With International Women’s Day just around the corner, at Mauve we’ve been thinking about the many inspiring women and positive female role-models that have shaped our lives – in a personal and professional capacity.
Each woman below represents a set of characteristics that I hope to embody in my life and as the CEO of an international organisation. The learnings I have gleaned from each have helped to guide the way through many challenges, whether it may be finding the confidence to deliver a keynote at an event, working out the solution to a difficult problem, or balancing the demands of a busy work and life schedule.
I hope their stories will equally bring inspiration to you on International Women’s Day 2019 and motivate you to consider who would make your personal list. It goes without saying that I am inspired daily by every Mauve employee regardless of their gender, and I am proud that we have created a company culture where fascinating women like these are enthusiastically celebrated.
Katheryn of Berain
Katheryn of Berain is known as ‘The Mother of Wales’ and was a distant relative of Elizabeth I. I was born and grew up in her famous Denbighshire residence, known as Berain, and as a proud Welshwoman I have been fascinated by her unusual story ever since. Katheryn’s royal Tudor blood ensured she was considered something of a “catch” by wealthy noblemen of the era, and she went on to make four strategic marriages which increased her fortune and social standing each time. Bearing six children and 30 grandchildren, her descendants are now spread across some of the richest families in the United Kingdom.
I like to think of Katheryn as an early kind of businesswoman; in 16th century society, women had few (if any) options for upward mobility – business was the realm of the man. A good marriage was considered a valuable commodity and Katheryn astutely found a way to profit from her position – she is thought to be one of the earliest women to have insisted upon prenuptial agreements with each of her husbands; with each marriage, Katheryn earned a vast fortune, increased power in the royal courts and a place in the history books.
Sofia Loren in The Millionairess (1960 film)
I first saw this film at a very young and formative age, and Sofia Loren’s character immediately impressed upon me a sense of ambition and drive. Loren portrayed the fictional “richest woman in the world” in this 1960 comedy derived from a George Bernard Shaw play; Loren’s character not only epitomised glamour, but also proactivity, business acumen and independence at a time when there were few strong female role models on the big screen. The way in which the character snubbed traditional convention and refused to change her temperament to appease those around her also resonated with me as a child. I became determined to follow a similar path and to this day, I am inspired by the Millionairess’ attitudes as I navigate my role as a businesswoman in a male-dominated environment.
Malala’s story is moving to say the least. On her way home from school in 2014, aged just 15, Malala was shot in the head by a masked Taliban gunman. Her “crime” was peaceful public support of the right for girls to attend school in the Taliban-controlled Pakistani valley where she lived. Having miraculously survived the attack, Malala woke up in a hospital in Birmingham to find that the world was following her story.
One of the things I find most inspiring about Malala is the way in which she has utilised her global platform in the aftermath of the attack. Instead of retreating, she has bravely chosen to use her profile to campaign for girls’ education rights around the world. In 2014, Malala and her father established the Malala Fund to provide girls with better opportunities, and she won the Nobel Peace Prize aged just 16.
Education and opportunities for girls are something I am incredibly passionate about. In Western countries, women’s rights activism often campaigns against the glass ceiling holding back women from the top spot – but in some countries women and girls do not even have a ladder to climb or a foundation to climb from. Malala is a living reminder that no matter the trials we experience or the heights we reach, retaining courage in our convictions and speaking up for those less fortunate is vital.
Jennie Roberts, my mother, was of course my earliest and greatest inspiration; she embodied many of the classic features of a Welshwoman with her community spirit, and incredibly kind, welcoming nature. Despite holding strong convictions and a lifelong faith, she had a modern outlook for her era and kept a constant open mind – she always saw the good in people, no matter their background. These elements of my mother’s personality helped to shape my own character, giving me the motivation to venture beyond North Wales whilst also ensuring I proudly retain my Welsh heritage and identity.
Arianna Huffington has an incredible background in business and media – most famously, co-founding and running the popular Huffington Post Media Group until 2016. I first became aware of her as a keynote speaker during the 2011 SHRM conference in Las Vegas and was struck by her charisma. Arianna is a huge advocate of the power of a good night’s sleep on your mental and physical productivity, citing health mindfulness as critical in achieving your goals. She is similarly evangelical about the benefits of regular downtime or breaks from modern technology to avoid burnout.
I am particularly drawn to her focus on wellness in business, which is something that can often be left by the wayside in our pursuit of success. Modern business and start-up culture often celebrate putting in the most hours as a marker of achievement, but if your work is making you unwell and negatively weighting the work-life balance, it can no longer be enjoyable or productive. At Mauve, we are keenly encouraging participation in sporting activities, charity fundraising and social responsibility to promote staff wellbeing; Arianna Huffington’s advocacy around ending workplace mental health stigma has helped to inspire this ethos.
Thanks to Mauve CEO Ann Ellis for sharing her 5 Inspiring Women; who would make your list? We’d love to hear from you and share your stories – get in touch via our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn social channels, or send us a message via the Contact form.