Earlier this week, I read the biography of the mother of a good friend of mine, Anja. She had posted the link on Facebook as her mother is currently featured in a Melbourne Uni x ANU exhibition on 500 Australian women lawyers. When we first met, she told me her mother had previously worked for the UNHCR as the Assistant High Commissioner, which is pretty impressive in itself and that both of her parents had worked in the UN for years.
So I knew what to expect when I clicked the link to the biography – an amazing story of a successful career. What I didn’t realise was just how incredible and inspirational Erika Feller’s story is and it got me thinking about all the women in history who have inspired me to become who I am today, and who I will become in the future.
Today’s post is a self-indulgent one, talking about the women whose stories have motivated me to study hard, work harder and persevere in the face of adversity to become the ultimate #ladyboss.
Share your #inspiringwomen in the comments box below – I love learning about the women leaders in our world and how they continue to blaze a trail for current and future generations of #ladybosses.
I read about Nellie Bly when I was ten years old and before that I had never heard of her. Her story fascinated me from the start, and probably planted the seed of my aspiration of becoming a journalist. Born in the US in 1864, she was known for being one of the first women undercover investigative journalists, who went above and beyond in her efforts to uncover human rights abuses especially the mistreatment of women. In the story I read of her, she went undercover in a women’s asylum to expose the cruel and often inhumane treatment of the patients. As a ten year old, this left a great impression of me and I was in awe of the fact that she had the courage to go undercover in what she knew to be a terrible environment. This is a type of bravery I’ve yet to discover, but hopefully Nellie Bly will always be there to remind me that courage leads to great outcomes.
Quite a well known figure in US history but probably not in an Australian context. The wife of US President Franklin Roosevelt (she was also the niece of another US President, Theodore Roosevelt), she was a pioneer for the human rights of women, African Americans and refugees. When she was younger all the odds were against her – she lost both her parents and a brother at a young age, and what struck me most when I read about her story was the comment that she wasn’t overly attractive and many people told her that she wouldn’t go far in life because of this. As a young girl, this really annoyed me because even then I knew a woman’s looks should not determine any outcome in her life. It made me more in awe of Ms Roosevelt, who was very active in politics and probably shaped US history more than her husband ever did.
My least favourite subject in school was science, only because no matter how hard I tried I could never excel in it like every other subject. My brain just didn’t have the logic required and I guess I just couldn’t accept that x = y = z. However, one thing I did love about science were the women pioneers and the one whose story resonated with me the most was that of Marie Curie. Most famous for discovering radium and polonium, as well as making shattering breakthroughs in the field of radioactivity, she overcame a life of hardship and disappointments to become one of the most highly regarded leaders in science. What I love most about her story, is that she didn’t do her pioneering research on her own – she did it with the support of her husband, Pierre Curie, who was more than happy to acknowledge and encourage the great intellect of Marie, rather than feel threatened by it. In today’s world, he’d be hailed as a leading feminist. #heforshe
I stumbled across Estee on Youtube as she was recommended to me (thanks Youtube analytics). From the first video, I knew I had met a kindred spirit. I love everything about her – her tenacity, her go-get-em attitude, her confidence to be herself and her ever optimistic approach to life. Although she is younger than me by a few years, she’s a role model to me and the true embodiment of my generation’s belief that you can achieve whatever you want, at any age as long as you’re prepared to put yourself out there and put in the hard work. She actually has motivated me to up my blogging game and to seriously consider where this could take me; but overall, she has taught me that if you truly love what you do, everything else will fall into place.
Queen Elizabeth II
The first thing anyone remarks upon when walking into my work space for the first time is the picture of the Queen I have hanging off my whiteboard. It’s always, “…oh, the Queen. Really?!’, followed by my stock standard response of, ‘yes, I love her’ coupled with a steely glare that dares you to challenge me. If I’m in the mood, I’ll go into a spiel about why I admire her: she became Queen at quite a young age and during an era when royalty was coming out of fashion, a fairly daunting thing to happen to anyone even if you have been bred your whole life to be on the throne one day. However, she made it cool again – here’s a beautiful, intelligent woman in one of the most powerful positions in this world, on the cusp of greatness. Queen Elizabeth II has shown that women can do anything men can, but better. I love that of her own volition, she volunteered as a mechanic during WW2. Before she became Queen, she and Margaret managed to escape their handlers on V.E. Day and had a great night out on the town without anyone knowing who they were (what a spunk). She ascended the throne with such grace and humility, and took on all the responsibilities of a monarch of England without even a single frown. She has always put her crown and her family before herself and anyone who is selfless enough to do that, is a #ladyboss in my books.
Ok, ok, hear me out. I’ve always been a staunch defender of Miley Cyrus. While I didn’t grow up in the Hannah Montana era, I have seen the evolution of adult Miley and all I can say is bravo girl, bravo. Being thrust into the spotlight at a young age is always a recipe for failure – ask any child star. I really started to admire Miley when she dared to step out of the cutesy mould she’d been steered towards and became her own person. This was also around the same time when her parents divorced, and her then-relationship with Liam Hemsworth was going south. As someone who as an adult has gone through parental divorce, I can definitely tell you it’s not emotionally and mentally easy. To have to go through that AND your own relationship breakdown? I’m surprised Miley is still sane and functioning perfectly well. So when people do the whole, ‘oh that Miley, she’s lost the plot’ I say ‘well of course she has! what a horrible situation she’s been through, I wouldn’t survive all that, let alone in the spotlight!’. I love that through all the craziness she stood by her convictions (not an easy thing to do in your early 20s) and has never stopped being herself. If that’s not a #ladyboss, I don’t know what is. (ps. check out her amazing rendition of ‘Jolene’ – love her or hate her, you can’t deny she’s one talented lady)
Never a more truer #ladyboss has ever existed. Hers is a real inspirational story that all young girls can relate and aspire to. Although she is currently the executive creative director and president of US fashion brand J.Crew, she started out as a serious pleb (assistant thrice removed) and worked her way up to be appointed as creative director of the brand in 2008. Since then, she completely revolutionised the way fashion brands connect with their target market and transformed the FMCG industry. J.Crew, once yawn-inducing brand, is now a leader in the retail fashion market and often creates the trends that is followed by other fashion brands. She also has impeccable style, and I even bought a pair of frames inspired by the pair that she wears regularly. If you ever have a spare moment, Google her and read her story – you’ll seriously start questioning your career and if you’re doing enough to be the best version of yourself.