I’m fortunate to have worked with, been inspired by and be aware of a whole bunch of incredible women. While I’m firmly in agreement with Rachel Coldicutt about how women “shouldn’t need a special day to get public visibility”, I’d also like to highlight (in no particular order, and almost certainly missing people I’ve forgotten) a selection of those women who I’m inspired by, grouped by (somewhat arbitrary) category.
I work in software development and although it’s still far from a healthy position with regards to female representation, these are some of the brilliant women I know there:
Sally Goble – an awe-inspiring swimmer (and writer, and speaker), a formidable engineering manager and a warm, compassionate person.
Jenny Sivapalan – a force for good on whatever team she’s on, super-smart developer and manager, and her softball skills speak for themselves.
Huma Islam – an artist as well as technologist and someone who brings unity and finds understanding with the Agile teams she manages. Also brings cheese to the pub.
Annabel Church – a globetrotting convention-challenger who’ll question you, listen to you, support you and then disappear somewhere else completely doing equally inspiring stuff.
Mariana Santos – a whirlwind of colours, ideas, leadership and creativity. Mariana travels the world exploring journalism/tech and bringing more women into newsrooms in Latin America.
Tanya Cordrey – my first female boss and a woman who took a chance on me early on in my career. A strong leader who both listens and inspires.
Annie Moss-Quate – a restless innovator who’s too impatient to sit back and wait for change to happen on its own, so makes it happen herself instead.
Jess Rose – a Birmingham tech legend and seemingly everywhere at once, bringing underrepresented people into focus, asking the difficult questions and shaping communities every day.
Katie Connolly – a digital content / social media guru who instinctively understands audiences, planning for them, and producing things they’ll love (as well as being an expert in 90s pop music).
Lynsey Reynolds – a talented designer and illustrator with an intuitive understanding of communicating ideas and concepts via visual mediums, as well as being a massive Harry Potter nerd.
Erin Kissane – as much in the journalism category as tech, Erin combines supportive outreach via OpenNews with RIGHTEOUS FURY about abuse of power, tech bullshit and everything else in between.
Community / Birmingham
This was a difficult group to create and it’s perhaps a disservice to the women listed here to mark them solely as “Birmingham” – my point is that this is where I’ve discovered their inspiring work.
Immy Kaur – organiser, agitator, teacher and athlete. Immy holds Birmingham to account via her Impact Hub Brum collaboration space, and challenged us to think harder (and work together) with TEDxBrum. Plus her journey to cycling 100 miles last year was fantastic to follow.
Kath Preston – As part of 383 agency, Kath runs Canvas, Birmingham’s biggest tech conference, and somehow manages to fit in a bunch of other events on the side without going completely haywire. Super friendly and always happy to share her knowledge with others too.
Kate Andrews – a Stirchley superhero bringing all kinds of cultural happenings (not least Boardly Games, south Brum’s best gaming meetup!) to our city and helping organising food banks and more. Great surname too.
Kerry Leslie – designer, Loaf mastermind, organiser of community markets and film nights, Kerry does a ton for her community and we’re lucky to have her. Probably as bad as me at reading swapped books, too (I’ll start the Monbiot book soon Kerry I promise).
Laura Creaven – blogger of many colours and keen explorer of Birmingham’s various offerings, Laura always has an interesting, informed and timely take on what’s happening, challenging our city to be better (or just sort the buses out).
Ruth Harvey – another Stirchleyite working hard on making her city great, bringing art, gardening and culture to our lives. Great taste in hats too.
Vicky Osgood – can win round a room of strangers in minutes (and not just because she’s a whisky expert) – witty, smart and funny. Music geek, and somehow knows all the newest places to go. Best hair in B30, too.
Claire Spencer – a hero of local politics and relentless critic of the status quo. Won’t stand for injustice and highly principled.
Rebecca Cowley – a jewelsmith and artisan who makes amazing creations using terrifying machinery. She’s an artist with a great outlook on life and a boundless creative energy. She also makes a mean gin and tonic.
