THE BLOG

Theresa's Child - Women Who Inspire Me: Part One

19/01/2017 12:18

When people talk about role models, they're overwhelmingly the same gender as themselves; it's also common to hear women, particularly in industries with few senior women, cite men whose successes they want to repeat or whose values struck a chord with them.

It's less common to hear men discussing the women who made them who they are; women they respect, whose characteristics they want to cultivate in themselves. Whatever the reasons, these stories deserve to be told - and what better way than leading by example? Over the next few months I'll be writing about women in my life who made me who I am today.

And who better to start with but the first woman I set eyes on?

Theresa Andrews

As a future City trainee lawyer, I've found people make assumptions (always innocently) about your background and parents - they must be well off, from middle or (more commonly) upper-middle-class backgrounds. I doubt any would jump to the assumption that my mum was born on a council estate, the daughter of a teenage mother. But that's because she didn't let her origins define where she was going to end up.

She came up against a lot of people who told her she wouldn't achieve because she wasn't from the right family; didn't have the right connections; didn't go to the right school (Pimlico Comprehensive, to be precise); went to work after sixth form, not university; wasn't a man. But she worked her way up to become a LSE administrator. She now works as a consultant helping children with special needs in a London school, as one of the most knowledgeable people in the field - knowledge which, according to people who think elite higher education is everything, she shouldn't have.

More than that, however, she knew the importance of emotional bonds; of showing others you understand and trust them, as this was the only way to get others to understand and trust you. She didn't look for quick-fix solutions, or neglect to put time and effort in when needed. She often says she never expected to have children when she was young - and as someone who is a brilliant mother precisely because she is so many other things too, on one level that doesn't surprise me. I'm glad she did, though, and not just because I like being alive. There was - there is - something special about being Theresa's child.

Being Theresa's child meant never feeling inadequate, or held back, by your characteristics or background. It wasn't about where you came from, but where you were going.

Being Theresa's child meant growing up in the presence of a strong-willed, entrepreneurial woman for whom kindness and compassion were virtues to be proud of, not weaknesses to be hidden. It made viewing women as in any way less capable than men quite frankly impossible.

Being Theresa's child meant having a mum who was more than a mum; never boxed in by quaint, proscriptive roles; a daughter, sister, wife too, but an individual first and foremost.

Being Theresa's child meant knowing you would never stop being loved.

Being Theresa's child meant learning from a woman who was sometimes hot-headed, but always hard-headed, who was prepared to take criticism and defy what seemed popular to think long term.

Being Theresa's child meant seeing the talents in everyone, rather than dividing people by academic intelligence as though that were a perfect judge of personality, resilience or graft.

Being Theresa's child meant recognising that being successful in itself wasn't enough; that you should use your power or responsibility to change things for the better for others - both those who were like you and those who weren't.

It still means all those things - and many more.

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