Inspiring women in fashion: Out and about with Miriam Gonzalez Durantez

We’ve occasionally covered Miriam Gonzalez Durantez’s Inspiring Women campaign. This week the Guardian covered an event which was dedicated to talking to girls about careers in the fashion industry.

Groups of eight students grill each of the women in turn. Leila, 14, who wants to be a journalist, dives straight in and asks Gonzalez Durantez: “Is your job more challenging fun or a fun challenge?”, “Where would you be now if you weren’t here?” and “What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?” On Daisy Lowe’s table, the atmosphere is giddy. “How tall are you?” asks one girl. “Are you a feminist?” poses another. And then, crucially, “Do you know Cara Delevingne?”

Many of the students are deadly serious and focused, pumping the women for information about their big breaks in the industry, asking whether a university degree is necessary in fashion and wondering how one can have a high-flying career and a family – a subject Gonzalez Durantez knows well. “I always get a lot of questions [from students] when I tell them that, when we came to the UK, I decided to give up my job to ensure that my family was in the same country,” says Gonzalez Durantez. “I think it’s important for them to see that [you don’t have to be] a ‘hard professional woman’ or a ‘family woman’, it’s a combination of things.”

I liked this example of the immediate effect of going to an event like that – and also Miriam’s longer term aims:

This is not a precise science. For Gonzalez Durantez, it’s about the students having the opportunity to meet someone or hear something that they will think back on when they are stretched, at key moments in their life. For some, she hopes, the benefits will come even more quickly. “One girl approached me today and said: ‘I thought about what you said and I am going to try hard,’ and promised to read more books this term. And I thought – yes!”

I think we need to think carefully about how we can build on Miriam’s work. You don’t even have to be there in person. All I know is that way back in the Autumn of 1981, I heard Shirley Willians say on the news that sometimes you had to take risks, to scale unscaleable heights for what you believed in when she announced her intention to stand in the Crosby by-election. The flame she helped to light has stayed with me all my life.

She was the first in a very long line of inspiring political women who have kept my spirits up and motivated me over more than three decades.

Who was your first inspiration?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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