Katherine Johnson: I recently watched Hidden Figures and was so inspired by the story of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who worked at NASA from the 1950s until her retirement in the 1980s. During those early years Katherine faced a double discrimination of both racial segregation and working in a male-dominated field. Her story of overcoming these massive obstacles, and proving her intelligence and abilities in the field of mathematics, computer science and aerospace, is one that everyone should know.
Serena Williams: Making her return to the game TODAY on International Women’s Day seems fitting for my favourite sporting hero. Unapologetically fierce and strong, Serena consistently slays on and off court, brushing off criticisms about her appearance, gender and race, and smashing world records with 23 grand slam wins (more than any woman or man in the Open Era) – the most recent when she was pregnant!
Anita Sarkeesian: She is a hero because she creates great pop-culture critiques on her Feminist Frequency Channel, which I love! In spite of the awful and continued backlash of ‘Gamergate’ along with the pervasive trolling culture that comes with a woman having a voice on the internet, it is an inspiring thing that Anita shows great resilience and still makes fun an accessible commentary is only more valid and inspiring.
Ellen MacArthur: I remember following Ellen’s single-handed round-the-world trip with great excitement. The voyage saw her face treacherous seas, encounter a whale and sleep for only 20 minutes at a time and resulted in her beating the previous world record by over a day. She showed courage, skill and resilience in a predominately male field and her achievements are a huge landmark for women in sport. Since retiring from sailing Ellen has become an environmental advocate and she has set up a charity that uses sailing to help children who are recovering from serious illnesses.
Queen Elizabeth II: The Queen has held her own in male-dominated environments since before most of us were born, especially in the early years when women in general were given very little credibility (her dressing down of Churchill in The Crown is epic – I know it’s fiction!).
Rachel Shenton: I’ll be honest, I’ve only just heard of Rachel Shenton, as this week she won an Oscar for her film The Silent Child, which she wrote and starred in. She’s my woman of the moment because she’s raised the profile of deaf children and the importance of communication for people with hearing problems. Signing her acceptance speech was genius, and totally appropriate!
Malala Yousafzai: it’s hard to find words to express how courageous Malala is as she continues to campaign for every girl’s right to an education, even after she shot at by the Taliban for her views. She is my inspiration as an advocate for girls’ education and women’s equality.
Jennifer Lawrence: She’s been criticised a lot recently, but I respect Jennifer Lawrence and what she adds to the feminist debate. In 2015 she spoke out about how angry she was when discovering her male co-stars were being paid far more than her. Well done to her for speaking out!
Natalie Fee: Natalie is a fellow Bristolian, but her impact has been felt all over the UK. The City To Sea Refill campaign, which encourages people to fill up their water bottles rather than purchase plastic bottles, has now gone national, and her #switchthestick campaign has pushed a number of UK supermarkets to move to cardboard cotton bud sticks rather than plastic ones.
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