International Women's Day - Who Inspires You?

We wanted to include the male perspective on International Women's Day so we chatted to some friends on how we can all work towards gender equality together. We asked them each a few questions to discover the women who inspire them the most and how they feel men can act as allies to women in the journey towards gender equality.

David Lochhead, Finlay

Which woman inspires you the most and why?

When we first had the idea of opening FINLAY Eyewear stores in London, we met with an optometrist - Mai Monavar - to build an understanding of everything that would be needed to offer sight tests for our customers. A mutual friend connected us and five years later Mai is still an integral part of our team at FINLAY. Mai is not only phenomenal at her day job - I would challenge anyone to find a more professional, caring and engaging sight test in London - but she also possesses an expansive set of creative skills. One glance at Mai's Instagram @maimonavar quickly illustrates the range of projects Mai is involved in and gives a glimpse of her creative talents. During the years that I've known Mai, she's started several projects: Mulk, Flower Lolly and Damsel & Daughter - a socially conscious craft label where proceeds go to providing feminine care for disadvantaged women. Mai goes about her social projects quietly, but the kindness in her world exudes out of her through any interaction one might have. Ultimately Mai inspires me, not simply because of what she does, but because of who she is as a person and the light that she brings to any conversation. 

Which woman in your life has impacted you the most? 

I grew up in a house with two brothers and my Mum used to joke that the bulk of the conversation around the kitchen table was football, planes and cars. Despite having very limited interest in any of these topics, my Mum - Nicola - still fully entered into these conversations. This selfless approach illustrates the sacrifice and compassion that I've been fortunate enough to experience from my mother through my whole life. Her consistency and care have shaped me as a person and given me a blueprint for the type of parent I would like to be one day. My mum trained as a primary school teacher and then stayed at home looking after her family until I went to school. At this stage, she re-trained as an image consultant that meant she could work from home in a flexible way around the chaotic schedule of family life. Watching Mum grow her business was my first close encounter with both business and fashion and gave me a hunger for one day starting my own projects.

Danielle Strickland

If you could have dinner with three women, dead or alive, who would they be?

Emma Raducanu - the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam Tennis event. At 18, Emma has already achieved so much and has a world of opportunity ahead of her. 

Danielle Strickland - a pioneer and spiritual leader from Canada. I've loved listening to Danielle speak from a distance, but would love to learn from her in person.

India Hicks - a designer and charity campaigner. India is a fabulously entertaining story-teller and inspiring business leader.

What do you think men can do to help in the progress for gender equality

I believe it's essential for us as men to ask questions of the women in our lives to understand firsthand the challenges, perceptions and frustrations. From a place of deeper understanding and empathy, we can then make more informed decisions in all aspects of our lives that help in the journey towards gender equality.

Emma Raducanu

David Ross, Addison Ross

Which woman inspires you the most and why?

It goes without saying that my wife Sarah inspires me, we have lived and worked together for 33 years and have always shared the same vision for our company and our family. We’re a great team.

Which woman in your life has impacted you the most? 

My mother, she died when I was a teenager however she instilled a work ethic and a belief that anything was possible with hard work which I’ve always been grateful for and of course she had a sense of style and taste ahead of her time which was inspiring.

Tory Burch

If you could have dinner with three women, dead or alive, who would they be?

Sarah Gilbert from AstraZeneca, it goes without saying that Sarah’s ground breaking work has been invaluable to the entire world. How grateful we all are to her.

Nina Campbell of Nina Campbell Ltd, I’m a great admirer of Nina, she has been such an inspiration to so many young designers both male and female, unfailingly constant in her high standards of customer service and beautiful design.

Tory Burch of Tory Burch, I have followed Tory since she began her business back in 2004 and watched it grow stratospheric, her business is an inspiration and I highly commend her foundation which empowers women entrepreneurs.

What do you think men can do to help in the progress for gender equality?

My world has always been very female centric, all our staff happen to female, now that our son Harry has joined us we have doubled our male quota! So I can’t really imagine what it would be like not to welcome or acknowledge women in all aspects of life. As far as I’m concerned everyone is equal, it goes without saying. As a father to a daughter soon to be launching into the working world I would expect her to be treated equally for whatever career she follows and I hope I have taught her the confidence to expect that.

Sarah Gilbert

Freddie Garland, Freddie's Flowers

Which woman inspires you the most and why?

