Digbeth's leading women tell us which female icons inspire them - Custard Factory

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Digbeth’s leading women tell us which female icons inspire them

Posted by Chris Pettitt on March 08, 2018

Today is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to step back and recognise the huge social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. Here at the Custard Factory, Fazeley Studios and indeed right across Digbeth, there are countless women working away within a wide spectrum of creative and pioneering fields, who inspire, lead, innovate and add to the rich and diverse spirit that makes our corner of Birmingham so very, very special.

But who inspires them?

We’ve asked some of our community’s leading female voices to tell us which women influence and spur them on to aspire and achieve. Here’s what they said…


Sara Preisler | Founder/Owner | The Sara Preisler Gallery

Barbara Hepworth, as her work exemplifies Modernism and in particular modern sculpture. She was one of the few female artists of her generation to achieve international prominence. I would also like to give a shout to Ann Rand, as through her literature she upholds, and indeed, popularised objectivism – the belief that the purpose of morality is to provide people with principled guidance for living and achieving happiness on earth.


Jo Salmon | Head of Estates | Custard Factory

Can I pick two? It would be the New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor who broke the Harvey Weinstein story in October last year against a great deal of resistance, even threat. They are brave, strong professionals who believed in what they were doing and have given so many women in so many walks of life the confidence to stand up against the impact of inequality and all the guises that takes.

Their perseverance and determination to out this behaviour will, I hope, change the fortunes and lives of future generations of women. So many women have had to tolerate unacceptable behaviour without a voice, but their unrelenting investigation and the phenomenal response to it clearly draws a line that such behaviour is not acceptable and gives working women (and the majority of men) the confidence to make this stop – a clear lesson to those, especially in powerful positions, who think they can get away with it; they can’t.


Rebecca Chitty | Founder/Owner | Chitty’s Cakes

A female icon who has inspired me is JK Rowling. It’s not the ‘rags to riches’ story, nor the multiple millions she has accumulated and given to charity – although that of course is admirable! The reason I draw inspiration from her is the fact that she believed so strongly in the idea she had (of Harry Potter) that she fought to make it a success even after facing rejection. I think this sort of confidence and self-belief can come less naturally to women, and anyone who can persuade others that their idea (be it a story, a business or an invention) is worth investing in, then having the drive to follow it through and make it a success, is someone I really admire.

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Geraldine Oakley | Office Manager | The Space

There are lots and lots to choose from, but I’d have to say that my biggest inspiration is Chrissie Hynde. I first saw the Pretenders in the 1980s and Chrissie continues to perform on her own terms. Her unswerving commitment to animal rights also massively inspires me.


Sam Taylor | Creative Director | Tinker Taylor

There are so many women from so many different walks of life who inspire me, from politicians to journalists, sportswomen to campaigners and writers. So rather than pick just one, I’m going to pick out the book The Female Lead: Women Who Shape Our World, which profiles an outstanding array of sixty powerful and inspiring women.

All featured have changed the world and are from a variety of fields, including politicians, artists, journalists, teachers, engineers, campaigners, fire fighters and film stars. Some have led their professions; some have broken new ground for women; some have inspired changes through relentless endeavour. All were chosen for their ambitions and achievements and all tell their stories in their own words.

For girls, it can be hard to identify role models in our society. If this article and today’s focus on women encourages one girl or woman to read the book, I’ll be very happy! Andddd… if I absolutely HAD to choose just one great female, it would be Lady Barbara Judge. She didn’t just break glass ceilings in the 70s and 80s, she obliterated them!


Laura Rhodes | Founder | Curious Rose Photography

During my A-level and Degree studying Art, I explored the work and personality of Tracey Emin. On reflection, I think I was impressed by her willingness to share so openly and truthfully, warts and all about her own life. She channelled all the “mess” into her art to create her success as an artist and as a business woman. I continue to have a fascination with the borders of brand and art.

Follow the hashtag #IWD2018 on Twitter for all the latest news, events and updates from International Women’s Day.