It’s my favourite sport, despite its flaws and failings, and these women, whether riders, writers or advocates, are essential following.
Ayesha McGowan – on a mission to become the first female African-American professional cyclist. She’s funny, motivational and above-all fiercely determined.
Jools Walker – known as “Lady Velo”, Jools writes about cycling in all its forms. She reviews products, is writing a book and presents on TV – all about our favourite two-wheeled machine.
Jess Duffy – a bike racer whose tweets and pictures of her riding adventures always make me feel guilty for not going out on the bike more. An advocate of professional women’s cycling and a race organiser as well as a rider.
Sarah Connolly – a hugely important voice in women’s pro cycling, she’s risen from a Twitter feed covering the races nobody was broadcasting to a commentator and journalist well-known in the sport.
Adele Mitchell – an award-winning cycling writer and mountain bike rider whose work has helped encourage more women into the sport.
Hannah Nicklin – equally at home in the arts/journalism category as well as bikes, Hannah’s chronicles of her racing and riding is fascinating, inspiring and challenging.
Arts and academia
“Arts” is a bit general, but these women work and explore the creative and academic worlds and are some of the cleverest/most creative people I know.
Namiwa Jazz – still really young and yet a big achiever, she’s organised Namiwa Change Formation to bring women of colour together in the arts, and is a hugely talented singer and songwriter as well as event organiser. One to watch.
Affie Jam – though we’ve never met, I follow her music and thoughts via Twitter and am always blown away by her talent, honesty, challenges and thoughtfulness. And that guitar is incredible too.
Josie Long – not only a comedian, Josie is an activist and agitator who speaks up for those who can’t and firmly points us in the direction of things we should support. I once saw her finish a set in a pub and immediately sit down alongside a Tory heckler and spend 40 minutes debating him, politely but firmly interrogating his divisive beliefs. Josie talks the talk and walks the walk, too.
Soofiya – an artist whose zines and exhibits are always riotous, hilarious and challenging all at once. I saw her speak at an event and was impressed at her quick-fire ideas, and her work and illustrations are always multi-faceted and engaging.
Elaine – we’ve known each other online from back in the days when Livejournal was still a thing, and her rise to pun-driven activist has been fantastic to watch. Another person it’s impossible to categorise, you should just stop reading this and go and follow her for her insight and wit. Especially during Eurovision.
Laura Mulkerne – Laura is an inspiring example of someone who’s been dealt a bad card (in her case, IBS) and ripped it up and made it work for her instead (launching a food diary company to support other people with gut health issues). She doesn’t give up (she’s from Yorkshire), she’s adventurous and smart and can rap all of Hamilton.
Connie Wan – Connie is a polyglot academic, expert not only in art history but also in the realms of gin, shoes, and DIY. She’s pretty much singlehandedly run arts institutions and is currently travelling the world being awesome and doing research engagement.
Emily Collins – Em is one of my most accomplished friends in both the world of language and cyber security, as well as the world of dogs. She’s been on TV, she’s got a PhD, and she’s also massively into weird goth/punk rock and isn’t even embarrassed about it.
Rachel Eskesen – Rachel is super-smart, compassionate, bold and adventurous. She’s lived in more countries than most people have even visited and is constantly highlighting the struggles of people who need our support.
Lizzy Finn – Liz is a kind of polymath, excelling at everything she turns her hand to and not afraid to rise to new challenges in spite of adversity and obstacles. We lived together as housemates for years and throughout university she helped me get my head around academia (her PhD helped) as well as terrible movies, experimental cooking and the rules of a game called “wine”. She’s also from a family made of strong women that I’ve been lucky enough to meet, and it’s where she gets her strength.
Mona Chalabi – her inspired charting and data visualisation work has made complex issues understandable to millions of people, and even manages to amuse them along the way.
