International Women's Day: Four Women Who Inspire Us

March 12, 2019
Career Development

Each year International Women’s Day is an important reminder that though progressive change can be daunting and laborious every effort taken is a step forward for us all. In the process, we make it more likely that the world we leave behind for those who come after us is a vibrant, unbounded one where creativity and proper credit flourish. In communication, design and artistic industries, ideas and exploration are pre-requisites to meaningful work, but credit and responsibility have historically not been equally distributed between women and men.

To this day, some or perhaps many of us are still working to be recognized as equal partners in business. This truth inspired us to reflect on some of the brilliant, less known female artists who shattered barriers to help us remember that it can be done and that we’re doing it.

The founder of abstract expressionism

Long before abstract painters who came after her, Swedish mystic Hilma af Klint pioneered spiritual, shapely and colorful manifestations of the invisible contexts, including ideas of gender, interwoven into each of our daily lives. In 1896, she and four other women created a spiritual group called “De Fem” where they searched for the hidden worlds of the non-physical that exist within the human spirit.

It was only in 2018 that the global artistic community recognized her work as having predated the “triumvirate”  of painters—Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian—frequently credited for beginning artistic abstraction. Part of the reason for this is that Af Klint felt the world was not ready to view her art and demanded that her paintings only be shown 20 years after her death. The result, today, is a re-think about the history of the movement based on the work of a woman who cared deeply about her visions and their meaning to human values.

Whatever impact these paintings have on us, it’s a story to look to when in doubt about our beliefs and our visions while navigating an industry still working to liberate itself from unequal standards unable to withstand the test of time—unlike her work.

Walking away from your dream job to grow your own business

As one of the youngest fashion editors at a prominent newspaper in London, Naomi Mdudu spent hours upon hours talking to businesswomen whose insights inspired her to bring that information to girls and women without that same level of access. Beginning “The Lifestyle Edit” was far from easy, however: “All of the content online on entrepreneurship felt very corporate, very masculine and just didn’t speak to me in a way that I was used to”.

In response, she sought out women who were excited to share the secrets of their successes and the nuts and bolts necessary to grow a business. Throughout her process, she faced consistent setbacks—financial, personal and professional—but pushed through to create a company that works with firms on their communication programs while founding a space for women to come together to share actionable advice for everyone to incorporate into their own lives.


Fighting for Latin American representation in media

Roma was a sweeping success in the film industry this year. Reaching that point, however, has been a long time in the making, explains Yovanka Sanchez, a producer and founder of La Mariposa Films—a Miami-based production company working with firms and organizations to tell stories that empower women.

“Despite the fact that Latin women play a big role in the box office and we are the CEOs of our homes, our stories are not being told or reflected [diversely] on the big screen,” she explains as she calls attention to common tropes Latin women are typically cast to fill in entertainment. She brings attention to the reality that because she comes from a well-connected, industry family her path in film production is easier—which is to say not too easy at all. “Among the many excuses I’ve heard…: you are a woman, a mom, too risky…” she explains.

“Hopefully the insight [into] my journey will open doors for many other women, Latin or not, who just want to ‘make movies’" she concludes, before returning to push for more representation of Latin women in media.

Choosing to write in your own voice

Speechwriting is an art of becoming another person and creating a credible message in their voice that inspires something in their audience. Jayne Benjulian spent six years writing speeches for Apple’s executives from 1984 to 1990. While she discusses her love for poetry and the sound of language, she does express that, in the end, she wanted to write in her own voice rather than "in the voice of middle-aged white men" - the brunt of her work at Apple. She began to ask herself, “What is it that I want to say?” She decided to leave and pursue a career in playwriting, helping others to recognize their visions on the stage, before returning to her original love: poetry.

What each of these women reflect in their careers is a willingness to try different things, to deliver creativity that adds value to a company that might go unincorporated otherwise but an unwillingness to allow a job to stifle their voices and dreams. Never lose sight of the fact that there are billions of stories like these, including your own. We've come a long way thanks to millions of women and men who have worked hard to recognize the innate, human right of gender equality. There's more work to be done, but we'd like to once again wish each of you a happy International Women's Day - yesterday, today and tomorrow.

As always, we’d love to hear about the women who inspire you and your visions for creativity in 2019. Leave a comment if you’re inclined!

All the best