And for those of us who are late starters, or continue on a lifelong journey, we are still our own beautiful, powerful, generous selves, just with less energy.