The BBC has just revealed its list of 100 inspirational women, and we delighted that Smruti Sriram, the brains behind WOHAA, has been included.Yesterday, we went to the 100 women conference, held to celebrate the achievements of women around the world and to address issues of gender inequality.
It was an honour to spend an afternoon in the presence of so many women who are taking the lead in moulding and changing our society: activists, writers, scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians…the list goes on.
The conference’s keynote speakers were Dr Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi and women’s rights activist; Shappi Khorsandi, British-Iranian comedian; Prof. Lesley Yellowlees, the first female president of the Royal Chemistry Society; and Shazia Saleem, self-professed “serial entrepreneur” and founder of ieat foods halal ready-meals; and the panel was chaired by the BBC’s Razia Iqbal.
To hear these women talk about gender issues in politics, family life, science and business was at the same time frightening and uplifting.
Frightening because inequality is still so prevalent. Did you know that only 27% of female graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths go on to work in the area they studied, as opposed to 52% of men? Or a group of businessmen were so incapable of believing that the founder of ieat might be a woman, that when Shazia Saleem arrived to chair a meeting, they asked her to “be a dear and make [them] a cup of tea” while they awaited for “Shaz” to arrive? That a group of female candidates on The Apprentice felt the only way they could hike up their sales was by hiking up their skirts as well?
Uplifting because in spite of the numerous hurdles posed by gender inequality, there are so many people – women and men alike – who are giving it their all to challenge assumptions, creating positive role models for the younger generations.
We hope these women have inspired you as much as they have inspired us.
Left to right: Wings of Hope CEO and Co-Founder Rajni Sriram, former president of Malawi and women’s activist Dr Joyce Banda, and WOHAA founder, Smruti Sriram
Keynote speakers Dr Joyce Banda, Shappi Khorsandi, Prof. Lindsay Yellowlees and Shazia Saleem, with chair Razia Iqbal
Dr Joyce Banda talks about the gender gap in politics