International Women’s Day: Inspiring women in their 40s + share what they wish they knew

It’s International Women’s Day – a time to uplift the voices of women everywhere. International Women’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on the progress women have made around, whether that be socially, economically, culturally or politically. With that said, this International Women’s Day we asked these inspiring women to share their life lessons and what they wish they had known.

This International Women’s Day, this is what I wish I had known…..

“I wish I had known that every single thing that I admired in other people and thought that I lacked i.e. confidence, intelligence, courage and beauty; they were all there within me. I just had to believe in myself enough to manifest them. “– Codilia Gapare, breast cancer survivor, founder of C-Lash in collaboration with Eylure London

“Focusing on your personal strengths, instead of other people’s expectations of you in a role, will guide you best in finding the right path in life.” – Steph Bennett, Managing Director of award-winning communications agency Battenhall

“We all face obstacles in our careers and life. You can either let them hold you back or you can overcome them. My advice would be to take them in your stride. The most successful people face a number of hurdles, numerous times. Breathe, smile, get back up, dust yourself off & go again.” – Lisa Shepherd, founder of award-winning brand The Hair Boss most awarded and profiled female colourist in the UK

International Women Day
From left to right: Codilia Gapare, Steph Bennett, Lisa Shepherd

“I only wish I could pop back and tell my younger self to ‘embrace trauma’. From finding out my husband had been having an affair and watching him leave, to experiencing 5 miscarriages. I wouldn’t change a moment of my journey as its created the strong and determined woman I am today. Embracing trauma is such an important part of life and I wish I had known this.” – Kate Bell, Entrepreneur of the Year, top 10 most successful businesswomen to watch for 2022 and founder of Zip Us

“When you embark on your own business it will push you out of your comfort zone daily so it’s been important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. By far the biggest learning I’ve taken with me throughout my journey is to listen to my gut and back myself.” – Kristy Chong, CEO and Founder of multi-million-dollar women’s tech wellness and leak proof underwear company, Modibodi 

I wished I would have trusted me more. Understood men more. Communicated my needs more. Got clear on who I am and comfortable with saying no. Understood the difference between men and women and how to communicate effectively. Lead with love not ego and fear. Listen more to learn rather than be heard. And ultimately, Believed in me more.” – Dimple Thakrar, best-selling author and relationship expert

International Women Day
From left to right: Kate Bell, Kristy Chong, Dimple Thakrar

 “Surrounding yourself with people who are allies and will support every step of your growth is a great aid in pressing on with your goals. Keep pushing, and never give up! Developing a strong network of people for yourself is very important.” – Delphine Remy-Boutang, founder of JFD, a growth accelerator for women committed to change the digital world

“That I’m good enough. That I’m worth more. That I can reach higher. To fight harder. Never to doubt myself.  Always trust my gut. Love is most important of all.” – Lorien Haynes, Actress and Writer, Pieces of a Woman show launching on International Women’s Day at The Koppel Project 

“I now see how lucky I am to come from such a global background. To have family in the UK, in South Africa, having grown up in Canada. Being different when I was younger was hard. But now I see it as my superpower.” – Philippa White, Founder and CEO of world-leading international leadership programme The International Exchange (TIE)

International Women Day
From left to right: Delphine Remy-Boutang, Lorien Haynes, Philippa White

“At twilight, as a child, I chased fireflies. The mere practice capturing life’s brilliant, elusive precious moments. Hold them gently. Those curious winged creatures require intense focus. Blink—gone. Remember vividly—take them with you.” – Sharon Sutila, novelist and private investigator

“Having never kicked a football in my life before reaching 40, I now train weekly with a team of wonderful women at my local pitch. It is life affirming!” – Rachel Freeman, Partner at law firm Kingsley Napley

“I wish I had known how to meditate when I was younger. I learnt two years ago and I am grateful every day. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to cope with these crazy times without this amazing way of finding steady ground. ” – Jessica Zoob, artist at McKay Williamson Art Gallery

International Women Day
From left to right: Sharon Sutila, Rachel Freeman, Jessica Zoob

