International Women's Day & Women’s History Month 2019

Women Who Inspire Us


Hatshepsut - by Quentin Liger, Berlin Office

Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for about 20 years from 1478 to 1458 BC. While she is probably the most famous female pharaoh, she was not the first one. During her reign, she re-established trade networks with the Land of Punt (the horn of Africa) and reigned over a long period of peace and prosperity. This also means that she oversaw an important set of building projects, the most important of which is her mortuary temple, now one of the most recognisable buildings from ancient Egypt. After her death, subsequent rulers appear to have tried to erase traces of her reign by destroying and defacing statues and reliefs and her name from official records. Recent discoveries have shed light on her reign and confirmed her importance as a ruler of ancient Egypt.


Kelly-Optimity NA Human Capital Leader

Kelly Akway - by Priya Posani, Minneapolis Office

Kelly plays many roles in her day to day—a Wife, a Mom, a Daughter, a Sibling, a Law Student, and a Human Capital Director. While many of these roles she had planned to take on, there are others she was naturally born to be—a mentor, a leader, an advisor, and a friend. (And I’m sure there are countless other ones!) Between balancing her personal a professional life, Kelly always makes it a point to check up on others and ensure everyone is happy. Kelly’s presence is truly felt in the office, and she continues to embody what it means to tackle your dreams and remain true to yourself. Kelly, we are lucky to have you!


Simone Veil

Simone Veil - by Quentin Liger, Berlin Office

Simone Veil was a French stateswoman and politician. Amongst her many achievements, she is known in France for authoring and pushing the law legalising abortion in 1975, in Europe for being the first president of the directly elected European Parliament in 1979. During her career, she was also minister of justice between 1956 and 1974, member of the French Constitutional Council as well as being only the sixth woman to enter the Académie Française in 2008. If her achievements and legacy (especially in the matter of legalising abortion) were not impressive enough, Simone Veil started her adult life by being arrested aged 17. She was a young woman attending evening classes to pass her baccalaureate. It was 1944, she was Jewish and was deported to Auschwitz. Only her and two of her sisters survived.



My favourite women by Karin Roof, MN Office

  1. Historical – Eleanor Roosevelt. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Read more at:  
  2. Sports – Nordic skier Jessie Diggins from Afton MN, who pulled out a win at the 2018 Winter Olympics in the relay with Kikkan Randall in a photo-finish against the Swedes:  
  3. Singer (and hippie) – Joni Mitchell. Love her performance of “Both Sides Now” at Isle of Wight in 1970. My Aunt Cindy’s era! Canadian with Norwegian heritage. Professional acoustic musician and great singer. 
  4. Professor – Regina Herzlinger, first woman to be granted tenure at Harvard Business School after starting teaching on innovation in Healthcare. Wrote “Market Driven Healthcare” and “Consumer Driven Healthcare,” incredibly visionary for her time, and also “Who Killed Health Care” in 2007, a more provocative book.;
  5. Judge – Ruth Bader Ginsberg (don’t we wish Brett Kavanaugh had half of her intellect and wit!) Love the fact she does her exercises and that she has a husband who adores her.
  6. Authors – Ayn Rand with “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” (though she can be pretty tough) and brilliant dystopian Canadian thinker Margaret Atwood (“Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Heart Goes Last”).


Advice I would give my younger self..... by Emily Hollingworth, London Office

  1. Early in my career someone said to me 'never reply to an email when you're angry'. This is sound advice but I've adapted it: write the reply when I'm angry because it's cathartic, decide whether to press send when I've calmed down a bit, probably talk to them rather than email, but definitely call it out one way or another (unless it is me in the wrong, in which case, apologise).
  2. Choose a mentor who is very different from you, sees your potential, has your back and is good at everything you're not good at. They will catapult your development.
  3. Have people's backs but always have your own back too. A wise woman said to me last year 'no one is fighting your fight for you'. She was right, sometimes you have to fight for yourself, and even if you don't win you will feel a million times better than if you stayed quiet.
  4. Switch your work phone off in the evenings and at weekends and don't even take it with you on holiday!
  5. As a great man often said to me: You Be You.


Mary Wollstonecraft by Hazel Potter, London Office

Mary Wollstonecraft is known as Britain’s first feminist. She was a renowned women’s rights activist who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), which is considered the earliest and most important treatise advocating equality for women. In it she set out her case for equal rights for women, based on their equal power of reason. She proposed that girls and boys be educated together at state expense, and that women should have representation in Parliament - over a hundred years before the Suffragette movement emerged and it is not surprising that her work is seen as a foundation for women’s rights movements.

Why choose Mary? Apart from her role in establishing feminism she also spent a lot of time in Newington Green, Hackney. It was here that, with her sister Eliza and friend Fanny Blood, she established a girls’ boarding school at the age of 25, enabling her to rent a house in a community where she mixed with the intellectual radicals of the day. She debated with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Joseph Priestley, and John and Abigail Adams (the second President and First Lady of the US). They were all drawn to Newington Green by Dr Richard Price, Minister at the local Unitarian Church.

