Friday, March 31, 2017

BBC Radio Merseyside Presenter Ngunan Launches Not Just One Business, But Two! iWoman Media & iWoman Academy

There are some women who come along to us for support and end up becoming part of the family! Ngunan Adamu is one of those women, she’s such a regular here at The Women’s Organisation, that we’re considering asking her to move in! Ngunan received support from us to help her start her businesses; ‘iWoman Media’ and ‘iWoman Academy’.

iWoman Media, which has been funded by The Wellcome Trust, is an organisation aimed at the female global community using media to promote sisterhood and iWoman Academy is a radio training academy aimed at women using radio to empower and build confidence.

Ngunan told us; ‘iWoman Academy is a women’s only radio training academy where we use radio as a training and wellbeing tool for women. Maybe some of these women have lost their confidence, or been through a rough time in their lives, suffered mental illness or just need to get out the house. That’s the reason I set it up, so they could learn new skills and build a sisterhood at the same time.’

Ngunan started her first radio training course in September 2016, the course runs for 12 weeks, twice a week on a Monday and Tuesday from 10am-12pm and involves learning everything you need to know about the media industry, including; research skills, communication skills, editing skills etc. Ngunan says; ‘I’ve had such an amazing mixture of women from all over the world so that’s been great. We learn in an informal way, through activities, and we talk and talk a lot!’ The only eligibility for the programme is that you are a woman, living in Merseyside and that you’re unemployed and over 19.

Radio and the Media is Ngunan’s background and passion, so starting her own business doing this seemed the perfect next step. She has worked at the BBC for 11 years and is a trained journalist by profession, and started at the BBC when she was 25 after undertaking work experience as a runner at Manchester Entertainment. ‘I’d always wanted to do TV instead of Radio but my experience of it was so negative. It was aggressively competitive and I didn’t want to be like that or treat other people that way. So, I went into Radio instead.’

Starting off as a Runner, Ngunan quickly progressed and landed role after role within the industry becoming a Trainee Broadcast Assistant, undertaking outreach work and eventually having her own show on BBC Radio Merseyside; Upfront. ‘I’ve moved around a lot, I never wanted to stay in one place and when the opportunities have come I’ve said yes! But I always knew that I wanted to start my own business.’

After deciding that she wanted to start her own business that would help women, Ngunan returned to University for the second time and studied for a PGCE and got in touch with The Women’s Organisation to begin receiving support to help her start her business. Ngunan paired up with our Senior Business Adviser; Claire Pedersen and they’ve been working closely together on Ngunan’s business plan. ‘Working with Claire has been fantastic; I couldn’t have asked for a better adviser! When I met Claire, she made me strip my ideas right back to the very basics and got me to think about my market research and that has helped me and determined how things are going to run. It’s been incredible to have that support there and I don’t know what I would have done without it!’

As well as working with The Women’s Organisation, Ngunan has also been receiving support from The School for Social Entrepreneurs North West in partnership with Blackburne House. The support she has been receiving is under the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme which offers a fully funded year of learning, a mentor and a grant to help social entrepreneurs grow their project. ‘Working with both organisations has been really great. It’s helped me think a lot deeper about my business and they’ve complimented each other.’

Ngunan is now running her second cohort and has received an amazing response from the women who are taking part in it. The long-term aim is to get the iWoman radio station up and running so that there is an easy and clear route for the graduates to take. ‘I also want them to be able to get different employment opportunities, or even support them if they would like to return back into education or go to University. iWoman radio station should be launched next year in line with International Women’s Day.’

The future looks incredibly bright for Ngunan and her two businesses iWoman Academy and iWoman Media and we know that great things are in the pipeline supporting women to reach their full potentials. Ngunan’s advice to a woman in a similar situation who is thinking about starting a business? ‘If you’ve got an idea, no matter how small it is – go for it! We’re so privileged to have The Women’s Organisation to give you support and advice, so make sure you contact them!’

‘Starting up my own business has made me grow as a person and iWoman is about encouraging women to be confident in what they know and how they too can grow. I know that I’m not the best at every part of my business but I had the vision and passion to get it going. That’s what I would say to everyone, even if you’re not the best – go for it, if you’ve got the drive, you will succeed.’

