Major inspiration …a blog post in recognition of International Women’s Day 2018 by Eleanor Dearing

Posted on Thursday, March 8, 2018 by Nadio GranataNo comments


When makepositive re-launched the website last year, some of the leadership team were asked to consider who, for them, was the most inspirational leader and why.  Of the eight responses, only one names a female leader (although admittedly a humdinger, Anita Roddick). It got me thinking about how I’d answer.

I’ve finally settled on my old headmistress.  It sounds kind of strange, that an adult woman, working in tech, would consider a schoolmistress as an inspirational leader, but in this instance, you need to look a little deeper.  

In 2013, the BBC launched an annual series called 100 Women (, which examines the global issues and achievements of women in the 21st Century.  It was born out of the horrific gang rape in Delhi in 2012, and has covered a myriad of topics such as education, healthcare and of course, abuse.  The women chosen for the first series were selected by a survey in 26 languages for their various fields of endeavour or achievement.

Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that my headmistress would be chosen for this list due to her work in education, at a small girl’s school in the Somerset countryside.  But my headmistress was not your stereotypical headmistress or your stereotypical teacher. In fact, she probably wouldn’t recognise a stereotype if it stood directly in front of her.  

In 1986, Major Judith Webb retired from the army having made history as the first woman to command an all-male squadron.  When I went to Rossholme in 1994 she terrified me, and probably most of the others. I vividly remember being cast as the headmistress in a school play, awful for someone as shy as I was.  She shuffled into prayers one morning, head down, barely audible and reeled off the first few names on the register, before looking directly at me and saying, “That’s not a headmistress Eleanor!”

Fast-forward a (good) few years, and I am assessing her influence on me.  I work in a male-dominated industry, in a male-dominated company, running a male-dominated team.  Inside, I’m still painfully shy, but I can put on an act of confidence that’ll fool anyone. I walk into rooms like I think own them, I run meetings, training sessions or speak publicly without betraying my nerves (mostly) and stereotypes frequently baffle me.  I have an unconventional management style; I had an even less conventional teaching style (often involving pubs) and I have old school values: integrity, loyalty, courtesy and respect.

I look at the wonderful women at makepositive and I wonder who their most inspirational leader is?  Who helps them to push boundaries, challenge stereotypes, support each other, lead by example, and become the role models they are? 

Thanks Major Webb. But you still scare me!

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