During its brief life, Mary’s school developed a prestigious reputation and served as a starting point for her ideas about the necessary equality of female and male education. These beliefs were rooted in the idea that the government was responsible for remedying this inequity. Newington Green is also where Mary began her writing career, starting with reviews, translations and books for children, before writing A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She then travelled to revolutionary France, living through the Terror. There she met American adventurer and spy Gilbert Imlay, with whom she had an illegitimate daughter. Their relationship broke down and Mary returned to England to look for Imlay in 1795 after he had left her, she assumed for another woman, but he rejected her and she twice attempted suicide.

She gradually reacquainted with the literary circle she had previously known in London and through that met anarchist and atheist William Godwin. The couple married at St Pancras Old Church a few months before she gave birth to her second daughter; Wollstonecraft died unexpectedly of complications a few days later aged only 38. Her daughter grew up to become Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

Mary may not be as well known as other originators of the women’s rights movement but her achievements in an era where virtually no women were debating the issues she raised were incredible. Here in Hackney a campaign is ongoing to raise a statue to her – in Newington Green – and reduce the unenviable statistic that over 90% of London’s statues celebrate men. You can donate here:

Niamh's Mum

The woman I admire and my role model by Niamh Lennox-Chhugani, London Office

My Mum! 


A woman I admire, Enid Mumford by Andrew Beale, London Office

Enid was a forerunner to the great tech designers of today and took my lectures when I was studying IT in 1995 at Manchester business school. I remember one story she told vividly about what turned out in our lingo to be a “digital first” ambulance service designed using what she called the ETHICS method. If you read it now you would see this as the “Jobs to be done” framework and “service blueprinting”. A real innovator.



A woman who inspires me by Kit Codling, London Office

Ash Sarkar is a truly inspiring and courageous political journalist and commentator desperately needed in todays political world. She always speaks truth to power even when it is sometimes uncomfortable to hear. She is also a passionate defender of the rights of women, women of colour and other underrepresented groups.

Ash is Senior Editor at Novara Media (


My advice for women entering the work force, by Jacque Mallender, London Office

“Be true to yourself. Hold firm to your core values and surround yourself with people that share your values. You don't need sharp elbows.”

Shirley Chisholm

A woman who inspires me, by Kelly Akway, NA Office

Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005)

Shirley was the first African American woman in Congress (1968) and the first woman and African American to seek nomination for President from one of the two major political parties in 1972. She is inspiring as a woman that takes risks and breaks boundaries despite the odds stacked against her. Shirley said, when asked about her legacy, she said, “I want to be remembered as a woman... who dared to be a catalyst of change.”

To learn more, you can see the bio I used to learn more about Shirley here:

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges, by Kelly Akway, NA Office

At 6 years-old, Ruby was already breaking boundaries as the first African American student to attend an integrated school. Even at a young age, we can affect change that will benefit others exponentially.

To learn more, here is the link to Ruby’s biography:

Amelia Earhart

My idol, Amelia Earhart, by Kelly Akway, NA Office

Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937)

Finally, as a kid I was certain I was going to be a pilot and astronaut, and Amelia was my idol as a record-breaking aviator.

To learn more about Amelia, you can find her biography here:

To see more short biographies of inspiring women in American history, you can visit the National Women’s History Museum’s website here:

Sara Bellino

My advice to women entering the workforce, by Sara Bellino, LA Office

"Find your niche and what you like to do then become the best at it. Invest in yourself with trainings or certifications. Step up and deliver on your commitments. Build relationships. Surround yourself with motivated and like-minded people. Challenge yourself to continue to grow personally and professionally. Be honest with yourself.”


Things I have learned over the years, beliefs that I hold and find inspirational by Doris Lin, LA Office

I’d like to share some things I have learned over the years, beliefs that I hold and find inspirational:

  • Confidence, like respect, has to be earned
  • Know when to listen with intent, and when to speak up with conviction
  • Resilience is stronger than toughness
  • Have integrity.  At the end of the day, no one can take that away from you.
  • Love what you do.  With passion and hard work, success will follow.


Podcast recommendation by Yara Alhusaini, London Office

My introduction to the alluring podcast world was through The Guilty Feminist. I instantly found it witty, funny, spontaneous, and most of all real. The podcast is led by an incredibly funny comedian called Deborah Francis White, whom I have grown a personal admiration of. Once a Jehovah’s witness from Australia, now a co-founder of one of the most popular podcasts in the UK.

“This is the guilty feminist, the podcast in which we explore our noble goals as 21st century feminists and the hypocrisies and insecurities which undermine them” is how the host describes the show, which always starts with confessions of “I am a feminist, but…”

I however would describe it as a safe space which brings like minded yet widely diverse people where they can discuss societal issues they face on a daily basis, in a light-hearted manner.

This podcast and the women behind it have been a source of joy, inspiration, and comfort to me.


Our Favorite Quotes:

“My coach said I run like a girl. And I said if he ran a little faster he could too.” – Mia Hamm (FIFA World Cup winner) by Quentin Liger, Berlin Office


“Do not let it get you. Be naughty and wild and wonderful.” – Astrid Lindgren by Mirja Gutheil, Berlin Office

Michelle Obama

“When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” – Michelle Obama, 2012 Convention Speech by Kelly Akway, NA Office


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