If you’d like to find out more about iWoman you can check them out on Facebook and Twitter or email

And if you’ve been inspired by Ngunan’s story and would like support starting your own business, then get in touch with us! Email or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Training Coordinator Jenny Wallwork On Being 'Just A Mum'

Introducing the first in a new series of blogs from our team of Training Coordinators. We have been delighted to have expanded our training team and welcomed Jenny, Mandy and Alison to The WO family! 

These three will be out and about all over Liverpool City Region delivering different personal development programmes like Toolkit for Change and Change It

Also, they’ll be trying their hands at a bit of blogging, discussing the types of issues that they regularly discuss during their training.

First up is Jenny Wallwork and her blog ‘Just A Mum’

One of my passions in life is recognising and acknowledging the sheer hard work and skill of thousands of women who are forever saying when asked what they do for a living; ‘Well, nothing really. I’m just a Mum.’

I’ve engaged with so many women and had great joy in picking them up on the devaluation of their skills which often leads to humorous training sessions looking at the skills they have accomplished in becoming ‘Just a Mum.’

So, let’s take a look into the qualities and skills that Mums have…

From the moment, our little bundles come into the world, our lives change for ever. We develop amazing stamina as we negotiate a 24-hour on-call shift pattern, pacing the floor at all hours to get our little one to sleep. 

Our time management skills are taken to a different level, learning to get out of the house with a new born baby, having to be in so many places at one time, fitting in feeds on demand as well as numerous appointments, lasting throughout their teenage years. 

We never knew we had such strong organisational skills from planning breakfast, dinner and teas, playtime, washing and ironing, shopping, attending playgroups, parents’ evenings, birthday parties and numerous gatherings for mums to get together and console (support) each other! 

Our problem-solving skills reached perfection, queueing up at Toys R Us from the early hours for the latest Teletubby doll or Tracy Island, don’t ask me why, I thought it was the thing to do and created lifelong friends as we jumped up and down to keep warm, as well as finding the right batteries for the numerous electronic toys we got for Christmas.

We can budget and develop ways of saving when caught up in the 3 for 2 generation, ending up with reams of toilet rolls, paper towels and nappies. We become experts in sports and games and become good at role play, often becoming a climbing frame, donkey and any other animal that the kids want us to be.

Our juggling skills reach new levels; children, housework, work, friends, parents, partners, trying to keep everyone happy.

Negotiation and influencing skills become a must in any household, compromising on whether they want a red ball or a blue one, refereeing over friends coming over to play and wanting the same toy. These skills fiercely develop over the years to whether they go to bed at 7:30 or 9:00 or come in later at 9:00 or 10:00, meeting in the middle and walking away as though we had both won the contest. 

We become self-taught psychologists, as to what they are thinking and which move they will make next. As they become teenagers, we become full time taxi drivers, on call at all hours, ferrying them from Kate’s to Hannah’s and back again in the early hours. 

We become adepts at crisis management skills, you are the lynchpin of the family, keeping everyone in the loop, often taking on detective traits to find who is doing what, where and when.

Developing patience and resilience and tact, you never stop being a Mum. The skill set is endless and one that we should be proud to share.

So! In future when someone asks you, what do you do? Hold you head high and say you have a full time job, one that you are proud of, as a Mother and Manager of a very busy household. 

If you want to find out more about our new personal development programmes that Jenny and the team lead, you can read about them here and here! And check out this special blog where we interviewed Jenny and found out all about her! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Vanessa Boateng-Ukoro Took Her Passion For The Environment And Made It Into A Full-Time Career; UNOF Environmental Solutions Ltd

After starting her business with husband Felix in 2012, Vanessa came to The Women’s Organisation for business development under our growth programme; New Markets 2. Vanessa and Felix run their own environmental and waste management company; UNOF Environmental Solutions Limited. Their company is based in Liverpool, carrying out operations anywhere in the North West of England. Vanessa summarises her business as “Making people and businesses know waste is a resource but not a problem.”

“I decided to start my own company where my expertise would be unleashed to the best of my ability.”

