She Inspires Me (Part 3)

She Inspires Me (Part 3)

It’s International Women’s Day on 8th March. Many of our contributors share their female role models and the awesome women who have helped shape their life and career with us.

Chayya Syal

Chayya Syal

Blogger and Communications Entrepreneur

The woman who inspires me is my grandmother. At the age of 60 she took on the task of bringing up my younger brother and me when my parents divorced. She consistently shows me that you can be strong and successful without becoming arrogant, egoistical or bitter. Whenever I have moments of self doubt she is the first to tell me to keep going.

My grandmother is part of a generation of very strong women in my family and I am truly blessed that I have her. She recognised that I have a vision and will to succeed from a young age and she supports me to achieve it. She wants me to do well and be independent because she was unable to further her own education. My biological mother abandoned and disowned me because I was a girl, but I got an even better mother figure in my life.

Darcy Oake

Darcy Oake

Illusionist and contestant on Britain's Got Talent 2014

International Women’s Day is the best day of the year. My mom for sure, 100%. It’s funny now, as every time I talk to her, which is fairly frequently, like every second day, I tell her like, “I’m off to Ireland”, and she’s like, “I’ve never been to Ireland”. She wants to go to lots of places I go to but I can’t do that all of the time. I bring her out if I’m at a place for an extended period of time.

My mom and my dad came out for Christmas to watch my ITV special when it aired, that was really cool. I didn’t tell them anything about the show and they wanted to see it. I saw the final edit like a week before it aired and they were like, “Let’s watch it”, but I was adamant they had to wait until the transmission. It was cool. It was Christmas time. It felt really good. It was all such an amazing experience and to great to have my parents there.

CeCe Peniston

CeCe Peniston

Singer (of one of our favourite songs ever, 'Finally')

I would have to pick my mom. My mom has been the best woman I have ever met in my life, and I’m not saying that just because she’s my mom. She has been my rock. She’s been very involved in my career and helped me make the right decisions. She gets on to me and gives me the good, the bad and the indifferent, and she pushes me and gets excited when I’m excited. That’s what I love about her. She’s my hero.

Claire Young

Claire Young

Entrepreneur, Youth Advocate and Apprentice Finalist

Emma Walmsley was the general manager at L’Oreal in my first graduate job. She was dynamic, passionate and a bit of a ball breaker! She also balanced having a large family. I thought she was brilliant! She is now President of GSK.

Siobhan Corria

Siobhan Corria

Head of Inclusion, Action for Children

In terms of my career and interest in current affairs and world issues, I would say that Doreen Lawrence has been a big inspiration. Doreen Lawrence always springs to mind when I think of a woman with great determination, courage and the need to have justice. Although Doreen has experienced the loss of her child, she has never given up fighting for justice for him and this makes her a true inspiration for women throughout the world.

Thomas Anderson

Thomas Anderson

Founder and Chief Executive, Inclusive Networks & OUT in the UK

Most of my happiest childhood memories were when I spent time with my nana, my Craster nana as me and my brother, Aaron, and sisters, Stacey and Jodene, used to call her. We had a Morpeth nana and a Craster nana, Morpeth and Craster being where they lived.

I spent much of my childhood and school holidays staying with her and I now realise these were some of the happiest times of my life to date. Collecting the eggs from the chicken coop, jumping off the rocks in to the sea, the excitement when the newspaper was put over the front of the coal fire and the flames went wild….the small things. She was a traditional lady and the mother of ten children, it is cold on the Northumbrian coast (smiles). She worked hard and things were never easy for her and my Granda bringing up their big family, it was the same for most families in the area.

Still living with her were two of her children, my aunty Freda and uncle James, and Freda’s son Matthew, my cousin. She died around six years ago and my biggest regret was not really spending much time with her in my late teens and early twenties and really getting to know her, and her me. She was a remarkable woman and I wish I had known her better. She has had a big impact on my life, even if she never knew it. I used to love spending time at the family home in Craster, where my mother was brought up. My aunty Audrey and cousin Dawn lived next door (there was no fence between the houses either) and my uncle Eddie and aunty Sandra, and cousins Joanne and Michael just a few doors up. It was a real family atmosphere. Something I really miss.

She was also the only person who was really honest with me when at 17 I discovered that my Dad wasn’t my biological father. My mother denied this but my Craster nana was honest and told me the truth. This meant a great deal to me. A lot has happened in the 15 years since but this moment still stays with me. This is something I have never shared before.

I have a complicated family background that I won’t write here but from my early teens when I knew I wasn’t too interested in girls (despite having girlfriends), and eventually coming out as gay at 25 years old (well I was outed). I distanced myself from most family situations and didn’t get too involved or close to family members outside of my brother and sisters. The thought of the ‘girlfriend’ conversations and other questions was too much and awkward for me and the thought of them finding out I was gay, well I couldn’t deal with this. I wasn’t aware of any support and charities like the Lesbian & Gay Foundation and Stonewall just weren’t visible and I, like a lot of other people had no access to the internet – smartphones didn’t exist either.

I come from a small town, Alnwick, in rural Northumberland where anyone who was different really stood out and was the talk of the town. I didn’t really know any gay, lesbian or bisexual (LGB) people and I had never actually knowingly met an out LGB person until I was in my early twenties, my then best friend Lorna who was a lesbian and without knowing it helped me accept who I was and be authentic – we have since drifted apart.

I am sad that I felt like this as many of those people who were closest to me when I was growing up are no longer with us. I still think of my Craster nana most days and it brings a smile to my face every time, and sometimes a few tears.

Find out more :

International Women’s Day sees thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. It’s always a popular day for network groups to support. If your network or employer is doing something to celebrate the day, we’d love to hear from you. We can help share and celebrate your work. Get in touch with us here.

You can find our more about the day and see if there’s an event near you at www.internationalwomensday.com

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He was a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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