The majority of my life has been spent surrounded by men: brothers, uncles and bosses. But it’s been women who have had the most impact on my life.
Some have been crucial to the last few years of my life and career and some have been with me from the beginning, cheering me on and helping me up when I fall. While there are certainly other women I love, look up to and lean on, it seemed appropriate in light of International Women’s Day this week to shout-out to the five whose influence on my life has led me to where I am today.
5: The mentor
I met Hazel Southam while covering a story in York during my first year of working as a reporter. She was a life-long hack with a nose for a story and the kindest heart. From the very beginning, she was my champion. She subbed stories when I was working to deadline, she took me for coffees to let me vent about whatever sexist slight I’d just received and she told – and still tells – anyone who will listen, that I’m fantastic. And she makes me believe that I really am. Her advice has got me to where I am today. Her love and encouragement help me believe that I deserve to be here.
She taught me to believe in myself.
4: The director
For the last two and a half years, Chine McDonald has been the most fantastic boss. She’s one of the busiest people I know, yet she has time for everyone who needs her and a sense of calm that I can only dream of. She is just a bundle of humility, patience and kindness, tied up with a ribbon of grace. As the first black female director of the Evangelical Alliance, Chine is also a trailblazer – she’s not afraid of being first, and passionate about equality and justice. When I grow up, I want to be like Chine.
She taught me to challenge what isn’t right and to take risks.
3: The cousin
My cousin Claire has always been more like a sister to me. Born on the same date, Claire was 18 when I arrived, and I have looked up to her from the moment I first saw her. She’s ambitious, driven and isn’t afraid of anything. Claire doesn’t let anyone or anything get in her way; she just gets the job done. One day when I was about 14, we were in a café and she sent her cappuccino back because the coffee was burnt. It may seem insignificant, but I never forgot it. Before then, I had always felt that if things weren’t right, normal people like me just had to accept it.
She taught me that hard work pays off and that being yourself is the best thing you can be.
2: The fairy godmother
I used to think June was my fairy godmother. I’ve since discovered that the fairy bit was just something I got confused about after reading Cinderella too many times, but she’s still pretty magical to me. She has prayed for me every day of my life, sent me cards, gifts and the money to pay for my journalism training and helped me wherever she could. June is full of kindness, calmness and loveliness. And the food she cooks is the stuff dreams are made of.
She taught me to listen and to love.
1: The mother
When my mum, Nina, had just given birth to her third son, she had a dream where three children were playing in a garden: two little boys and a girl. The son she had just given birth to wasn’t there. A few years later, after my brother Asher had died from a hole in the heart, she found out that she was pregnant again. She knew it was me, and promised God she would bring me up to love and serve Him. The dream came true. My name means “God has promised a daughter”, and that special start to my life set the foundation for the bond I have with my mum today. My mum really is my number one. She has known terrible pain, but still loves to laugh, hates unkindness and goes out of her way to help others. They say girls become their mothers, and I could do far worse than becoming like her.
She has taught me that I’m loved and I’m here for a purpose.
Who are the women in your life that have made you who you are today? Tell us in the comment section below, and let those special women in your life know, too. Men, you should join in, too!
We’re chatting more about success as women at our Lean Out event on Wednesday 21 June. If you don’t have tickets yet, get them right here!