Vaness, Co-Founder of UNOF Environmental Solutions Ltd. 
Ambition drove Vanessa to start up her own business as she had gained invaluable experience from her Master’s Degree and working in Environmental Management. Vanessa has always had a key interest in having sustainable communities. “I am always a goal getter, making sure I achieve my vision and not giving up.” For Vanessa, the key to her success has been her “Dedication and focusing on what you love.” Whilst Vanessa’s passion is an inspiration for us all, she tells us of her own role models; “My role models are businesses in Merseyside who promotes Environmental and waste management sustainability such as Veolia, Refood, Olleco etc.”

The Women’s Organisation supported Vanessa’s business to flourish and develop to its full potential. Janine Hyland, Senior Business Adviser at The Women’s Organisation, provided this. “Janine has been very supportive in giving us information and introducing us to other businesses.” Since starting up UNOF, their growth has been steady with both the customers and staff. The company has had recognition from the Eco-Innovatory project and Liverpool City Council on Food Waste Management in Merseyside.

Vanessa found herself juggling between her family and business life. Any problems faced, Vanessa dealt with; “It is good and at the same time tough running a business” Ultimately, Vanessa stresses to “Never give up but keep trying even in difficulties…There are challenges but never give up.” Her determination drove her to success, Vanessa overcame the initial complications of starting up her business but it has all paid off.

“Be innovative and creative.”

Upcoming events such as working alongside the Liverpool City Council as part of the food waste project is just one exciting aspect for Vanessa. As well as this, her business is soon to be working with the eco-innovatory project with Lancaster University. UNOF is growing and building up strong relationships across the North West.

Sustainable energy
What does the future hold for their business? Vanessa hopes to have an anaerobic digestion plant of her own where she can sustainably use the food waste we collect to generate electricity and other uses to sustain the environment.

If you’d like to find out more about UNOF Environmental Solutions or access the services that Vanessa offer, you can use the contact details below:

Telephone: 0151 345 8729

And if you’ve been inspired by Vanessa’s story and would like to see how The Women’s Organisation can help you with your business, get in touch with us. Email or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

From Helping Family And Friends To New Clients, Louise Tregenza Turned Her Passion Into A Business - Home...Sorted

When helping friends and family out with decluttering their homes, Louise discovered her passion for this. She has now developed it into her own business; Home…Sorted. Home…Sorted is an de-cluttering and organising service working across Wirral, Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales. Services include de-cluttering and organising all aspects of the home, home staging ready for selling and home styling. I believe everyone needs their own sanctuary where you can just kick off your shoes and chill.’

Before starting up her business, Louise worked part time as a teaching assistant in primary education. Louise has a Sociology degree from Liverpool John Moores University. Helping with decluttering, organising and styling for her family and friends is something Louise has always loved doing. ‘I adore all that embodies interiors.’ Louise wanted to set up her own business. ‘However, I then had my second daughter and focused on raising my daughters.

With her family and friends urging Louise to start her own business, she took the plunge and contacted The Women’s Organisation for support.  A friend had recommended the organisation and so Louise called and met with her business adviser, Claire Pedersen. ‘I felt very excited and nervous!’ Louise met regularly with Claire for guidance and attended several free courses on business plans, marketing and social media strategies.

There were no barriers for Louise during the process of starting up her business. Although, the social media aspect of her business was initially ‘So daunting’ for Louise. With the help of The Women’s Organisation courses in social media, Louise tackled her fear. For Louise, the courses were ‘Very informative.’

Whilst running your own business can be hard, having something that ‘Belongs to me’ outweighs any problems for Louise. The professional decluttering and organising is a niche industry, so there are some frantic times for Louise particularly in Spring and Christmas. 

However, ‘This suits me and my life.’ Setting your own schedule and flexibility is just another aspect of Louise’s business that she loves.  Being a mother, wife and business woman can be a challenge. Louise works three days with her clients and delegates a day for admin, networking, marketing, etc. Her flexible schedule allows her to balance out her family and business life. And Louise is proud that; ‘Above all is I am able to help and advise my clients who are experiencing different life changes i.e. moving house, divorcing, etc.’

 Home…Sorted will have been running for a year in April and Louise is delighted with how far she has come; ‘I am so glad at this stage of my life I am embracing what I want to do and have always wanted to do.’

