Neo's female heroes
Today is International Women's Day – a global celebration of the economic, social, cultural and political achievements of women, and a day to reflect on the many gender inequalities that still exist worldwide.
IWD is an official national holiday in some parts of the world, with men in countries like Uganda and Laos honouring the women in their lives by giving them flowers and small gifts. Since Matt and Nick seemed pretty reluctant to shower us with presents – and because IWD is particularly significant for such a female-dominated agency – we decided to celebrate the day in a slightly different way. We did a quick sweep around the office to see which women (famed or otherwise) had particularly inspired us, and why. Here’s what we came up with:
1. Kenyan environmental and political activist, Wangari Maathai. Behind her flamboyant style, mischievous smile and straight talking she was a potent campaigner for people and the environment, and all round inspiration in life. In the words of Kim, “she kept it real”.
2. It's not often that a client becomes a hero, but Fatima Jibrell – founder of the Horn of Africa Relief & Development Organisation – is an exception. Somalia isn't an easy place for anyone to live, but it's especially difficult to be a woman there. Fatima – a woman and Somalian – not only took on one of the most destructive industries in Somalia (the charcoal trade) and won, but has created a development organisation that has gone on to help many thousands of Africans, particularly women.
3. As leader of the Burma democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi chose to remain under house arrest for nearly two decades to take a stand against the oppression of her people. Released last year, she’s made an awe-inspiring journey from political prisoner to political hero.
4. The most heroic woman to ever commandeer a life boat, Margaret 'Molly' Brown made history when she committed munity and turned Lifeboat No. 6 to rescue any survivors from the doomed ship of dreams, the RMS Titanic. The bravery she showed earned her the nickname 'the unsinkable Molly Brown’.
5. Boudicca is a slightly unusual choice, but there’s no denying she was a woman to be reckoned with. Queen of the British Iceni tribe, she triumphantly led the uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in 60 AD. She didn’t succeed, and allegedly poisoned herself rather than face capture. But at least she tried.
6. Mexican painter Frida Kahlo drew on her lifelong health problems to produce a series of critically acclaimed self-portraits. Largely overlooked and understated throughout her life, Frida was well ahead of her time in her political outlook, and her work is now renowned for its role in challenging the traditional image of femininity.
7. The first woman to win a nobel prize, and the only woman to date to win in two fields; Marie Curie was a clear choice. A feminist precursor, Curie conducted research that went on to transform the fields of physics and chemistry in a highly male-dominated age, whilst her posthumous contribution to cancer treatment is truly inspirational.
8. The advertising industry remains a notoriously male profession. Yet copywriter Mary Wear is a notable exception to the rule. Famed for her ‘Make Poverty History’ strapline, Mary’s direct, candid manner has earned her numerous industry awards, as well as the respect of her many male counterparts.
8. Love her or hate her; we couldn’t end without a brief ode to Beyonce. A positive role model to many young girls (and boys), she’s dedicated her life to being a successful artist in her field – grafting hard since early childhood, and heavily involved in the development of her brand. At last year’s Glastonbury, she became the first female headliner in over 20 years, championing female empowerment to more than 175,000 people. “Who run the world? Girls!” An apt statement for the day.