International Women’s Day – #EmbraceEquity

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8th. It’s a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for gender equality and women’s rights. 

IWD has become a significant event in the calendar for women’s rights activists, organisations, and governments worldwide. It’s a reminder of how far women have come and how much work still needs to be done to achieve gender equality. 

This year, we asked colleagues at Digiterre to celebrate IWD by sharing details of the women that have inspired them during their lives.

These are a selection of the responses we received: 

Rajesh Jethwa 

I’d like to recognize Margaret Hamilton for International Women’s Day. Margaret was the first programmer hired for the Apollo lunar mission and then later became Director of the Software Engineering Division. Her team was responsible for writing and testing all the in-flight and systems code for the Apollo’s Command and Lunar Mission.  

This was at a time when there weren’t many Computer Science courses and much in the way of formal software engineering education so she had to learn “hands-on “. In fact, she’s one of the people credited with the term ‘software engineering’.

Ian Murrin

My inspiration is my Grandmother. She lived through two world wars. She nursed and cared for her husband who had severe PTSD after fighting in the Mesopotamian Campaign of WWI (in modern-day Iraq), a brutal and barbaric conflict. She watched two of her sons fly some of the most dangerous bomber missions of WWII one as a tail gunner, a role for which the life expectancy was usually measured in days.

Despite the early death of her husband, my grandfather, and despite the financial hardship that ensued, she raised five wonderful children, giving them a very broad education along the way and was an awesome grandmother to her seven grandchildren. And to top it all, in the twenty years that I knew her, not once did I hear her complain, moan, wish for something she didn’t have or say an unkind word about another person. She always had a smile on her face, she knuckled down to whatever task was in hand and she made the best cakes on earth. In short, she made the world a better place.

Patrick Bishop 

My life and whole outlook have been enormously shaped, influenced and inspired by a trio of incredible women who I have a lot to thank for: my wife, my mum and my 7 year old daughter.  

Most of the important lessons that I’ve learnt and the values that I believe in have come directly from them. Whether it’s the importance of curiosity, kindness, and empathy; the balance of ambition and acceptance; or just the power of our minds – I’ve learnt so much from having these three incredible role models in my life. You’re a bigger inspiration than you’ll ever know. So a big thank you 🙂 

Rosy Henderson 

I don’t think I have role models in the typical sense – there are people of all genders who I respect and have learned a lot from – but one woman I particularly look up to is Jacinda Ardern. I have been especially moved by her open and repeated insistence on the importance of kindness and compassion – two qualities typically seen as “feminine” and associated with being “weak”.  

Little girls are taught to be kind from the moment they are born, which in itself isn’t a problem except that little boys typically are not taught this in the same way, and it is boys who generally are encouraged to develop their leadership skills, while girls are taught to control their “bossiness” and work on their future-wife-and-mother skills. I don’t want to go into any detail on the dangers of toxic masculinity or limiting girls’ beliefs about what they are capable of, but I think we could all stand to take a leaf out of Jacinda’s book and bring kindness and compassion to everything we do – less “leaning in” (as Cheryl Sandberg puts it) from the women and more “leaning out” from the men.  

I have had enough of the proposed solutions to the problems facing women being for women to be more like men. This assumes there is something innately wrong with being a woman and ignores the value of the typically “feminine” traits that we are all taught (men and women), to keep under wraps if we want to “make it”. Jacinda Ardern’s example shows that those traits can make us more successful – not just in reaching our ambitions but also in making a difference when we get there. 

Mark Pickering 

For me, the most inspiring woman of all time is The Queen, Elizabeth II who sadly died last year. She dedicated her whole life to supporting this country and the Commonwealth, through thick and thin, never wavering. 

The outpouring of grief and love from the British people (and those around the world) as she laid at rest last year, was a testament to how we all held her in such high esteem. I had the great honor to meet her at Windsor castle when I was 18 years old and will never forget that day. 

Gill Frood 

My IWD inspiration has to be my mum. Known more formally as Rhiannon Davies she led what many would consider to be a quiet life but she is no less inspiring to me than any of the well-known female public figures. I didn’t appreciate this while growing up, but now I look back on her nearly 90 years and know that she is pretty amazing! 

Rhiannon lived through some tough times; she and her family moved from the Valleys in South Wales in the 1930s so her father could find work. Her house was bombed in WWII, her schooling was disrupted, and she never gained high levels of academic achievement. However, she used her innate mathematical talents working as a bookkeeper for small companies around the Surrey Hills. She always worked full-time but made sure to carve out family time. She encouraged me and my sister to dream big, to go to university (the first generation of our family) and gave us the idea that we could achieve whatever we wanted through hard work, kindness and determination. She is my Queen!  

Theresa Cantwell 

There are so many amazing female role models to choose from, however, the one that springs to mind for me for IWD 2023 is Maya Angelou.  Despite so many obstacles, and perhaps because of them, she is an example of bravery, resilience, and resourcefulness. A woman who truly lived and explored possibilities and options while unafraid to experiment and make mistakes.  She was prolific and multi-talented – a poet, composer, dancer and writer. 

This is my favourite Maya Angelou poem: 

Still I Rise 

BY MAYA ANGELOU 

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom? 
Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room. 

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides, 
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries? 

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.   

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise 
I rise
I rise. 

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