Jess Parker – we worked on the student paper at university and now Jess reports on Westminster for the BBC (after stints on the radio and more). Unflappable, hilarious and brilliant.
Hannah Jane Parkinson – a writer whose work is unflinchingly truthful, engaging, witty and cool all at once. She’s a vital voice and her work on mental health in particular is crucial.
Elena Cresci – an expert in memes, but with a flair for writing, presenting and crafting to boot. Len is a proud Welshwoman and her writing/thoughts on feminism, mental health always stands out.
Erica Buist – a features writer with a gift to make you burst out laughing on public transport, but also to catch yourself in the middle of a paragraph becoming lost in thought as her words uncover something you’d never realised before. Ask her about her (Instagram-friendly) pets!
Leila Haddou – a data journalist with a flair for the technical as well as reporting, Leila runs tech meetups and training events in London aiming to bring together journalists and developers and share her impressive abilities with others.
Jemima Kiss – former head of technology at the Guardian and an all-round beam of energy, ideas and collaboration. Never happy to sit back and accept limitations, she’s always pushing for change, closer working and breaking down boundaries.
Jasmine Andersson – co-founder of The Second Source, a women in journalism group aiming to challenge sexual harassment in the media. Her writing on LGBT issues and feminism is particular urgent too.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett – her Guardian columns are always personal and yet relatable, and her writing on autism and housing in particular is moving and challenging all at once.
Frances Perraudin – a much-needed northern correspondent at the Guardian, Fran’s writing is incisive and insightful. She also worked to better integrate journalists and developers while we both worked at the Guardian – always a challenge but never not worth it.
Aisha Gani – former BuzzFeed and Guardian journalist with a strong eye for a story (and a photograph, too). An important voice on British Islam and global politics.
Sophie Warnes – a data journalist full of curiosity and ideas, some of which she shares in newsletter roundups each week. Always entertaining and her work is clear and engaging too.
Lyra McKee – a proper investigative reporter from Belfast covering media, Northern Ireland, LGBT issues and more. She’s also a speaker and mentor for other young journalists.
Stacy-Marie Ishmael – formerly of BuzzFeed and the FT and owner of a distinctive voice in online writing, she’s inspiring because she constantly challenges us to be better and accept no bullshit.
Ali Schofield – a former colleague and now a freelance writer, Ali has probably covered every topic you can think of and written about it with wit, eloquence and warmth. She’s also an artist and columnist for the Big Issue, with lots to say on the environment.
Reni Eddo-Lodge – author of “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” and responsible for awakening plenty of ignorant folks (myself included) about the structural racism that continues to dominate our country.
Paris Lees – writing candidly on sex, mental health, trans/gender issues and politics, Paris is provocative and challenging and a really important voice (and figurehead) in the gender movement.
Misc / other
I also want to highlight some other great women in my life: those in my family and loved ones.
My sisters: Katie and Georgina Andrews, two women who are strong, powerful, emotionally intelligent and clever – just like the connecting chain of strong matriarchs in our family who lived through tough times and brought up families and communities through it all. Likewise my mother, Irene Andrews, who’s the woman I’m most proud to know above everyone else on this list (come on, she’s my mum) – her strength, understanding, love and support (while achieving some enormous things along the way, not least being a CEO and studying for an MA) is key to any success I’ve personally had. Similarly my extended family (cousins, aunts, etc) is made up of amazing women who’ve shouldered huge burdens, taken on big challenges, and beaten them. They’re all inspirational.
And finally, there’s Madeleine McGarrie, my partner of the last decade and the woman who inspires me every day. She doesn’t give up, she finds solutions where others only see problems, she’s endlessly creative and playful and brimming with ideas, and she’s a resourceful leader with ambition and focus. She’s also a ruthless board game player and will take you to town without mercy at Cluedo or Carcassonne. She’s a unifier and unique and I’m incredibly lucky to be her partner – just as I’m lucky and grateful to know all of the women in this list.