Louise’s advice for anyone thinking of starting up a business is to, ‘Go straight to The Women’s Organisation for advice and support, get networking and if you have a passion for something, go for it!’

'Remember, it’s never too late to do what you want to do …go for it!’

To find out more about Louise’s business, you can find out more using the details below:

Telephone: 07557056009

And if you have a passion that you would like to turn into a thriving business, like Louise, then why not get in contact with The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 or email

Monday, March 13, 2017

An Inspiring International Women’s Day With The W.O! 💪

Wow! Wednesday was officially brilliant! Firstly we’d just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who got involved with all that we were up to on our favourite day of the year…International Women’s Day! Here’s what we got up to…

During the day, amidst all of the excitement that we were witnessing on social media, we had our own fun in the offices and asked the team what they ‘Be Bold For’ honouring IWD17’s campaign hashtag for the year. We had some great responses including ‘I will be bold for empowering and inspiring women’ and ‘I will be bold for others who can’t’ Check out the rest over on our Instagram!

We also joined the Women’s Equality Party on the steps of St George’s Hall to clutch a ‘big cheque’ made out for £23.7 billion to the ‘North West Economy’ – which represented the amount that could be added to the region’s economy if women were able to work the hours they wanted to, at the same rate of pay as men. Take a look at what Tabitha Morton, the Women’s Equality Party candidate for Liverpool’s Metro Mayor has to say on this issue here.

Elsewhere, some of the team were out representing the The W.O around the city. Our trainer, Alison Blackhurst, headed over to commercial law firm, DWF to speak on 2017's International Women's Day theme, be bold for change! The Women's Organisation were pleased to recently become recipients of a DWF Foundation grant to widen women's participation in enterprising activity in the city region, and this event helped to launch the programme for the coming year which will see a range of industry specific workshops offered to those thinking about starting a business.

Alison hosted a proactive discussion to think about what it means to be bold and just how exactly we can be bold. Following this, DWF made a 'bold wall' where students could make their pledges for the future, pledges included;

"I am going to try and battle my anxiety with a councillor"
"I want to use my social media to spread positivity and challenge inequality"  
"Learn how to drive a car to give me better opportunities"
"I am going to qualify as a solicitor"
"Get a teacher degree"
"Do volunteer work"
"become more confident"

Feedback included "You were so inspiring and the interactive element definitely helped!" and "it was lovely to see the girls engaging and putting up some really personal and admirable goals onto the bold action wall!" - Thank you to DWF for hosting us! 

And in the evening – it was our big event! We were looking forward to welcoming over 50 women to 54 St James Street to celebrate International Women’s Day and hear from a panel of inspiring women. The event was fantastic, the panel (Irene Afful, Helen Lord and Rebecca Jones) shared with us their stories of success and were honest and open about the difficulties that they had faced and how they overcame them. Our host; Pamela Ball was incredible as usual and it a great discussion opened up.

Bernie Cox, Caroline Mitchell from UoL, Pamela Ball and Rebecca Jones

A full room of amazing women! 

Rebecca Jones, Helen Lord and Irene Afful

We had some fantastic feedback too!

‘It’s so amazing to be surrounded by so many inspiring women. You can feel the positivity in the room. Thank you The Women’s Org!’

‘It was my first time at The Women’s Organisation and I’ve got to say the enthusiasm, confidence and vibe in the room was amazing. Great things happen when the right people get together.’

‘What an inspiring evening! Couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate International Women’s Day, than here at The Women’s Org.’

So overall, what a success! We always do have a fantastic time on International Women’s Day, but this year felt particularly special and important! 

We’d like to say a massive thank you to our event sponsors; University of Liverpool Management School, our panel and host and everyone who joined us to celebrate – You’re all fantastic!

Monday, March 6, 2017

From Success To Success; Three Years On From WO Support; Georgie Moore Has Opened Her Own Shop - Liverpool Gift Gallery

The growth from 2013 to 2016 for Georgie Moore’s business is an inspiring and astounding story. Back in 2013, Georgie came to The Women’s Organisation with the goal to start her own business. We interviewed Georgie back then (read the interview here) and her moving story reached out to many other women. Following the sad loss of her brother and father, she felt this was the time “Where the idea for my business stemmed from, wanting to help people as well as helping myself.”

