Happy International Women’s Day (IWD). Celebrated throughout the world on 8th March commenorating the movement for women’s rights. This year the theme for IWD is #pressforchange. With global activism for women’s equality finally getting the coverage it deserves which has been fuelled by movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, there has never been a more pressing time for change for women. Indeed the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report notes that gender parity is some 200 years away!
While us women still have a way to go for equality, there are some women making changes and challenging the role of women now. They are also paving the way for other women to follow. One group of inspirational women doing just that is the Ice Maidens. The British Army’s ‘Ice Maiden’ Expedition has become the first all-female team to cross the Antarctica continent from coast-to-coast using muscle power alone.
Over 62 days on the ice, the team travelled up to 43 kilometres a day, navigating crevasse fields whilst pulling sledges weighing up to 80kg and battling temperatures as low as -40°C. The idea for the expedition was to inspire women of all ages and abilities.
I am delighted that one of the Ice Maiden’s – Sophie Montagne – took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions regarding her recent challenge. I hope she inspires you as much as she and the rest of the Ice Maidens have me. Remember to connect with Sophie below on social media and her blog.
What was your motivation for wanting to take part in the Ice Maiden challenge?
I wanted to escape my desk job, I felt bored and unfulfilled, frustrated with mundane life and I desperately wanted to see Antarctica – a totally unique landscape. I wanted to do something physically and mentally challenging that I would remember for the rest of my life and see if by sharing my experiences I could inspire others to take up a challenge and have the determination to see it through.
What were the positives of taking part?
So many, it’s changed my life! But the main thing was the incredible sense of team work and belonging that I had with my 5 team mates. I’ve never met such strong and inspiring women and, although we didn’t know each other before Ice Maiden, by the end I could read them better than my oldest friends. Knowing exactly how to cheer each other up when we were feeling down, or how to motivate each other when we were having a tough day was what made our expedition such a success.
What made you smile during the challenge?
My team mate Jenni – she was always dancing on her skis, singing along to Celine Dion and causing mischief and she always, always made me laugh. She’s morale on tap!
What challenges did you face during your trek?
We had temperatures as low as -56 degrees Celsius and a storm with 100kph wind that kept us trapped in our tents for 2 days. There was also the risk of falling into a crevasse and, if we were injured, help was a very long way away. Most of all though, it was the endurance – we skied 1,704km from one side of the continent to the other which meant 10 hours of skiing every day for 61 days. That was exhausting and I can safely say that every part of my body hurt!
What did you learn about yourself during and after the challenge?
I learned that I have a lot to give a team, that I’m very easy-going, very positive and a good listener. I also discovered a new confidence – we went from zero polar experience to completing an unguided and unsupported Antarctic crossing. Before us, more people had been to the moon than done that, so I feel that I’ve achieved something really unique.
What women inspire you?
Clare Balding is such an awesome role model (and I would love her job!). She is so warm, every generation love her, and she is knowledgeable, successful and pioneering, but with great humility. She has quietly become a national treasure and nobody has a bad word to say about her.
If you could give other women 3 pieces of advice, in terms of facing challenges, what would that advice be?
- Break your challenge down into manageable chunks. If it’s huge it can seem overwhelming at the start so set short term goals that will give you confidence and a sense of achievement as you go along. This will help build the motivation to reach that ultimate goal.
- Sign up! If you don’t put your name into the hat nobody is going to pick you. When I applied for Ice Maiden, along with 250 others, I never dreamed that I had what it takes to make the final team. I thought I’d enjoy the ride until somebody told me to get off the train…and then I found myself in Antarctica! Don’t rule yourself out of a challenge before it’s even begun.
- Don’t let people put you off. I’m an optimist and people are always trying to stamp on my dreams! It takes a lot of strength to ignore the doubters and keep believing in your goal, despite the many hardships and setbacks along the way. Never, ever give up because the planning is always the hardest part.
I also asked some bloggers who inspired them and this is what they told me:
Vicky from Millie Beach Huts is inspired by Dr Kate Granger, young doctor with a passion for patient care. At just 29, Dr Granger was diagnosed with cancer. As a terminally ill cancer patient, she had been informed she may only live for another 14 months. But over the five years post her initial diagnosis, Dr Granger achieved so much. I’ve been humbled and blown away by the courage, pride, commitment, love and dedication she has shown to us all at her most vulnerable times.
Chloe from Marble Beauty is inspired by Otegha Uwagba who founded Women Who which is a community for creative, working women Her ‘Little Black Book’ motivates me to work as hard as I can, to build a business for myself!
Catalina from Stylish Confidence is inspired by Mihaela Noroc founder of Atlas of Beauty. In a world that cares too much about appearance, Mihaela demonstrates we should forget about set standards.
Kate from Ever After with Kids has been inspired by Rose Mcgowen and the countless other women speaking out and standing up against sexual harassment – so brave to put themselves out there and face torrents of abuse and name calling – but paving the way for a better future for our daughters.
Marie from Restless Soul Adventures is inspired by Katherine Johnson and the many other African-American female mathematicians who worked at NASA in the sixties. Being a techie myself, I see these women as true pioneers for women in technology.
Lucie from Call Me Dumpling is inspired by the author and journalist Xinran. In the 90s she had a radio programme in China, documenting the stories of womenpost Cultural Revolution; she later wrote a book based on the lives and experiences of the women she’d encountered on her show. She touches on topics like the one child policy, gender hierarchy, and the lost daughters of China in her novels.
Mel from Raise the Waves is inspired by Claudette Colvin. In March 1955 (9 months before Rosa Parks did the same thing) then 15-year-old Claudette refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. She was arrested and convicted of violating segregation laws, disturbing the peace and assault. To have that kind of courage, not only as a teenager but as a black teenager during an extremely racist time in the US, is inspiring and motivating.
Other blog posts in Why She Inspires Me Series
Why B from Boost My Budget Inspires Me
Why Becky from Cuddle Fairy Inspires Me
Why Sarah from Life in a Breakdown Inspires Me
Why Emma from EmmaDrew Inspires Me
Why Gwennan from Twentsomethingmeltdown Inspires Me
Why Francesca from Pennies to Pounds Inspires Me
Why Laura from Mum On A Mission Inspires Me
Why Katy from Katy Kicker Inspires Me
Why Jenna from A Balanced Belly Inspires Me
Why Jordanne from The Life of A Glasgow Girl Inspires Me
Why Michelle from Making Sense of Cents Inspires Me
Why Victoria from Lylia Rose Inspires Me
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