International Women's Day 2015: Maybe I'm amazed at the wonder of women

Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels

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The Independent Online

It is quite often on a spring day like today that I get to thinking: “Aren’t women amazing!”. I thought it recently during a reunion with some brilliant old pals from New Hall, a women’s college at Cambridge whose symbol is a dolphin because they are friendly and hang out in schools. I remember thinking it when I visited Uganda with the charity Emerge Poverty Free, and heard girls talking about the new and previously unimaginable privilege of going to school. I think it every year at the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, where female authors from all over the world chat and support and admire each other, not a literary feud in sight. And I thought it again recently when I went to the screening of a short film starring Catherine Spencer – an evening that skilfully combined adventure, charity, music and beer.

Spencer is best known – though not nearly well known enough – as a former captain of the England women’s rugby team, who was capped for her country 63 times. When I interviewed her for this paper in 2010, she said: “Often other countries we play [she means beat] will say, ‘You know, you’re all professionals’. Well actually, we’re not professionals, but I quite like it that people think we are. We play with a professional outlook. We’re just not paid.” In the same way that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels, you see, the women’s team did everything the men did but more successfully and while working full-time. Like I said, women are amazing.

Since Spencer retired in 2011, she has been a rugby pundit on television and in print, set up her own company called Inspiring Women, which provides companies with inspirational speakers, mentors and ambassadors, and recently climbed two mountains higher than 4,000 metres in less than 48 hours. Then she had breakfast….

Actually, she climbed the mountains with the adventure lifestyle company Endure, 10 per cent of whose profits support a charity foundation with six beneficiaries each year. One of this year’s is a collective of female farmers in Nepal. (They’re amazing, of course.) Endure also makes beer, and its new IPA is proving very popular with women, I’m told. Its label, which isn’t pink, says, “Achieved by greatness; earned by heroes”, and I definitely felt more heroic while drinking it. A trailer of Valeur – An Endure Motion Picture is on YouTube.

Today, I will go for a run around my neighbourhood: past the local curry place, which I first found when it was managed by a brilliant and inspiring woman; on to the local park, where other women will be celebrating our amazing bodies that can run, play football, fly a kite…; and then under a mimosa tree in flower, the symbol  in some countries for International Women’s Day, which is today. Happy day, women everywhere. I hope you spend yours being amazing.