Georgie contacted The Women’s Organisation for support on starting up her business. “The help was invaluable and my adviser really gave me some confidence back.” 3 years on from this first meeting, Georgie is back!

With our support Georgie set up ‘We Write for You’, a writing service offering a wide range of individual and business services, based on needs. This service will help with letters, eulogies, speeches, complaints, memoirs, CV’s business plans and form filling.  For a business Georgie’s aim is to particularly support local businesses who need administration support such as letters, help with meetings, events, minutes, agenda, action plan, QMS systems (Quality Management), tenders, bid writing, presentations, website content, report writing and business plans.

Then from her business of writing Georgie developed her own range of Liverpool Gifts that she was selling to local independent shops, but soon found herself wanting her own shop in her own community, which led to Liverpool Gift Gallery!

In November 2016, Georgie opened the doors to her new business, Liverpool Gift Gallery, a Art and Gift Shop stocking design-led products from local independent artists, designers and makers.” Her business features the work of more than thirty Merseyside artists, makers and designers. Georgie says that “the response has been remarkable and has already exceeded my hopes for the business.” The local community have been “incredibly supportive and have helped us to attract attention from much further afield via social media and word of mouth.”Georgie has utilised social media for her business that has contributed to the success of her new shop.

For Georgie there was an absence of a local shop where she could buy the unique and creative cards, gifts and artwork that she now has been able to sell. The opening of her shop has brightened up the local community. The artists have put their faith in Georgie to deliver a quality service which has allowed her to bring “high quality, affordable artworks and products to a lovely part of the City.” The high quality artwork has been extremely successful in attracting customers.

“The gift gallery has proved a welcome addition to the independent businesses in the Village.”

Georgie told us in 2013 that I’ve got my zest and enthusiasm back, a bounce in my step and I’m going to keep plugging away.” Since then, she has kept “plugging away” and is continually growing and developing as a successful business woman.

To find out more about Georgie’s business, you can find Liverpool Gift Gallery at 66A Mill Lane, West Derby, L12 7JB with contact and social media details below:

Telephone: 0151 226 1996
Website: – COMING SOON

If you have a passion that you would like to turn into a thriving business, like Georgie, then why not get in contact with The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 or email

Friday, March 3, 2017

Jenny Donoghue Took Her Love For Dogs That Step Further When She Set Up Her Business; Paws For Adventure

Jenny Donoghue had always loved pets and after previously attempting to start up her own business, she was not defeated. In 2016, Jenny pursued her dream career in the dog walking industry. Paws For Adventure provides dog walking, pet/house setting and pop in visits for owners who work or are away from home. Every day is an adventure, and every dog deserves to enjoy their day.’ After recently focusing on her business in January 2017, things are going exceedingly well for Jenny.

Before taking the plunge into her business, Jenny previously worked in various retail jobs.  She worked within the pet retail sector for 8 years and then became employed at The Works where she was for 5 years. It was the sad loss of her dog, Molly, in May 2016 which was a ‘Kick Starter’ for Jenny to follow her dreams. In October 2016, Jenny reduced her works hours, going from 27 hours down to 10, ‘to allow more time to focus on my business.’ It was then in the new year that Jenny decided to hand in her notice at work; ‘Scariest thing ever!’

Prior to this, Jenny had attempted to start up her own business but unfortunately, things didn’t work out. Jenny came across The Women’s Organisation through Halton Borough Council’s website where she received advice and support from Senior Business Advisor, Mike Marsden. After her meeting with Mike discussing her business idea, Jenny says; ‘I came out of the meeting on cloud 9.’ The Women’s Organisation were able to give Jenny guidance which at first seemed daunting, but ‘It all added to the confidence boost I needed.’ As well as this, Jenny attended our training courses with Bernie; Planning for Success and Building a Social Media Strategy. The support given gave her that confidence boost she had longed for.

The WO gave me the confidence to go forward and pursue my dream.’

