Women we admire and love

Which female most inspires you?

It’s a question we asked YourLifeChoices members and staff ahead of International Women’s Day today. We wanted to offer an article rooted in thoughtfulness rather than the usual – and ongoing – disturbing facts about such matters as the gender pay gap in Australia (it’s 14.1 per cent), the disparity in nest eggs (women retire, on average, with roughly 40 per cent less superannuation than men), the imbalance in the boardroom (17.1 per cent of CEOs or heads of business are women and at this rate of process, we won’t see parity until at least 2100) and the unequal division of domestic duties (for every hour of unpaid domestic work a man does, a woman does an hour and 46 minutes). No, we wanted to focus on the positive …

Dairne: I’m inspired by Rosie Batty, a woman who, despite being shattered and broken by her own tragedy, made a choice to step into the spotlight to advocate for others touched by domestic violence. She has changed the way we talk about this issue and put it at the centre of public discourse. In her words: “Domestic violence happens to anyone and everyone.”

Janelle: Jacinda Adern, New Zealand’s PM, does not seem to put a foot wrong. Her response to the Christchurch bombings was strong, thoughtful and so full of heartfelt empathy. Then she verbally attacked our PM Scott Morrison for “testing” the friendship between the two nations, accusing Australia of deporting “your people and your problems” using “unfair” policies. She is fearless and has the highest morals.

Lilli: The mum (A.K.A. the grandma). Is there a busier person in this day and age than the working grandma? In my family, the running joke has always been that our mum is powered by Duracell batteries because, like the Energizer bunny, she just keeps going. Somehow, raising four kids didn’t kill her, and she’s now an amazing grandma to four grandkids (and counting) and three grand-dogs. The grandkids adore her because regardless of how crazy her day has been, or how presumably exhausted she is, she is always happy to see them and give them her endless time and attention. She is the heart and soul of the family and inspires me every day to be a better mother, human being and gardener. (I’m doing okay on the mother and human being front, but the gardener is a lost cause.)

Ben: My wife is the woman who inspires me most. She started her own IT company in a heavily male-dominated field and has seen it grow enormously over two decades, creating emergency management software that played a crucial role in directing resources during the recent Gippsland bushfires. She is also one of the toughest people I know, once undergoing eye surgery with just a local anaesthetic because she didn’t want to stop breastfeeding our eldest daughter at the time. When it comes to being tough, she leaves me for dead.

Leon: Inspiring women … I have met many whom I respect and admire. Our former editor Debbie McTaggart was, to me, the epitome of what a feminist should be. Tenacious, in the trenches, not afraid of getting her hands dirty (metaphorically, anyway) and making everyone around her better for knowing her. She’s a good friend and a lot of fun, too. My aunty-in-law, Professor Maryanne Confoy RSC, is a truly inspiring woman. She’s done so much for so many and continues to do so well into her 80s. She’s so humble though, she wouldn’t want me to write about her, but I’d be disrespecting her not to at least mention her. My wife amazes me every day. Always searching and trying to be better, all the while coping with sometimes debilitating anxiety. She is a warrior woman, too. Her drug-free birth was the single most inspiring thing I have ever witnessed.

But the most inspiring woman in my life is not a woman. Not yet.

She’s my three-year-old daughter. She has inspired me to be a better man, a good father and just a good person. With her, the world has become a more beautiful place. She smiles with her eyes, it’s the best thing ever and just thinking about her makes my chest burst. She is the one person in this world right now who makes me want to be better.

lanB: My mother. She was a wonderful, smart, kind, caring, hard-working, well-mannered, high-moralled, mentally strong, much-adored lady and mother.

Liv: My grandmother was a fierce woman. She had a green thumb, a quick wit, and a hunger for life. There was always more to see and do and grow. She backpacked the world, hitchhiking with strangers through countries I hadn’t yet heard of when I listened to her stories as a kid. She expected the best in people and gave the best of herself. She was proud, protective and notorious for openly ranking her favourite – and least favourite – grandchildren. She had the kind of fighting spirit that could burn you if you stood too close for too long. She was always moving. In the end the only thing that slowed her down was a wheelchair, and the limited speed at which an alternating group of grandchildren could push her. She never really grew up. Sure, her hair went grey and she saw her childrenraise kids of their own, but she never lost the childlike urgency to live. To really live.

Suze: June Dally-Watkins, who trained hundreds of Australian women in deportment and etiquette must have been the most inspiring woman of our times.

In 1969, she published The June Dally-Watkins Book of Manners For Moderns and became Australia’s go-to expert on correct behaviour. “The things that cost nothing are the most important – dignity, self-respect, speech, good posture, good manners, kindness, a smile, talking eye to eye and the greatest of all, love!” she said.

She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1993 for services to business, and was named as one of the 100 Australian Legends and a National Treasure.

[She died on 22 February aged 92.]

Rhonda: Not all inspirational women are famous. My high school French teacher was inspirational to me as a disgruntled teenager. She taught me not only French but also how to appreciate my life and to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. I probably remember more of her life lessons than her French lessons.

RnR: Lots of women and men have inspired me. I recently received an email about a group of very inspiring women of whom I had never heard before. They deserve a mention here.

The book, Meet the Night Witches, the Daring Female Pilots Who Bombed Nazis By Night, tells their story.

“They flew under the cover of darkness in bare-bones plywood biplanes. They braved bullets and frostbite in the air, while battling scepticism and sexual harassment on the ground. They were feared and hated so much by the Nazis that any German airman who downed one was automatically awarded the prestigious Iron Cross medal.

All told, the pioneering all-female 588th Night Bomber Regiment dropped more than 23,000 tons of bombs on Nazi targets. And in doing so, they became a crucial Soviet asset in winning World War II.”

Which female do you most admire? And why?

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