Although it’s a compliment to call someone or even something ‘inspiring’, it’s one that has become decidedly cliché. Talent-based competition TV programmes are full of acts that are described as ‘inspiring.’ We are inundated with countless news stories that detail the everyday ‘inspiring’ pursuits of everyday people. Yet, if everything is inspiring, then nothing is.
Let’s examine what is meant by inspiration. Inspiration is the metaphorical spark that becomes a flame. This flame represents output, the product of hard work and the mark of achievement. This spark, therefore, has to ignite a drive to achieve. Inspiration pushes you outside of your comfort zone and into the realm of new challenges. Inspiration has the burden of responsibility: to reframe someone’s way of thinking, their behaviours and creative processes. With this in mind, when we say that we find particular women inspirational, we truly mean it. These are the women that have moulded the Maiden Voyage team into the people they are today.
Carolyn Pearson, CEO and Founder – Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama needs no introduction, the writer, lawyer and former first lady of the United States is an Ivy League graduate, activist, and undeniable beacon of elegance and wisdom. Despite a modest upbringing in a South Shore bungalow, Michelle excelled in school, skipping the second grade, and was chosen for a gifted-student programme. This desire to give back to the community has characterised her career – Michelle founded the ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative, designed to help the 62 million girls around the world who aren’t in education. First uttered at her speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, her ‘when they go low, we go high,’ remark encapsulates what people admire about Obama – in the face of boorish political discourse, racism and adversity, she leads by example, with grace, with class. If anyone can inspire you to use a platform to aid other women, it’s Michelle Obama.
Erica, Operations Manager – My Mum
It may be a cliché but the most inspirational woman to me is my Mum, Pam. I always had a lot of love and respect for her as she raised me, my brother and sister single-handedly. I didn’t appreciate it at the time how difficult it would have been for her but she did a brilliant job. But it was five years ago when she was on her way to work when she was involved in a near fatal accident through no fault of her own. She was airlifted to hospital and that was the start of four months in there. She was on life support with numerous injuries, including a shattered pelvis, broken arm, chin and her back had no skin on it where it had burnt off. She was told she was unlikely to walk again or even be able to go to the toilet properly again. I have never seen so much determination in anyone. She wasn’t going to let that happen. She did visualization every day, took one day at a time, did her physio, as painful as it was for her (she swore a lot too!) and whilst she listened to the professionals, who were great, she never took the first answer and did her own research…I guess she did what she could to take control, including alternative options. She still struggles a bit but she is fully independent and is living it up in Cyprus now having a great life! Sounds daft but I didn’t realize how much I loved my mum until I thought she was going to die. Going through all that makes my Mum the most inspirational women in my life, no doubt about it.
Giorgio, Editor – Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr, the actress of Golden Era Hollywood may sound like an obscure choice. She was described by MGM as ‘the most beautiful woman in the world,’ and her beauty has been spotlighted to the point that her scientific accomplishments have been sidelined. Simply, Hedy Lamarr is a woman whose vast accomplishments are continently undermined due to the fact that the media is obsessed with her physical appearance. This, I’m sure you know, is a problem that has not gone away.
In her trailer between shooting scenes, Lamarr threw herself into inventing, which led to her most famous invention – Spread Spectrum Technology. Forming the foundation of modern Wi-Fi technology, Lamarr’s inventions were used by the US Navy in the second world war. However, the military took her idea, all the while advising Lamarr that she would make a greater contribution to the war efforts as a pin-up to boost troop morale. Hedy Lamarr embodies having ownership of your identity and intelligence, refused to be damned by the limitations put on women and their appearance.
Lyndsey, PA to the CEO – Beyoncé
My most inspirational woman has always been Beyoncé – she’s a businesswoman, singer, songwriter, campaigner for many charities including Michelle Obama’s initiative against childhood obesity not to mention a wonderful mother and wife. People may not know that Beyoncé is also the co-founder of the Survivor Foundation, that provides transitional housing for Hurricane Katrina. She was also named an ambassador for the 2012 World Humanitarian Day campaign day, for which she donated the proceeds for her song ‘I Was Here’ and its music video. People probably know her best for contributions to music, and in fact, she is the third most awarded artists in all of history, only behind Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, with 451 awards. Overall, she fought long and hard to get where she is today and lost a lot of people along the way. She really does inspire me to do well in all areas of my life.
In light of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the truly remarkable achievements of these female figures and invite you to share the icons that have shaped who you are today in the comments below.