International Women's Day: Women who have had a positive impact in their field

International Women's Day (IWD) - an outdated sexist concept, a good hook or an essential day to put women's rights and inspiring females on the agenda?

International Women’s Day: Outdated concept, or essential to put women’s rights on the agenda?
International Women’s Day: Outdated concept, or essential to put women’s rights on the agenda?
Generally I’m uncomfortable with gender-specific labelling but I have to admit IWD does help put female role models and issues into the spotlight, which is a good thing.  

We’ve got some fantastic, creative brains and truly influential women in our field but many don’t get the recognition they deserve outside their companies.  

This is why we should aim to promote our successful women to help inspire the next generation of communicators – and IWD is a great platform for this. 

Sainsbury's marketing director Sarah Warby has been bold and original. She is skilled in spotting opportunities and trends, and embraces the importance of data and digital. 

Under her watch, Sainsbury’s partnership with Channel 4 during the London Paralympics 2012 was inspirational, and last December’s advert broke the mould of painful, perfect mum-feeds-the-family supermarket Christmas adverts, as well as supporting the British Legion. 

I admire her role in aligning Sainsbury’s with challenging issues and think she’s done a fabulous communications job. 

Public Health England marketing director Sheila Mitchell is an impressive and powerful communicator, dedicated to raising awareness of health issues, and leading Change4Life. 

She recognises the value in understanding her audience's needs and preferences when developing communications strategies. 

Mitchell has embraced digital as a key engagement tool to help enable and encourage her target audiences to build self-supporting online communities.

Finally, I have enormous personal admiration for Martha Gellhorn.  

OK, she was a journalist, but journalists are communicators too and I think we should pay homage to the women in the media who help get unpopular and thorny messages across. 

Gellhorn was one of the first female reporters to cover wars including World War II, Vietnam and the US invasion of Panama. 

She was an unforgiving journalist who put herself in hostile environments, dominated by men, to report on issues about which she felt deeply.  

The women I truly admire are those making bold decisions and using their skills to get their message across in the face of indifference or hostility.  

These women and so many others have and continue to inspire me to keep pushing boundaries at Macmillan, to explore new ways to communicate and engage with audiences and, most importantly, to keep stories about people at the heart of my communications. 

I am lucky to have a fantastic team at Macmillan but there are always new challenges and new channels. I want us to continue to maximise the impact of PR and communications to help reach more people affected by cancer. 

Hilary Cross is director of marketing and comms at Macmillan Cancer Support

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