My wife Sophie, because I find her completely remarkable. She is a teacher which I find an incredible job and people always look to her for opinion.

Which woman in your life has impacted you the most?

Again Sophie, as I am able to be my complete natural self around her which is very relaxing!

Patti Smith

If you could have dinner with three women, dead or alive, who would they be?

A rock n roll collection of my granny Jean, Patti Smith and Debbie Harry. Jean, Debbie and Patti; we’d have a hoot! 

What do you think men can do to help in the progress for gender equality?

I make sure I put gender equality at the forefront of everything I do. 

Debbie Harry

Lawrence Callaghan, Well Kneaded

Which woman inspires you the most and why?

I know a lot of inspiring women, but most Inspiring has to be Bridget: not just because of the things she's achieved but the spirit in which she does what she does and the character behind it all... she is able to make a huge difference to those around her, has vast depths of capacity and instinct for everything from running a business to raising kids, and always with laughter close to the surface. I think that if you can do great things with laughter thrown in, you're a true winner. Bridget taught me this.  

Which woman in your life has impacted you the most?

See above. 

Julie Walters

If you could have dinner with three women, dead or alive, who would they be?

This is a very tricky one: I think my mum and Audrey Hepburn would get on well, maybe Mother Theresa too- or maybe Alanis Morissette, Julie Walters and Julie Andrews for a big singalong... or I reckon a convo with Mary the Mother of Jesus would be useful (having grown up as a Catholic) but I think the most compelling would be to sit with my daughter and Aretha Franklin... I'd hope that we might all sing together, or at least say grace, and perhaps my granny as well, who died when I was 4. I would love to hear each other's story and each other's response to each other's story, and for my daughter to learn from some awesome role models, as well as telling them her take on things. We could eat at Well Kneaded... I'd like to see what Aretha thinks about my KD4 Kitchen Disco playlist and what Mimi (my gran) would make of the food.  

What do you think men can do to help in the progress for gender equality?

Humility! We need to take seriously the possibility that our viewpoint might have been skewed by years of gender inequality, to take seriously the call for change and even the possibility that we might have some sexist views/values/reflexes that need addressing... and then, from that place of humility, to work collectively with our peers and friends to discuss and encourage and nurture a more appropriate mindset as men. I think a lot of it is about collective outlook- how men think/speak and what they assume when they're among other men. I have some close friends who have role modeled how to overthrow stereotypes, lots of whom have been stay-at-home-dads while their wives do amazing things in the world of work.  

Arethra Franklin

James French, Nonna Tonda

Which woman inspires you the most and why? 

As clichéd as it sounds, my wife, Rebecca, is the biggest inspiration in my life. She and I founded our company together, raises our three children and always supports me in every way.

Which woman in your life has impacted you the most? 

Well, without my grandmother imparting her passion and knowledge of cooking, Nonna Tonda would not be! My mother is also an incredibly strong woman, whose entrepreneurial spirit spurred me on to do what I love. She has raised us all to follow in her footsteps; she herself has her own company arranging flowers for weddings and parties.

I have been lucky enough to have strong women around me my whole life, so whilst I think it’s important to applaud those that have impacted me directly to my knowledge, it’s also necessary to think about all those women who impact us daily before we were even born and long after we are gone.

Marcella Hazan

If you could have dinner with three women, dead or alive, who would they be? 

Firstly, I would have dinner with Rebecca, just the two of us! No kids, no work, just us. Maybe in Tuscany if that’s not too much to ask…

Marcella Hazan

Joanna Lumley 

What do you think men can do to help in the progress for gender equality?

I am privileged enough to be in a position where I can encourage and action small changes that can help progress gender equality. Whether this is in the workplace with equal pay and lack of discrimination and sexism, or whether it be in day-to-day life. I think a large part of what men can do comes from listening and genuinely putting time aside to understand and educate ourselves. We need to stop only seeing sexism through the eyes of our sisters, mothers, wives, and daughters and see it for what it is.

We, as men, will never understand the struggles and hardships that nearly every woman has had to face. All we can do is listen and learn, improve, and grow.

Joanna Lumley

Photo Credit:

Wimbledon.com, daniellestrickland.com, cbnc.com, BBC.com, nbcnews.com, nytimes.com, documentary.org, MyLondon.news, VanityFair.com, Rollingstone.com