The other day I came across a blog called Some Kind of 50. To be more precise, I came across the most recent post in this blog, entitled ‘50 Women Who Have Inspired me’. I was instantly intrigued by the challenge of trying to identify 50 – count ‘em, 50 – women who have inspired me. This isn’t women who you admire or women who you find inspiring in general, but women who have actually inspired you personally. Inspired you to try something new, or reach out to others, or take up a new cause, or pursue the path you hadn’t been sure you’d be able to succeed at. Women who in some way or other have encouraged you to be a better, different, and/or stronger version of who you might otherwise have been.
This challenge isn’t quite as hard for me as for those of you who are younger, because I’ve had so many years to encounter women who might inspire me. But this challenge is difficult for all of us for a simple reason that becomes obvious as soon as you start thinking about it: until very recently, women weren’t allowed to play any public roles in, well, anything, or, if they did, there was usually a man who was given credit for it. Therefore, many lists of influential women are composed primarily of film and music celebrities, not because women aren’t capable of succeeding in every imaginable walk of life and leadership role, but because they have been kept from doing so for centuries.
So, this challenge really made me think. I’ve had a lot of men who have inspired me and mentored me, especially in the male-dominated world of computer science that I spent my life in. But what women have inspired me through my life and why? Fifty was way too many for me, but I have settled on a list of 20 (well, really 22 but I made two pairs so as to have a list that was divisible by 10!). There are many, many women I admire. Women like Gabby Gifford and Malala Yousafzai and Michelle Obama. Women like my daughters-in-law and other young female friends and former female students who do such an awesome job of balancing their own careers with raising busy families and having solid marriages. Women like my female friends who have started and successfully run their own IT companies, and my friends who get up and get to the gym or the community kitchen while I’m still deciding if it’s really time to get up. However, that admiration hasn’t translated into inspiring me to try something new or do what I already do with more confidence. This list is about women who have inspired me personally. Continue reading