Celebrating Women this International Women's Day 2016

Today, Tuesday 8 March, marks International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.

With the World Economic Forum predicting in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity, it is clear we still have a lot of progress to make.

Recognising the important role which women have played, and continue to play in our society, we are going to take a look at some of the most inspiring women, past and present, in celebration of International Women’s Day 2016.

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 – 1928)

Pankhurst, a leading British women’s rights activist, founded the Women’s Social and Political Union, with members known as suffragettes.

Fighting to enfranchise women in the United Kingdom, Pankhurst’s and the suffragettes efforts which included numerous arrests, hunger strikes and even deaths, resulted in the Representation of the People Act giving voting rights to women over 30. Less than one month following Emmeline’s death on 14 June 1928, women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21).

Rosa Parks (1913—2005)

Sourced from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_Parks

Sourced from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_Parks

Rosa Parks, the symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a public bus Montgomery, Alabama, spurred on a citywide boycott and helped launch nationwide efforts to end segregation of public facilities.

The 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott one of the largest and most successful mass movements against racial segregation in history.

Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks received numerous awards such as the esteemed Martin Luther King Jr. Award, President Bill Clinton’s Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.


Angelina Jolie (1975- present)

Oscar-winning actress, professional model and humanitarian spokesperson, Angelina Jolie is seen as a modern day role model to all women across the globe.

Whilst filming ‘Tomb Rader’ in Cambodia, Jolie first became aware of the extent of the problems people around the world. The suffering of the people in Cambodia caused Angelina to contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to find out how she could help. Shortly afterwards she was named UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

Jolie has visited over 30 high volatile countries, focusing her attention on refugees and people who have been displaced due to conflict. Jolie has also helped those who have been displaced by natural disasters and has set up and financed many charity organisations including founding the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

More recently Jolie has underwent a double mastectomy after being told that she had the faulty gene BRCA1, resulting in a 87% risk of developing breast cancer and a 50% risk of developing ovarian cancer. Jolie inspired women across the world to attend regular check-ups and to seek medical advice, particularly those with a history of cancer in the family.

As well as iconic, global female figures, it is also important to recognise the everyday women who are pushing social norms, encouraging and inspiring others with the message- You can be what you want to be, you just have to put your mind to it!

Sara Sherwani- O2- Smart Metering Service Operations Lead

Joining O2 as an Apprentice with no technical background, Sara joined O2 with only a hunger to learn and a genuine curiosity. This attitude Sara believes, enabled her to get the technical grounding to stand shoulder to shoulder with engineers and move from being an Apprentice at O2 in a technical area to coming back a few years later to lead her own team of engineers.

Although pursuing a career in what is considered typically a male dominated area, Sara states that this did not discourage her from learning, but in fact, found it encouraging, quickly realising that the ability to develop and continually learn more was all in the power of her own hands.

“Technology has the power to change the world and impact millions of people – So ladies what’s stopping you getting involved?”
O2’s Sara Sherwani

With a personal mission to encourage women to engage with a career in technology, Sara is often involved in delivering digital skills sessions to young people alongside other O2 colleagues in inspiring the next generation about the power of a career in tech.

Pushing the message that it is critical we inspire more females into technology, Sara believes if she can do it, beginning as an apprentice with no knowledge, than anyone can!

‘O2 is a great place to start a career in tech. The people I work with (gender regardless) are more than willing to help, a culture extremely prominent within O2. I have felt that my gender never played a part in demonstrating my ability to deliver in the business. Saying that, I have a personal mission to encourage women to engage with a career in technology.’

Jessica Okoro – Founder and Director of BeScience (STEM)

Be STEMAlthough Jessica wanted to pursue a science related degree at university, at primary and secondary school Jessica often struggled with exams. Recognising there was something different about the way she learned with her mum also seeing her frustrations, Jessica’s mum began hands on interactive learning sessions with her on the weekends alongside creative experiments.

Upon being accepted into university Jessica found out she was dyslexic, making her realise why she learnt the way she did.

This is the very reason why she founded BeScience STEM, to take STEM to the community allowing everyone to learn and explore the STEM subjects creatively, with hands on activities.

With the support of O2 Think Big, as of today Jessica has toured several libraries in Leicestershire, including several underprivileged areas. Jessica has also set-up 5 pop up STEM workshops for the Public with a turnout of over 1000 attendees at each and has had over 110 student volunteers help with the movement.

‘I remember when I was younger and my teacher said ‘some people get science and some don’t’… Well I’ve grown to find out that anyone can learn science, all depends on how it’s taught!”

Click here for more information on BeScience STEM.

What women or achievements are you celebrating this International Women’s Day? Let us know in the comments below!