It’s Tuesday! On the second day of week of women, I wanted to share some of the women who have truly changed my life, and whom I’m forever grateful for. Though there are so many women in my life who shape me as a person every day, whenever anyone asks me “how does your story begin?” I can always trace it back to these three women. And what better time to celebrate them than on week of women?
WONDER WOMAN 1 – Emma Mulqueeny
As far as catalysts go, Emma is definitely the defining moment where my life really went from being about as ordinary as ordinary gets, to a life that I’m so fortunate to live every day. Emma Mulqueeny, among many things, was/is the founder of Young Rewired State, an organisation that encouraged young people to develop their coding skills and develop projects for social good. I first took part in this code club at 11 years old (see picture) but I went back to it most years until the age of 15. It was here I met some really great friends, learnt the basis of all the programming I now know, and was really the platform for which every opportunity since then has spiralled from. I’m forever grateful to my dad for finding and signing me up to this program now 6 years ago (this is the only mention he will ever get – so I hope he’s sat here appreciating his moment of glory), and to Emma for taking me under her wing so quickly later on in the YRS years, and to all the mentors and centres who helped make this opportunity possible for me.
WONDER WOMAN 2 – Anne-Marie Imafidon
If there ever was a cooler, cleverer, more down to earth woman on this earth, it would still not be able to beat Anne-Marie. Aside from just being downright inspirational through all her educational accomplishments (do you know anyone who earned a masters degree from Oxford aged 20? or someone who passed their A-Level Computer Science at 11 whilst I’m here struggling through it at 17?) she’s also the founder, CEO and Head Stemette at STEMettes, an organisation that helps get young girls excited about STEM subjects. I first had the privilege of meeting Anne-Marie aged 14 at a hackathon the STEMettes were organising, and straight from the beginning it was opportunity followed by opportunity. A few months later I was on the stage at the EveryWoman Forum (pictured below), taking place again in a few days time, and bringing up the first mentions of Outbox Incubator – an all-girls STEM business incubator run for six weeks for free in the summer of 2015.
The moment in which I realised Anne-Marie would be a staple figure in my future was the moment I realised that the key message of STEMettes was bringing together (lots of) great food, great people, and inspiring ideas into one space. Free food. Did you hear that? Free food. After that summer my life was not the same again, and I’m so so grateful for all the wonderful friendships I’ve made with women who I’ve met through STEMettes (many of which I still keep in regular contact with) and for the wealth of experiences and opportunities I’ve had the privilege of sharing as a result of Anne-Marie, including collaborating with the Institute for the Future of Work at the House of Commons, meeting and presenting to HRH Princess Anne, and allowing me to meet girls who later inspired me to attend the LaunchX Entrepreneurship program – spending a month on MIT campus pushing the limits of what it means to be a young person in business.
WONDER WOMAN 3 – Pinky Lilani
I really do believe in the saying that the strongest women are the ones who lift each other up, not tear each other down, and that is embodied perfectly in the kindest, most selfless, gentle person I know – Pinky Lilani. Pinky is a true jack of all trades, but I in particular met her through the Women of the Future Program. After my school encouraged me to apply for the 2017 Women of the Future Awards, I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted and eventually go on to win the Young Star award in the 2017 awards as their youngest winner. Let me tell you – Pinky is a force of nature like none other. I’ve since been involved with their Ambassador’s program, first as a participant and then as an ambassador, I’ve met John Bercow in the House of Commons, and even been funded by the US Embassy to partake in a women’s leadership program – all thanks to Pinky. She has this power of always knowing everything about everyone, connecting everyone to the right people, and never leaving people out. She is also possibly the kindest person I know – a true powerhouse of a woman that I try to model myself by. Pinky has been pivotal to my life my really changing the way I see my purpose; teaching me to strive for my own (academic and otherwise) success, as well as helping others succeed and to do so with purpose, dignity and kindness. I’m so, so grateful and humbled to have met Pinky and be able to benefit from all the fabulous things she does.
And so again, a day late, I conclude day 2 of a week of blog posts for Women’s week. Celebrating and recognising the women around us is so important, so hopefully just sharing three of the many, many women who have shaped my life will encourage you to think about the women who influence your life.
-Jo who blogs xx