International Women’s Day 2021: Celebrating our inspirational female leaders

International Women's Day

Whilst every day is a great day to celebrate the strong and inspiring women in our lives, International Women’s Day gives us all an opportunity to acknowledge their fantastic achievements and raise awareness of inequality and gender-bias.

This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, which encourages us to consider our own thoughts and actions, and challenges us to promote female empowerment. Whilst we have seen improvements in gender equality within our industry, with 52% of senior-level marketers now being female, and women accounting for 47% of CMOs (of the member companies surveyed – Ana), we must continue to work together to make further progress.

At MMC, we want to be part of the conversation, which is why we’re celebrating 4 strong females, who have inspired us, and the world

  1. Coco Chanel

One of the fashion industry’s most successful and inspiring individuals, Coco is famous for her trademark suits and elegant designs. She rose from humble beginnings to become one of the 20th century’s 100 most influential people, according to Time magazine. Following the death of her mother when Coco was 12-years-old, she grew up in an orphanage where she was taught to sew – a skill which would lead to her multi-million dollar fashion empire. She began in 1910 by selling hats, and by the 1920s had launched her first perfume, Chanel No. 5, followed by the iconic Chanel suit and little black dress. As a true trend-setter, Coco defied gender stereotypes and has left a lasting influence not only on the world of fashion but women around the globe. Fiercely independent, she proved anything is possible with some old-fashioned hard work, and never let any men dictate to her what she could or couldn’t do.

2. Beryl Swain

As a proud Isle of Man-based business, we love the TT motorbike races, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to mention Beryl Swain who was the first woman to compete as a solo racer at the TT. Inge Stoll from Germany had become the first woman to compete in any event at the TT – she was a sidecar passenger in 1954. But Beryl, born in East London, took an even bigger step forward for women in sport when she completed the greatest challenge in motorcycle racing in 1962. After finishing her first TT race in 22nd place out of a field of 25, she was eager to return, until the sport’s governing body revoked her licence. As a pioneering competitor in a male-dominated sport, Beryl became a victim of gender bias with her male counterparts claiming that the TT was ‘far too dangerous for solo women’. Without a licence, Beryl had no choice but to leave the sport, but not before campaigning across the country against the injustice. Whilst Beryl was unable to change the rules during her career, she made a strong impact and inspired a long line of future female motorsport competitors.

3. Michelle Obama

Lawyer, writer and the wife of the 44th President, Michelle Obama is a role model to many women around the world for her commitment to empowering and inspiring young women. Her Father suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, and it is his determination to fight the disease which taught Michelle that ‘the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them’. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 1988, which is where she met her husband and future president, Barack Obama. After realising that her passion was to work with people to improve their communities, she joined the University of Chicago in 1996 and developed its first community service programme.

As the first African-American first lady, Michelle used her position to support and inspire young people through initiatives to tackle childhood obesity and improve education services. Her final speech as first lady was arguably one of her most memorable, as she reminded us all that through hard-work, commitment, and a strong education anything is possible.

4. Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill

She won the heart of the host nation by winning gold at the 2012 London Olympics, finishing in style by taking victory in the 800 metres – the last of the heptathlon’s seven events.

It was the result of years of dedication, hard work and self-sacrifice which had begun as a 13-year-old with her local athletics club in Sheffield.  Her breakthrough year came in 2007 when she finished fourth at the World Championships in Japan. Jessica had her sights set on the 2008 Olympics but a stress fracture injury forced her to miss the Games in Beijing. Despite the disappointment, she bounced back stronger in 2009 and became world champion, followed by the European Championship and world indoor titles in 2010, and a second World Championship gold in 2011. In the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics, Jessica was the strong favourite and won despite the immense pressure of carrying Britain’s hopes on her shoulders. After giving birth to her son Reggie in 2014, Jessica returned to competition winning her third World Championship title in 2015, and a year later ended her glittering career with Olympic silver in Rio.

More than all of her medals, it is perhaps how she overcame setbacks and challenges that make Dame Jessica a truly inspiring sports icon.

We hope you now feel as inspired as we do! Let’s all #ChooseToChallenge our actions and pledge our commitment to calling out inequality and supporting an inclusive society.

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