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Nine inspirational heroines to celebrate IWD

It’s been a bit of a year so to mark International Women’s Day 2021, we thought we’d big up five women who have impressed, delighted and inspired us over the past 12 months.

Helen Glover


Three children under the age three, but that’s not going to stop Helen Glover going for gold. The double Olympic champion, and Cookham local, has announced she is attempting a comeback at this summer’s Tokyo games. She’ll be the first woman to make a Team GB rowing team after children. Since winning gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016 in the coxless pairs, Helen has had Logan, two, and one year old twins Bo and Kit. While our lockdown projects involved DIY and sour dough starters, this superwoman was plotting to become the first mother to make a British rowing team for the Tokyo Games. We’ll be cheering you all the way, Helen.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns MBE

Sarah Burns is woman committed to lifting women up – and there’s no better time to celebrate that than International Women’s Day. Sarah is the founder of Smart Works Reading, an inspirational charity supporting women, who have been out of the employment game for whatever reason, return to work. Each women who walks through the doors is given an interview outfit, styling advice and one-to-one interview coaching, to arm them with the confidence to nail that job interview. She’s a natural born leader for positive change and was awarded an MBE by Prince William in 2019 for services to disadvantaged women in the Thames Valley. Right now Sarah’s and her team are pedalling 500 miles to raise £20,000 for the charity. Sarah’s personal target is £3,000. Every donation makes a difference, so if you can – DONATE HERE.

Ruth May

Ruth May

You may not know her name, or indeed her face, but Ruth May, chief nursing officer for NHS England has been leading the Covid-19 response for nurses, midwives and care professionals across the country since the pandemic began. And such is her passion and experience (and her steadfast unwillingness to publicly back Dominic Cummings on Barnard Castle-gate) that when she called for more people to come and join the NHS, she was rewarded with record numbers: more than 60,000 people have applied to study nursing this year – a stellar rise of 32%. Bravo.

Ravinder Bhogal

Ravinder Bhogal

The hospitality industry has, undoubtedly, been the most obvious commercial victim of the plague that currently stalks all our houses. Restaurants and bars will be the last high street occupants to open and it’s still in the balance how many of these will actually survive until the final strata of lockdown lifts. Chefs have had to think quickly and flexibly and Ravinder Bhogal, of Marylebone’s highly rated Jikoni, has done just that. Not only did she partner up with NHS Wellness Box Initiative in the first wave of the pandemic, working solo from her kitchen to deliver meals to frontline staff, she has since developed a home dining experience Comfort & Joy that will soon be delivering vegetarian and vegan meals nationwide. 

Cat Fitchett


When a freak accident on a trampoline doing a full twisting back somersault snapped Cat Fitchett‘s leg off at the knee, her life as a competitive athlete, pro dancer and stunt woman (she did Nicole Kidman’s stunts in the 2014 film Before I Go To Sleep) ended in that split second. Surgery was inevitable but sick of the cycle or operations, Cat turned to reformer pilates and exercise therapy to rebuild her life – including learning to walk. Now this extraordinary mum runs a successful reformer pilates studio in Maidenhead, helping others on their rehabilitation journeys, as well as weight loss and fitness . The best part? She’s living proof it works, having turned her back on endless operations to take a more holistic approach to her own health and wellbeing.

Jo Gilder

Jo Gilder hairdresser gilded hair blonde hair hat and environment t shirt

Change is hard, especially if you’re trying to be environmentally friendly in an industry that historically uses lots of plastic, water and chemicals. But Jo Gilder of Gilded Hair in Wokingham is not easily told it can’t be done. Not only is her salon ridiculously cool (a delicious retro vibe), she’s also leading the charge on sustainability without compromising on style. Based in Holme Grange Craft Village in Wokingham, Jo has relentlessly sourced colouring products that are kinder; fitted shower heads that use significantly less water and everything that can be, is reused and recycled. Jo’s dogged determination to make big change in the hair industry without compromising on customer experience or style is truly inspirational. Cue much slo-mo hair swishing (just me then).

Lucy Wyndham-Read

While the nation’s school children bounced around to Joe Wicks during the first lockdown, the country’s mothers and working women were tuning into something altogether more speedy and high-impact in a bid to cram in exercise between school zooms and work calls. Seasoned PT Lucy Wyndham-Read’s seven-minute classes have reached parts of the populace other trainers haven’t reached (she has classes for pregnant women and people in wheelchairs) and in August 2020, she became the UK’s most watched fitness YouTuber with 58million views, surpassing Mr Wicks himself.

Tracey Crouch MP

If a global pandemic wasn’t enough to deal with, some people have also been having to contend with serious illness. Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford in Kent, can count herself within that number having been diagnosed with breast cancer in June last year. In February 2021, she announced on Twitter that she’d finished a gruelling programme of chemo and radiotherapy and now is committed to using her platform to raise awareness of breast cancer and the benefits of early diagnosis. While still working as an MP. And raising her four-year-old son. Hats off.

Professor Sarah Gilbert

Professor Sarah Gilbert

If someone asked you what your greatest achievement was during the pandemic, chances are you might mumble something about banana bread and not committing infanticide. Ask Professor Sarah Gilbert the same question and she’d have quite the answer. The Oxford University professor and vaccine expert has led the team that created the Oxford Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine in record quick time, which, as the latest research shows, cuts two thirds of transmission with just one dose. She’s literally saved the world while we were all fiddling around with rotten bananas. EPIC.

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