Three women who inspire me

Happy International Women’s Day to women all over the world.

From politics and the board room to the music industry and silver screen, equality and emancipation is healthy, widespread and grows ever stronger.

On International Women’s Day, we commemorate the remarkable women who had the courage and dedication to challenge the male-dominated establishment, demanding equality, voting rights and better opportunities.

Let us not, however, be foolhardy and assume that the battle is completely won; remnants of a male-dominated society still exist. Sometimes they creep up on us subtly, other times they stare us right in the eyes.

That is why we also commemorate the women who today continue that fight by inspiring us to never stop striving and achieving.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I’ve highlighted three women from varied professional backgrounds who continue to brazen the establishment and fight for women’s rights, each in their own distinct way.

Lady Gaga

Ok, this might be a rather off-beat choice, but it can easily be justified.

The saying goes that women in entertainment embody female empowerment. I’m skeptical that many in that industry manage this with any remote success. Lady Gaga, however, is the only artist who has recreated – and perhaps even exceeded – what Madonna achieved in the 80s, both in terms of commercial success and in delivering a forceful and inspirational message.

And like Madonna before her, Lady Gaga takes any preconceived notion of what a female pop star should do or look like and flips it on its head, from her wardrobe to, more importantly, her outspoken activist approach on issues such as LGBT rights, disaster relief and mentoring young children through her Born This Way Foundation.

Entertainer, philanthropist and role model – Gaga ticks all the boxes.

Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of London

The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London represents, supports and promotes the duties of the world’s most thriving, diverse and hyper connected business and finance sector, the City of London.

Last year, Fiona Woolf, a partner at law firm CMS McKenna, became only the second female to be elected to the distinguished post in the City’s 800-year history.

From her first day as Lord Mayor, Woolf has vocally expressed her goal to challenge the “inappropriate assumptions” and “unconscious bias” that still exist throughout London’s business sector.

Writing in the Guardian ahead of International Women’s Day, Woolf emphasises that, whatever the industry, if we are to see more women in high positions, the impetus must come from both companies and women themselves.

She writes:

It’s crucial to stand up and challenge yourself in your career. If you want to achieve your goals, quite often you will have to go out and ask. When I became the first female partner at law firm CMS back in 1981, they didn’t just offer it to me, I had to ask. If you want your career to develop, you have to be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and seize opportunities as they arise, but your employer should be prepared to meet you there.

Never before have we seen the most influential figure in the City speak so loudly about improving the gender balance, and for that I and everyone at Today Translations salute her.

Theresa May, British Home Secretary

The Electoral Reform Society cites that, although women make up more than 50 per cent of the UK population, they represent only one in five members of parliament. They also cite that if you look at the UK cabinet, you’ll see more millionaires than women.

These figures put into perspective Theresa May’s incredible achievements.

Under Blair and Brown, the Home Secretary post was reshuffled like a pack of cards. No department comes under as much scrutiny as Home Affairs. Yet, since the coalition came to power in 2010, May has overseen a drop in both crime and illegal immigration. Her longevity has some political commentators tipping her to become the first female Prime Minister since Thatcher. Unfortunately, I cannot say I’m fully convinced it will happen, even though very few men being within touching distance of her credentials and near-consistent track-record.

As one Tory MP told Total Politics:

She has been able to do something that no Tory home secretary has done before – to essentially detoxify the Home Office. Apart from Clark and the cat stuff, when has the Home Office been front-page news in this Parliament? It hasn’t; She’s an über-safe pair of hands.

May is also the founder and president of Women2Win, a charity initiative that looks to get more “high calibre” women into Conservative politics and elected to Parliament. It is working, too, it seems. In the 2010 election, the number of conservative MPs in Parliament rose from 17 to an incredible 49.