During the process of setting up her business, Jenny learnt to juggle her social life and work life. Being a family orientated person whilst running a business meant Jenny would often have to sacrifice time with family and friends for clients. Jenny is learning to find that right balance. ‘You have to try and be disciplined with yourself, and say in an average month I will have X amount of time to myself.’

Since starting her business, Jenny’s initial fear and lack of confidence no longer stands in the way of her success. Jenny tells us of her achievements so far, ‘I took my first pet sitting booking for 2018 and the calendar for this year is busy- March, May, September and October are all fully booked.’

Being in control and setting your own schedule is just one of the many aspects of running your own business that Jenny enjoys. ‘I love that I don’t have a set routine… I’m not restricted to 9-6 within 4 walls.’ The ability to work in the industry that you are so passionate about is another reason why Jenny loves her job. Despite her part time employment, Jenny has always had a love for animals. ‘I love dogs, so watching them enjoy their walking adventures is a dream come true for me.’

Jenny’s advice for anybody thinking of starting their own business is to ‘Get advice from someone like The Women's Organisation. There are companies out there who will give you advice but because The Women's Organisation are a charity and have helped lots of people at different stages of starting their business, they cover a wider spectrum.’ And most importantly Jenny says, ‘Have faith in yourself, if you believe that you can make it a success then the positives outweigh the negatives.’

What does the future hold for Jenny? In terms of her business, she says ‘I just hope to continue to grow, to have lots of happy dog walking customers.’

If you’d like to find out more Paws For Adventure or access the services that Jenny offers, you can use the contact details below!

Phone Number: 07752449981

And if you’ve been inspired by Jen’s story and would like to see how The Women’s Organisation can help you with your business idea, get in touch with us. Email or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

International Women's Day EXCLUSIVE: An Interview With Opinion Editor of The Guardian, Kira Cochrane 💪 📚

In our office, March means one thing only ... International Women's Day! Never one for half measures, we're kicking off our International Women's Day celebrations now, starting with an exclusive interview with Opinion Editor of The Guardian, Kira Cochrane. 

At the Women’s Organisation, reaching out to women and sharing their stories and knowledge is a large part of what we do. It’s also what Opinion Editor of the Guardian Newspaper, Kira Cochrane has been doing in the research and development of her new book.

Modern Women: 52 Pioneers, Kira celebrates fifty-two ground-breaking women, from all walks of life, who have changed the world through their lives, work and actions.

Among Kira’s fifty-two pioneering women are activists and artists, directors and athletes, suffragettes and scientists, politicians and pilots and more. Together they form a collection of influential and inspiring women who have paved the way for change and equality in their own indomitable way.

We were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy, and we think that it is an incredibly inspiring book. Kira profiles fifty-two pioneering women, who have led and inspired revolutionary change for women through relentless endeavour. Our philosophy is that it’s important for women to inspire women, it can be difficult to identify role models, but Modern Women: 52 Pioneers has someone for everyone.

Kira took it upon herself to shine a spotlight on fifty-two incredible women, we were lucky enough to shine the spotlight back on Kira. Previously the Women’s Editor of The Guardian, author of novels The Naked Season and Escape Routes for Beginners, as well as writing the short book All the Rebel Women: An Account of the Fourth Wave of Feminism, we think that Kira Cochrane is a modern pioneer in her own right.

We spoke to Kira about her life, her work, her career and of course, her new book. In fact, we will actually be giving out some free copies over the coming weeks. Keep posted with our Facebook and Twitter pages to be in with a chance.

Kira’s book is out Thursday 2nd of March and available for order NOW – you can grab your copy here.

1) When did you become interested in women’s issues?

I was brought up by a single mother, who was widowed when I was two, and my other major influence as a child was my paternal grandmother, who had also been widowed in her thirties. They were both immensely, ferociously capable women, who had left school in their mid-teens, and lived through very difficult circumstances (my grandmother buried her husband, her first son, and her first grandson, my brother, who was run over when he was eight). So when I realised, probably at the age of about eight or nine, that some people considered women less intelligent or able than men - in any respect weaker - this seemed ludicrous.

