International Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world every year and has been going on for over a century. No one person or organisation owns the day, it’s something that belongs to anybody and everybody interested in gender equality, raising awareness of gender bias and celebrating the achievements of women. And yes, there’s an International Men’s Day too – every year on 19 November!
I was surprised when the journalist got in touch but very pleased to be asked. As a transgender woman I recognise that I can offer a different perspective on some things but there are so many amazing women out there doing so many impressive and inspirational things I’m just honoured to be included.
There are many women I’ve been personally inspired by over the years. As a keen sailor myself I have a lot of admiration for British sailor Tracy Edwards who skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Around the World Yacht Race in 1989. Despite many people at the time thinking they’d never do it they finished 2nd in their class and won 2 out of 6 legs in the race.
I’ve also been inspired enormously by the fashion model and restaurant hostess April Ashley who was one of the first people ever to have gender reassignment surgery. She did this as far back as 1960 and despite being publicly outed by a newspaper at the time, she has rightly gone on to become a transgender icon; receiving an MBE for her services for transgender equality in 2012.
After spending most of my life feeling I was in the wrong body I was encouraged by a friend of mine who helped give me the confidence to transform my life around 5 years ago. I can honestly say I’ve never looked back. It’s one of the scariest but best things I’ve ever done, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
For me being a woman means not having to struggle to repress who I am any more. I still have ups and downs like anybody else but I’m definitely calmer and happier these days. I can’t speak for everybody as we all have different lives and experiences, and I know we still have a long way to go in terms of challenging stereotypes and attitudes, but I think things are certainly changing for the better.
I’ve had a long and varied career at Sellafield, and I feel extremely lucky to work for an equal opportunities employer that welcomes and celebrates equality, diversity and inclusivity. As an industry we’re making real progress in encouraging more women into careers in the nuclear sector and in addressing the gender pay gap. This is something we can all be proud of but it’s also something we all need to keep working on.