International Women’s Day07/03/2017
Kira Walton VOYA’s Co-Founder discusses the inspirational women who have influenced her most to celebrate International Women’s Day.
As we celebrate International Woman’s Day today I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on all the women that inspire me as I navigate my way through my life, regardless of what stage I’m at. We all need someone to look up to regardless of their age and one’s own. I am intrigued by women who are passionate and strong willed. There are so many women that I could list off, but the three that resonate with me most are Maureen O’Hara, Grace Kelly and Emma Watson.
I know that all of my selections are actresses, and I should point out that I do not have one acting bone in my body, but you will find that all of these women depart from acting in one way or another and have a huge impact on the world.
For those that don’t know, Maureen O’Hara was one of the great film stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was an excellent actress and a grand lady from the start, even without the later technicolor effects that made her famous. Maureen O’Hara was determined to make it to the screen and it is because of this commitment and dedication to one’s dream that I place her on my list. (It may also be due to the fact that she is Irish also). Coming from Dublin, she captivated Hollywood and all the wider film industry during a time of great change. When technicolor was being established, her gorgeous red hair, as well as her amazing on screen presence, earned her the unofficial title of ‘The Queen of Technicolor’. But after making many Hollywood movies and not to mention doing all her own stunts, Maureen O’Hara was also an astute businesswoman and became the first ever female CEO of a scheduled airline in the US. Maureen also edited a travel magazine and in her early years had developed a fashion label for women professionals. She gave up acting to make a come back in the 1990’s. The best way to sum her up? Some may say fiery, gorgeous and multi-talented —This woman is an inspiration to all.
The rare beauty and stunning self-possession that propelled Grace Kelly into the Hollywood pantheon, onto the Best-Dressed List and ultimately to Monaco’s royal palace were more than captivating—they were completely genuine. She inspired fashion from Hermès to Tommy Hilfiger to Mad Men’s costumer Janie Bryant. She was an icon: white-gloved ingénue, elegant a goddess, passionate—and frankly sexual—romantic. Leaving our screens too soon as an oscar winning actor and not fulfilling her passionate career drive, she launched herself into a duty bound role as a monarch of Monaco. She created the Princess Grace foundation in the 60s to support local artisans. She then went on to found AMADE Mondiale, a Monaco-based non-profit organisation that was eventually recognised by the UN as a Non-Governmental Organisation. According to UNESCO’s website, AMADE promotes and protects the “moral and physical integrity” and “spiritual well-being of children throughout the world, without distinction of race, nationality or religion and in a spirit of complete political independence”.
Her daughter, Princess Caroline, carries the torch for AMADE today in her role as President.Grace also spoke on behalf and in support of the LA Leche League.
Emma Watson is so inspirational I have to stop and take a breath when I see how she has come into all of our lives and now my nieces lives in such a positive way. She is definitely a woman whom I would want my nieces and all young women to look up to as a role model. At only 26 this woman is a powerhouse. Emma exudes style, intelligence, compassion, strength, and gumption. Emma has always steered her own ship and opened her eyes and the minds of others to do what is right and just.
Emma Watson has promoted education for girls, visiting Bangladesh and Zambia to do so. In July 2014, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. In September that year, an admittedly nervous Watson delivered an address at UN Headquarters in New York City to launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which calls for men to advocate for gender equality. In that speech, she said she began questioning gender-based assumptions at age eight when she was called “bossy” (a trait she has attributed to her being a “perfectionist”) whilst boys were not, and at 14 when she was “sexualised by certain elements of the media”. Watson’s speech also called feminism “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” and declared that the perception of “man-hating” is something that “has to stop”. Watson later said she received threats within 12 hours of making the speech, which left her “raging”. “If they were trying to put me off [of doing this work], it did the opposite,” she said. After hearing her speech, many young women that day decided to call themselves feminists including Malala Yousafzai.
Also in September, Watson made her first country visit as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador to Uruguay where she gave a speech highlighting the need for women’s political participation. In December, the Ms. Foundation for Women named Watson its Feminist Celebrity of 2014 following an online poll. Watson also gave a speech about gender equality in January 2015, at the World Economic Forum’s annual winter meeting.
A former New York Times editor Jill Abramson noted Watson’s “gutsy, smart take on feminism” and called the effort to get men involved “refreshing”.
In January 2016, Emma Watson started a feminist Goodreads book club: Our Shared Shelf. The goal of the club is to share feminist ideas and encourage discussion on the topic. One book is selected per month and is discussed in the last week of that month. The first book to be selected was My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, who Emma Watson would then later interview online and at How to: Academy in London.
You should check it out at goodreads.com.
Let’s celebrate this International Woman’s Day together. Call on yourself and others to help appreciate women everywhere and to forge a better working, more inclusive and gender-equal world.