Then, when I was in my mid-teens, one of my teachers gave me the book Eve Was Framed, by the barrister Helena Kennedy. It concerns sexism within the British legal system, and was the first proper feminist book I’d read - it prompted me to start reading much more widely, and while studying at Sussex University, I worked my way through their collection of feminist books.

2) Can you tell us a bit about your working background and how you ended up where you are now?

I wasn’t sure what to do after university - I was interested in being a writer and journalist, but was more drawn to the features side than the news side. One day I heard a radio ad for a new course at Brighton College of Technology, in magazine journalism, and decided to apply. It was a difficult year - I was completely broke, living in a slug-infested bedsit, working every second I wasn’t at college in a call centre, and running a cafe at a water sports centre (I did a lot of temporary jobs to get me through university, from working in a toilet duck factory to night cleaning in Primark).

I also did as much work experience as I could that year - my mother lives in Essex, just outside London, so I was lucky to be able to stay with her while doing these short stints. This confirmed for me that I didn’t want to work for a women’s magazine, but that I’d love to work for a newspaper (I think work experience might be even more important as a guide to what you don’t want to do, as to what you do want to do, and it had made me realise that I preferred the pace of a weekly or daily publication to a monthly one). When my college course came to an end, I decided to try freelancing, but I was nervous about it - I knew that you could pitch a piece in the morning, and, if you were fortunate enough to be commissioned, you might be asked to file the piece within two hours. Those tiny time frames terrified me, so I decided to send out my CV to all the specific newspaper sections that I’d like to work for, with a covering letter asking if they had any research projects they needed help with.

My CV ended up on the desk of Eleanor Mills, who was acting editor of the News Review section of The Sunday Times, and she and the permanent editor there, Sarah Baxter, were looking for an assistant for the section - within a few months of arriving, the staff member who was one step above me had left, and I took over her job, and was soon writing and editing pieces. I stayed there for a year and a half, before getting a book deal for two novels. It made me realise how important it is to put yourself out there, in a straightforward and professional way.

3) Do you have a particular career-highlight so far?

I love my job at the moment as Opinion editor of the Guardian, alongside my co-editor Katherine Butler - the Opinion desk is peopled with brilliant, funny, clever, inspiring writers and editors, so it’s a privilege to go into work each day. But prior to this, my stand out job was as Women’s editor of the Guardian. It was my dream job, and when Katharine Viner - now the editor of the paper, and then editor of the features section, G2 - rang me to say I’d got it, I remember running around my house, whooping with happiness.

4) Your new book, Modern Women: 52 Pioneers, is out detailing 52 pioneering women – what makes a woman pioneering?

My criteria for choosing the women in the book was that they had to be those who had helped build a more feminist and equal world; those who embody what we would now think of as modern and progressive values. They’re women who opened up the world for the women who came after them, whether that was the cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becoming the first woman in space, at a time when there were genuine questions about whether a woman’s body could withstand this; or Jayaben Desai, leading the Grunwick strike, and protesting for the rights of migrant workers.

There’s a quote in the book from Maya Angelou - “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently” - and I think bravery (as distinct from fearlessness) is what defines all these women. It’s what enabled Sophie Scholl to speak out against the Nazis in Germany; Miriam Makeba to oppose apartheid in South Africa; Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon to organise for gay rights in the US at a time when this was seriously dangerous. So in answer to the question of what makes a woman pioneering, courage is it, every time.

Maya Angelou - Writer & Teacher
5) At The Women’s Organisation, we’re celebrating 21 years of women’s economic empowerment across Merseyside and having impacted the lives of over 50,000 women. As part of our celebrations, we have been identifying female thought leaders across the city to celebrate their success. Why do you think it’s important to identify inspirational, empowering and pioneering women and put them on a pedestal?

There’s that quote from the US activist Marian Wright Edelman, “you can’t be what you can’t see”. When we think about the idea of entitlement, there’s clearly a huge confidence that some people have - mainly white, heterosexual, middle and upper middle class men - which is based on the fact that they’re able to look at the highest echelons of power, and, beyond that, at a huge range of appealing careers, and see themselves reflected back. They know they belong there, because they can see it. For women, and especially women of colour, LGBT women, and working class women, they’re far less represented in the public eye. I don’t think that elevating a few women solves this problem, but I do think that highlighting the stories of women who have succeeded on their own terms, in a huge variety of areas - activists, artists, writers, scientists - can help open up possibilities, and provide partial road maps.

