Let’s hear it for the girls

Freya Ross looks up to Paula Radcliffe
Freya Ross looks up to Paula Radcliffe
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ACROSS the globe today the achievements and aspirations of females past and present will be celebrated.

On home soil, International Women’s Day will be marked at various events, with supporters keen to pay tribute.

Lesley Hinds with her inspiration al mother Ena Nicol and brother Kenneth. Picture: contributed

Lesley Hinds with her inspiration al mother Ena Nicol and brother Kenneth. Picture: contributed

When it comes to inspiring women we all have our favourites. Who is yours?

Freya Ross (nee Murray), long-distance runner and member of the Edinburgh Athletics Club

I started running when I was about eight and as I got older I began to become more aware of the big names.

I remember watching Paula Radcliffe break the world record for the marathon when I was a teenager and thinking she was just amazing and much quicker than everyone else in the field.

She has dedicated herself to being the best athlete she can and showing that through hard work, you can achieve something amazing. She also goes against the stereotype that people always think that to be an amazing athlete you have to be a Kenyan.

I also admire her because of her stance against drugs in sport. She has demonstrated against it and hasn’t been afraid to share her views on it, and that’s really important. She always seems to be very positive and I think that comes across.

Paula was never afraid to go for it in the way that she races. She races from the front and was always a gutsy runner.

I took her place at the Olympics as she had to pull out unfortunately due to injury. The way she spoke to me and was really nice about it, when it must have been really difficult for her to go through. It shows the kind of nice person she is.

It was amazing to meet her. So many people know who she is and what she has achieved and I was never going to be able to step into her shoes, but I really wanted to do my best to justify being selected and to not let her or anybody else down, having been brought in at the last minute.

To feel like I was taking someone else’s place and then not giving 100 per cent would have been really unforgiveable especially when it was someone I looked up to.”

Professor Lesley Yellowlees, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Two women immediately spring to mind as great personal inspirations. Known as the “grandmother of chemistry” in Egypt, Professor Motaza Mohammed Khater is a truly admirable woman who has overcome many barriers in her career to become a highly-
regarded scientist. She presented me with a bust of Queen Nefertiti as a gift to remind me that there have been powerful women since ancient times.

“The second woman who has inspired me is Malala Yousafzai, an incredible young woman with a deep inner strength and sense of purpose. On meeting her last year, what really struck me was away from her public role she is a normal 15 year-old-girl for whom the support of family is crucial. I too have benefitted from the constant support of family throughout my career but that’s by no means the case for everyone. It’s vital that we create a supportive environment for women in workplaces up and down the UK to help create the next generation of role models we need to inspire women at every level in every profession.

I have achieved a few “firsts” in my career. I’m deeply honoured, for example, to be the first woman president of the Royal Society of Chemistry. I’ve been fortunate to have lived in a country that increasingly encourages women to pursue scientific careers. But we are on an equality journey as a country and a community and there is still so much more that we should be doing to support women scientists in the UK.

Labour councillor Lesley Hinds, convener of transport and environment on Edinburgh City Council

I have been inspired by so many women, and not just the famous ones, but the women who have campaigned on issues which made changes in the workplace, the community, and in politics.

“The woman I am going to choose is my mother Ena Nicol. My memories are of her sitting at the table in the kitchen studying for her exams. She left school with no qualifications, passed her exams and went to teacher training college. She then became a primary school teacher and then a deputy headteacher. This while looking after me and my brother.

When I first was elected as a councillor she was very supportive and would travel from Dundee to help me out with childcare, so I could attend meetings.

She is proud of my achievements and in particular becoming Lord Provost of Edinburgh and recently coming top of the Edinburgh Evening News Hot 40. I owe my achievements to her and other women’s encouragement and support.