The 8th of March is International Women’s Day (IWD), the purpose of which is to raise awareness around the economic, political, social, and cultural issues that women encounter daily, and to support the advancement of women within these spheres. It’s a day on which we celebrate women’s achievements. The history of IWD goes back over a hundred years to 1911 and was first celebrated on March 19. On that day a million women and men gathered in support of women’s rights, an idea originally inspired by America’s National Women’s Day, which was first celebrated on February 28, 1909.
Originally called International Working Women’s Day, and very focused on the rights of working women, the movement evolved to become International Women’s Day when the United Nations officially got behind the annual honouring of women’s rights in 1977. Over the course of its history the movement has rallied again and again to showcase female solidarity, at times even leading to revolutions, as was the case in Russia back in 1917 when women rallied from February 23 to March 8, providing a major catalyst that would eventually lead to the toppling of the Czar.
International Women’s Day is often used to bring attention to women who’ve served as major proponents of their gender; leaders, thinkers and doers who have contributed significantly to the cause of women and continue to do so. At Cambridge Mask Co, we’ve taken great measures to honour women, as seen in some of the designs we’ve created over the years paying homage to past female heroes like Florence Nightingale and Anna Atkins. But we’re also about honouring women who are making inroads right now as we speak, women who are engineering real change within the span of their talents so that others can experience better lives. And so it is with great honour, that on this International Women’s Day, Cambridge Mask Co has been able to reach out to Professor Dame Sally Davies and for some valuable insights.
Professor Dame Sally Davies
Professor Dame Sally Davies is UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and is an ardent advocator thereof. On the subject of AMR, she has given talks at several events, including the G8 science ministers meeting, the UN General Assembly, and the World Health Assembly as well as at the World Antimicrobial Awareness Exhibition in Geneva last November where Cambridge Mask Co sponsored the event with custom AMR face masks. Her dedication to creating awareness around AMR, epitomised by the “One Health” approach, an approach that is of paramount importance in getting countries and organisations to collaborate in combatting AMR, is incredibly inspiring. Cambridge Mask is proud to be able to speak to a woman of this calibre and to have values that are in alignment. Professor Davies is also the 39th Master of Trinity College, and the first woman to hold the position. Prior to this prestigious role, she served as the Chief Medical Officer for England from 2010 up until 2019. She was also the Chief Scientific Advisor for the Department of Health from 2004 to 2016. She holds non-executive director positions on the boards of numerous organisations and institutions including but not limited to the University of Oxford, The Clinton Health Access Initiative, and The Blavatnik School of Government.
Q: What does International Women's Day mean to you?
International Women's Day has always been special to me as an opportunity to meet with like-minded women of every generation, support other women, and celebrate global successes by women. It's great that over the years more and more men have joined in recognising the advantages of a society of women being economically active and successful.
Q: Please tell us about women you have drawn inspiration from throughout your journey and how they have guided you?
I have drawn inspiration from so many women - starting with my mother, who was a Cambridge graduate in Mechanical Engineering. I have particularly been inspired by my Senior Haematology Consultant in training, and when I first became a Consultant, Dr. Milicia Brozovic, who sadly died just before Christmas. She helped me to see that we can set our own ambitions, and she taught me that family work balance matters- we have to insist on this.
Q: What topic within all industries, do you think women need to be more educated on? Why?
I have seen time and time again women having dreams but not daring to put themselves forward. As women, we need to aspire to our ambitions and go for it!
Q: Look back if you can both professionally and personally. What would you say has been your biggest failure and how did it impact your life? What did you learn?
Everyone makes mistakes and I am no exception. An important learning was not to take my work home with me, and to make sure that I had good holidays.
Q: We're all about passion! How did you find yours or did it find you?
The passion that I have for Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) found me, rather than the other way round. It is such an important issue, although outside my clinical speciality of sickle cell disease. I saw that we had a growing problem and that not enough attention was being paid to this problem, so we needed both a campaign and focus. I was lucky to be in a position to be able to push forward all of this. Truthfully, my passion has grown as I see the magnitude of the problem in low-middle-income countries, and how little help they are receiving. It is unacceptable that nearly 5 million people die every year associated with AMR. We have to change the world to be better.
Q: What has been your guiding strength throughout your journey?
I have had a long, varied career, and I am lucky that during each job I have had, at the time, I thought it was the best job in the world. I will never forget the pleasure of working with my sickle cell patients in Brent - a poor borough in the northwest of London. I thought up and set up the UK's National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), and I feel incredibly proud when I meet people whose careers and wonderful life-changing research is based on the funding and the structures that I made happen.
Q: Lastly, please tell us of an experience you've had that stands out to you and holds great meaning in your career and what it meant to you?
I am also proud of our crusade on AMR, particularly on securing the landmark declaration agreeing to combat AMR at the United Nations General Assembly in 2016, signed by 193 countries. At the time, this was only the fourth ever time that health was discussed at the UN General Assembly. I just wish that there was more action and delivery rather than talk. We can and we will get there, but it is a slower journey than we all need.
Honouring women of the past
Here at Cambridge Mask Co, we’ve tried to honour and pay homage to great women of the past. In fact, in some ways you could say we’ve respectfully immortalised them in the design patterns selected to represent them. There’s The Aktins PRO, our honorary salute to Anna Atkins, the first woman to publish a book with photographs. There’s The Agatha PRO, our tribute to the great Agatha Christie, the best-selling author of all time, only outsold by The Bible and Shakespeare. Then there’s The Nightingale PRO, our hats off to Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern-day nursing. And lastly, but not finally, The Plath PRO, our way of paying our respects to Sylvia Plath, gone too soon and never forgotten, she wrote poems and books which brought attention to the plight of women. And so, from everyone here at Cambridge Mask Co, happy International Women’s Day.