6) Who is your ultimate pioneering woman and a standout from your book – the first woman you knew had to be in it?

There are so many women in there who I feel passionate about, from the writer and activist Audre Lorde to artists Frida Kahlo and Ana Mendieta; musician Nina Simone; writer and journalist Jan Morris; the peace campaigner Leymah Gbowee; environmentalist Wangari Maathai; abolitionist Harriet Tubman; and the extraordinary Ida B Wells, the first woman to own and edit a black newspaper in the US, a newspaper in which she began a campaign against lynching which made her famous.

One of the women whose story affected me most was Lee Miller, the US photojournalist. She survived being raped as a child, and went on to become a model for the surrealists, and a well-known portrait photographer. In the second world war, she was the only female photojournalist to see combat, and she was one of the first to reach Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, to record the human horror. She told her biographer, Carolyn Burke, in 1977, “I got in over my head. I could never get the stench of Dachau out of my nostrils” and suffered what seems to have been post-traumatic stress disorder after the war. Her work clearly took a huge toll on her, but she did it anyway, she bore witness with phenomenal resolve, and after her death more than 60,000 photographs and negatives were found in her attic.

Lee Miller - Photojournalist
“7) I have read your book ‘All the Rebel Women: the fourth wave of feminism’, and to me, this book demonstrated how technology has acted as a driving force behind modern feminism in creating online communities, raising awareness and organising offline-action. This book was written nearly 4 years ago, but does it seem even more relevant given what’s going on in the world today”

I think we’re seeing a huge energy in the feminist movement at the moment - which is a reaction to a world which, in the last year, in many ways seems to have taken quite a few steps back. I’m not sure technology is the driving force, but it is a force that enables people to organise in a way that’s hugely necessary and important.

8) You touch on arguments surrounding whether we’re becoming complacent with retweeting, sharing, signing petitions but not actually doing anything – ‘clicktivists’, ‘slacktivists’ as they’re referred to. January saw nearly 5 million women take to the streets off the back of online organisation and conversation. Do you think there is still power in the internet as a means for real social change? 

The internet is just a starting point, I think - it’s a brilliant organising tool, and without it it’s hard to imagine such an extraordinary mass mobilisation as the women’s march taking place. That march was organised in the space of just a few months, and along with the March on Washington, there were more than 600 marches in solidarity around the world. The internet was a powerful part of that movement. But it’s also really important that - as with the march itself - activism takes place beyond the web, beyond Twitter and Facebook, that we’re organising in our communities, that we work to protect essential services such as rape crisis centres and refuges for those escaping domestic violence, and that we’re meeting in real life to discuss what needs to happen next.

9) The Suffragettes began campaigning over a 100 years ago and we’re currently in the fourth wave of feminism, and although we’re moving in the right direction, there is still a long way to go. You say in your book that over the past few decades more and more feminist campaigners have dedicated themselves to highlighting women’s issues, which is what we as The Women’s Organisation do, and you as a women’s writer – do you think if we just keep doing what we do and make our voices heard, fourth-wave feminism can change the world? 

Feminism has already changed the world, and I think today’s activists will continue to do so. What is more obvious than ever, right now, is the fact that progress isn’t always linear, and that it’s not enough for an advance to be made - we then have to fight to make sure it’s protected, that it isn’t rolled back. As the saying goes: “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

10) So your new book, Modern Women: 52 Pioneers, is out and available for pre-order, what’s next from here?

There’s a novel that I’ve been planning, but I don’t want to say more than that!

11) And as a final note, it’s our 21st birthday and our mission over the past 21 years has been to make a positive impact on the lives of women by reaching out and enhancing their role in their own lives, whether that be in the local communities, in business or in the wider world. Is there anything you would like to say to us, or organisations like us that continue this fight for equality?

Keep going! And have courage! It might not always seem like it, but I’m pretty sure the arc of history will bend in your favour.

This was one of our favourite interviews to date! A huge thank you to Kira Cochrane and her team.