Women Who Inspire Us

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, it takes the world to create equality.

It's not enough for women to fight for equality, men have to be in on the battle too. That's the message coming loud and clear from International Women's Day on 8th March, which this year celebrates the mantra #eachforequal, where we all individually strive towards, but collectively take responsibility for, creating a gender equal world. 

To this end, we asked some of our key people in Bright Horizons for their female role models, which women most inspire them and why. We got a broad brush of responses from nursery managers and corporate service leaders to the Managing Director.

Excluding the multiple responses of 'my mum and other female relatives', we're left with a fabulously interesting and eclectic list of private and public personalities who provide inspiration for us here at Bright Horizons - we hope they do the same for you. 

My piano teacher, Judith. I met her when I was three years old. She taught me how to play over the next 15 formative years of my life and encouraged me to compete and perform in public. Her high standards of personal and professional presentation, including platform manners, live with me to this day, as does her guidance on work ethic, and that 'practice makes perfect'. Ros Marshall, Managing Director, UK

Rosa ParksShe stood up for what she believed in and what was right. It reminds us we are all equal and should also stand up for what we believe in and what's right. There's a lesson to be learnt to have the confident to have the confidence to stand our ground for what we believe in. Sarah Burge, Nursery Manager, Fulham

Jane Tomlinson, mum of three, (from Yorkshire like me). She showed so much courage and bravery after being diagnosed with incurable breast cancer at just 36 and being told she had six months to live. Over the next seven years before her death in 2007, Jane defied her diagnosis and went on to achieve what many people might struggle to in a lifetime, surmounting increasingly difficult athletic challenges such as marathons and cycling across Europe and the US, raising over £1.85m for charity. The Jane Tomlinson Appeal continues to help children to be happier, healthier and improves the lives of people living with cancer. A truly inspirational person. Mark Walker, Head of Health and Safety

Marilyn Monroe. She was beautiful, complex and fragile. Marilyn made a real impact on the world and many of her quotes still inspire women today. "To all the girls that think you're fat because you're not a size zero, you're the beautiful one, its society who's ugly." - Marilyn Monroe. Cathy, Head of Safeguarding, HR

Thuli MadonselaA South African advocate, professor of law and single working mother who served as the Public Protector of South Africa from 2009 to 2016. An amazing woman who bravely took on the President and government in SA to investigate and publish the "State Capture" report which provided evidence of widespread state capture and corruption - all in the face of death threats, public protests and ongoing legal challenges.  The best description of her is "a bad-ass public servant who uses her office for good at a pivotal moment in South African politics," as exposed in the documentary "Whispering Truth To Power". Her legacy continues in the ongoing investigations and prosecutions around state corruption and a widespread public awareness that began with her work and continues with @thumafoundationIole Matthews, Coaching & Consultancy Manager

Margaret Thatcher. There I've said. Whilst I didn't agree with a lot of her social policies, what she inherited as a country, where she left it, what a backdrop she must have been up against in a male dominated, jobs for the boys, environment. The only member of parliament with balls!  I was at an impressionable age when she was in power but amazing to see the most powerful politician being a woman in a sea of old white men.  She was authentic and principled - something that seems to be so lacking in today's sound bite world. Conviction politicians - where did they go? Ollie Black, Commercial Director, Bright Horizons Work+Family Solutions

Michelle ObamaWhat an inspiration, on so many levels!  I think the most impressive thing is I feel I know her.  She's an authentic presence, clearly guided by what she believes about humanity and relationships.  That's incredibly refreshing in a world where a great number of those in the public eye simply say what they think (certain) people want to hear.  Michelle Obama's warmth, calmness and vulnerability are powerful.  For me, she personifies 'leadership' and we can all learn from her on using power with care. Emma Willars, Work+Family Academy Manager

Sara Coffey, Bright Horizons Operations Director. Why? Strong in the face of emotional adversity and has a strong sense of self as well as an ability to make positive change and leverage the use of others' talents around her. Tracey Humphreys, Regional Director

My daughterAt 12 she is honest, kind to others and respectful of everyone's opinions, irrespective of who they are. Strong willed, determined and with a drive to succeed at everything she sets her heart on, my wish is that she retains her energy and uses it to make a positive difference. Needless to say, I'm one proud mum! Philippa Westly, Senior Project Manager

Dr Frances Atherton. A faculty research coordinator and senior lecturer at the University of Chester, who was my lecturer and course lead whilst studying for my Post Grad in Early Years Practice. Although I already knew I wanted to work in the sector, she inspired me to learn more about how young children learn, and the importance of what practitioners do to promote learning within the early years. Whilst lecturing, she was completing her MA in early years, and shared her research with us which really ignited the spark of learning and passing on that knowledge to others. Nichola Griffin, Bright Horizons Warrington Manager

We asked our regular contributor, Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership, Coaching & Consultancy to add her reflections on this crop of remarkable role models. Jennifer comments: 

"With one simple question, Emily has gathered here a breadth and diversity of role models, offered generously by busy colleagues who paused to celebrate and recognise these influential women. There's quite a range from past to present and heading into the future. Whether political figurehead, celebrity, pillar of the local community, colleague or family, these women have touched and inspired others.

Most are credited at the heart of it with authenticity or honesty; several are noted for striking resilience, discipline, determination, even bravery. All have made (or are making) something happen around them: their strength of character, and vision, impacts their world. In amongst it all, I was so touched by Philippa's humility (alongside her pride!) in choosing her daughter as her role model.  Along with other aspects of diversity we increasingly need this inclusive attitude towards finding role models across generations: it is the same spirit in which David Attenborough sincerely thanked Greta Thunberg for having an influence that others had not been able to achieve in 20 years of work."