This week for International Women’s Day, I want to acknowledge the remarkable heroes of the last year. Whilst I only mention two women leaders below who have stood out by really helping the global fight against the pandemic, it is important to say that this last year has seen many remarkable women, not on the world stage, making a massive difference to their families, communities, industries and society as a whole, making it a better, fairer, and more progressive place for us all.
Sarah Gilbert is my inspiration this IWD; she is a superhero in the battle against Covid-19. Born in Kettering, Northamptonshire in 1962, she studied Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia, and then gained her doctorate at the University of Hull in genetics and biochemistry. In the mid 1990s she took an academic role at Oxford University looking into the genetics of malaria, which led her to work on malaria vaccines. She was made a Reader in Vaccinology at the University of Oxford in 2004 and then progressed to Professor at the Jenner Institute, where she set up a research group to create a universal flu vaccine, which would work against all strains of the virus.
In 2014 she led the first trial of an Ebola vaccine, and when Mers-Middle East respiratory syndrome virus emerged, she worked on a vaccine for this form of coronavirus.
That vaccine was in its second trial in January 2020 when Covid-19 appeared, and she realised they might be able to use the same approach. As Chinese scientists published the genetic structure of the new virus “over the weekend, the vaccine was pretty much designed. We went pretty fast with it.” says her friend Dr Lambe. By early April the testing had begun and the process to approve the vaccine, which is our best hope in the battle against the virus, was underway. She has lead the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine teams through the last year, and last week was awarded the prestigious Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Albert Medal for her contribution to a ‘global common good’ – so incredibly amazing!
In amongst all this she is a mother of triplets (who have all gone into bio-chemistry), she will have juggled the multiple demands, wanted the best for her children, all the while clearly doing an amazing job!
Her story is inspiring, motivating, and makes you proud to be a woman.
Left: Sarah Gilbert [Yahoo News] Right: Jacinda Ardern [The Times, 2020]
Another amazing woman in the battle against Covid-19 has been Jacinda Arden, Prime Minster of New Zealand who has widely been acknowledged for leading one of the most successful coronavirus responses with her clear, decisive, no nonsense responses and regulations, so that they eradicated the virus quickly; So much so that Prospect listed her as the second greatest thinker of COVID-19. Interestingly, they gave 7 of the top 10 spots to women!
As well as being a compassionate and successful leader, who has had to deal with multiple challenges, she has also pushed through multiple policies to progress women in society; And while doing all this she has a young baby daughter, to whom she is clearly setting an example that shows women leaders are effective, focused, strong and successful. On bringing up her daughter, she said ‘I hope that she doesn’t feel any limitations. That she doesn’t have any sense of what girls can or can’t do. That it’s just not even a concept for her.’
These two women have shown the world and set an example, that the future will have many women leaders, who are recognised for the work they do. They have also inspired a generation – and shown that while the world has been trying to fight the virus, woman have been doing amazing work and shown strength, integrity, compassion, and positivity in the face of global challenges, and that they are really causing the world to look twice and recognise that they are a force to be reckoned with. For me, these women are the success stories, who forge gender equality, raise awareness against bias and act for equality – these are the women leaders whose achievements we need to celebrate.
I have two teenage daughters; they are bright, clever and talented, with so many options, choices and paths ahead of them. I am, like every mother, incredibly proud of them, and want them to dream big and bold; want them to do anything they wish and do it really well. I hope there is a really positive message today for their generation who are figuring out what they want to be, that it is totally possible to achieve their ambitions, and that the future is bright, thanks to the women of today.
For more on International Women’s Day check out our Champions of IWD post on LinkedIn. You can also discover more about the positive steps we are taking at Rooster Punk to build a more diverse and inclusive company with our Diversity Declaration.