Girls Can Do Anything: five more inspirational women

In celebration of the publication of Girls Can Do Anything on 2nd August, award-winning author Caryl Hart discusses the lives and achievements of five women who have inspired her.

Arunima Sinha – Mountaineer (India)

First female amputee to climb Mount Everest

Lots of women climb mountains. Quite a few have even summited Everest. Between the first summit, in 1953 and 2014, over 4,000 people attempted the trip in over 6,000 climbs. Of these, 418 – around 10% – have been women.

The first was Junko Tabei in 1975. The youngest, at just 13 years old, was Malavath Purna in 2014.

And then there’s Arunima Sinha. In 2013, she became the first female amputee to summit the mountain. So not only did she climb the highest mountain in the world, she did it with a prosthetic leg, just two years after the accident that caused her injury. Now if that doesn’t warrant respect, I don’t know what does.

I wanted to include Arunima Sinha in our Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women because not only has she overcome the huge blow of losing a limb, she has used her misfortune as a driver to achieve something amazing. Arunima is a great role model for any child who faces disadvantage. Be that physical, social or whatever, she is proof that it is really only your imagination, commitment and self-belief that determine your ability to succeed.

Serena Williams – (USA) Tennis Player

Seven-time Wimbledon champion and icon

Many of the women I’ve chosen to appear in the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women, are not high profile. They are not especially in the public eye, and some are not even famous at all. But Serena Williams is, most definitely, smack bang in the middle of the public eye, and rightly so. I think it’s safe to say she’s an icon of feminine power and physical prowess and probably, in fact, as close as you can get to an actual goddess.

Six-times champion of the US Open, seven-time winner at Wimbledon and with many other wins to her name in singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis, Serena Williams is a complete master of her game and outstanding sportswoman. She is also a philanthropist and supporter of disadvantaged young people in the states and abroad. So if you’re looking for a strong female to look up to… well, she’s the real deal.

Sue Wimpenny – Builder and CEO (UK)

I mean, how many women builders have you ever met? I haven’t met any and, I’m ashamed to say, had not even considered that women builders were even a thing until recently. Interior designers, yes, painters and decorators – well I’ve seen a few now, thanks to DIY TV programmes. But actual builders?

Then, while doing some research for the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women, I discovered Sue Wimpenny.

In the book, we tell young readers that girls can be and do anything they choose. We tell them girls can be good at science or writing or music or maths. We tell them girls can be firefighters, lawyers, sports people, lorry drivers and builders. So I thought I’d better find some examples of real women who really ARE doing these things and doing them well.

Enter Sue Wimpenny. Not only is she a builder, she has built (pardon the pun) her own construction company called The Lady Builder. It’s a successful building company that does everything you’d expect… they build things and refurbish things and no doubt make a lot of dust in the process. In itself this is not remarkable. But the fact that this company was founded and is run by a woman – IS. I don’t know much about Sue but I do know that she’s a successful woman operating in what is a predominantly male world and for me, that is what makes her outstanding. And for children to know that there are real women doing this kind of work – well I think that’s incredibly empowering.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike – Politician (Sri Lanka)

The world’s first female prime minister

Sirimavo Bandaranaike was prime minister of Sri Lanka on three separate occasions. She was the world’s first female prime minister and took the country through major socialist reform that resulted in the island becoming a republic.

You might be surprised to learn that there have been over 113 female prime ministers and presidents and several more acting up to the role since the 1940s. Something I find quite surprising given the reluctance of many nations to allow women to occupy other positions of responsibility or power. In many countries girls still don’t have the right to attend , so the fact that across the world we’ve had any women in the ultimate position of power is a bit of a miracle. Of course, the UK didn’t get a female Prime Minister until 1979 and the United States has never had a woman at the helm, so I guess there’s still some way to go yet.

Peng Lei (Lucy Peng) – Businesswoman (China)

Co-founder and CEO of her own company

I chose Peng Lei, otherwise known as Lucy Peng to appear in the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women, because she’s a highly successful business woman who founded her own company that has recently been valued at around $60 billion. That’s a lot of money she’s made. Personally, I’m not massively into profit or commerce as such, but I wanted to include someone like Peng Lei in the gallery of inspirational women, because she is, I guess, a classic example of a successful woman.

She is a clever woman who has made her own fortune and has created jobs for thousands of people. She was listed as the 34th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2017. On that list, Angela Merkel was first, followed by Theresa May and Melinda Gates. Oprah was 21st and Beyoncé was 50th. Incidentally, over half of the top 50 are from the United States and our own Queen only ranks 26th. So the Queen is less powerful that Oprah. Well, I guess that makes sense.

I’m not quite sure how Forbes decides who is the most powerful, but Peng Lei is definitely up there with them. So for all those children out there who want to make a packet, who are interested in business and commerce, this it to show that there are lots of women out there doing very, very nicely, thank you very much!

Girls Can Do Anything is a picture book for everyone with a dream. With Caryl’s heartwarming message of empowerment and award-winning illustrator Ali Pye’s vivid and beautiful illustrations, it is the perfect picture book to read with your little ones this summer. Check out some fantastic free activity sheets to accompany the book, and order your copy here.

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