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POSTED 8.3.2018

Celebrating the impact of inspirational women

International Women's Day is held every year on March 8 to celebrate women's achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women's Rights and International Peace. In the year of #MeToo and Time’s Up, it’s certainly been a seismic time of change for women. To mark the day, StoryLab staff recall some of the inspiring women who have sparked our imaginations and fuelled our dreams.

Claire Grady and AnneMaria McEneaney

Forging my early career in the newsrooms of the Irish Independent and Evening Herald, there was no shortage of inspirational women and the issue of gender equality never really entered my head.  But that was thanks to the headway already forged by journalists such as Lorna Reid, Clodagh Sheedy, Ann O’Loughlin and more, which meant that women were the norm in the Indo newsroom.

And, on the Indo newsdesk, there were two formidable females — Claire Grady (who went onto be the first female editor of the Irish Independent) and AnneMaria McEneaney, who now works at RTE.  Seeing them both operate and authoritatively run a tight ship on the newsdesk made me believe it was possible to follow in their footsteps, which I did.

Martha Kearns


Katherine Graham and Kanene Donehey Pipkin

These two leading ladies couldn’t be more different in terms of the careers they pursued, but they are similar in the ways they inspire me.

I am a (fairly) recent college grad motivated by the ‘badass’ women who go against societal norms to lead the lives they want. Just two examples of these are former Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, and Rockstar Kanene Donehey Pipkin of Brooklyn band ‘The Lone Bellow’.

Both women have gone against the grain to lead pretty magnificent lives – Katherine as the first female publisher of a major US newspaper, and who played a vital role in uncovering the Watergate scandal, and Kanene as a new mother who ignores those who tell her, “You can’t bring a baby on tour!”

I think we should all follow in the footsteps of these women and all women who inspire in their own ways.

Eleanor Kennedy


Sonia O’Sullivan

The sun descended beneath the waves over my shoulder, but I hardly noticed. On the pier in Cobh with local legend Sonia O’Sullivan I spent hours learning about tenacity, perseverance, courage, and resilience. It was a standout interview as Sonia is so much more than just a former World Champion Athlete and Olympic Silver medallist – she is an inspirational figure for a nation which fell in love with her during the nineties and beyond. The regular image of her draped in the flag of her country brandishing a beaming smile reverberated across the globe and she represented the very best of Irish femininity – strong, courageous, graceful and humble.

Graham Clifford


Anne Frank

After reading The Diary of Anne Frank I began to believe that anything was possible with a little determination.

Living under such horrific and frightening circumstances was unimaginable for me, especially as a 13-year-old, but thanks to Anne I had a tiny glimpse into her world and saw how she continued to live each day with hope.

Anne’s famous quote “I want to go on living even after my death!” has always stuck with me.  With so little time and resources, she has managed to impact the world and has given us an insight into the great difficulties that she and many other Jews faced during World War 2. Anne is the reason I decided to go into Journalism and she will continue to inspire people for many more decades to come.

Emilee Jennings


Rachel Shenton

Trying to hear and be heard is a constant struggle when you’re living in a silent world. Creating awareness makes all the difference, and writer, actress, and deaf awareness advocate, Rachel Shenton, is doing just that.

Her film, A Silent Child, which won the Oscar for best live-action short film, shines a light on the communications barriers that deaf children face. Shenton received admiration when she gave her acceptance speech in British Sign Language (BSL) —fulfilling a promise to the film’s lead star who is profoundly deaf.

Shenton herself qualified as a BSL interpreter at the age of 12 after learning the language when her father went deaf.

As deafness is an often-overlooked area of diversity, it’s wonderfully refreshing to see women leading the way in raising awareness of a silent disability.

Erin Fox


Orla Guerin and Maura Keane

I wanted to be journalist from a young age and two women inspired me to do that: my English teacher Ms Keane and a then RTE correspondent Orla Guerin. The fire was lit when the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Orla Guerin’s riveting reports from across Eastern Europe were unmissable on the RTE News as the Soviet Union’s satellite states fell, one by one. I remember thinking how lucky she was to have a front row seat to witness history like this.

My English teacher Maura Keane also had a big influence – she gave me regular updates on her son Fergal, now the BBC’s Africa editor, but then a young journalist working in turbulent Northern Ireland. When I joined the Sunday Times in London in 1992, I met one of the world’s great war correspondents —the late Marie Colvin.

Ciaran Byrne


Image of Rachel Shenton signing her acceptance speech at the Oscars this year.