“Being driven by ambition is a strong focus to progress your career. But to really enjoy the moments of success, just pause and enjoy the achievement, before looking to the next step.” – Faye Barker, ITV News Presenter and Reporter

“Pretty much everyone feels like an imposter at some point – indeed, the people that seem supremely confident with their shizz absolutely together are usually the ones who suffer worst with Imposter Syndrome.” – Dr Meg Arroll, Psychologist and Author

“I wish I had known that being in a woman’s body was the greatest gift and that my power and wisdom lay in embracing my cyclical nature, as opposed to resisting it.” – Katherine Crawley, Mentor and Founder of All Katherine

International Women Day
From left to right: Faye Barker, Dr Meg Arroll, Katherine Crawley

“How important my voice is to make my dreams come true. Ask for what you want, repeat again. Asking for everything you want in life – regardless of whether it will happen or not. It’s the secret to negate ‘oh I tried but it didn’t work out’. It’s persistence, not talent, not education, not status, not intelligence that wins the day. We can make our dream’s come true.” – Riffi Khan, TV Creative Director

“There is always time.  Time to think, time to redirect energy, time to re-ground, time to take a breath.  Taking time, allows you to feel more connected to the journey and success.” – Natalie Elliott, founder of SAKRID, clean beauty campaigner

“I wish I had known that it’s okay to remove toxic people from your life, in fact, it’s good. It makes room for all the brilliant people you might otherwise not had time to see.” – Rebecca Wilcox, TV presenter and radio personality

International Women Day
From left to right: Riffi Khan, Natalie Elliott, Rebecca Wilcox

“Say yes more than no when you’re building, and no more than yes as soon as you can afford to.” –  Seni Glaister, Novelist, Founder of Litalist and former CEO of The Book People.

“Challenges against your brilliant ideas are not reasons to give up. They are reasons to continue pushing forward, and find strength in your niche!” – Stella Sutcliffe, Founder, Go Title Free

“I wish I had known that I don’t need to try be like anyone else. I am good enough. I am an original and so are you.” – Olga Thompson aka Big Fat Greek Mother, comedienne, actor, singer and all-round joy-bringer

International Women Day
From left to right: Seni Glaister, Stella Sutcliffe, Olga Thompson

“I wish I knew periods were a normal part of our lives, not a shameful secret. I was brought up in a Middle Eastern environment where pads were almost treated like Class A drugs – tucked up our sleeves and exchanged under tables and in discreet handshakes!” – Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne, Iranian refugee, bladder cancer survivor founder of Freda Health

“I wish someone had told me to spend more time on hobbies and other interests when I was at school and university because the skills, life experience and networks to be gained are just as important as academic success. Seize every positive opportunity that presents itself.” – Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham

“Becoming successful is a process. I was always looking for people to validate my worth. Now, I say the only person who can answer those questions is ME! It’s not an easy journey, and we can often slip back into old ways of thinking, but once you release yourself from being a slave to those thoughts, guess what? You have FREEDOM.  With this freedom you can do, say, love, laugh, make mistakes, make great accomplishments and shine like you never believed possible. ” – Jennifer Ducker, Executive Producer, Rapture Productions

From left to right: Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne, Munira Wilson, Jennifer Ducker

We think you’ll agree that these words of wisdom this International Women’s Day are a truly empowering way of celebrating strong women. What would you add to this list of things you wish you had known this International Women’s Day. Why not leave your words of wisdom below in a comment or let us know over on our Instagram.

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Afua Adom on turning 40

Fast becoming a household name, fabulous and feisty Afua Adom has earned her place as a respected and talented anchorperson, broadcast journalist and radio presenter. Afua is a passionate speaker and one of the leading voices on diversity in Britain, empowering and inspiring others across the country. 

Born and bred in Glasgow, encouraged by her parents who instilled in her a hard work ethic, Afua moved down London to study journalism at City University. She pursued a career in music publishing but followed her love of writing and became the Features Editor of Pride Magazine. After a year out having her gorgeous daughter, Naima, she turned to broadcast journalism and launched her own radio show. She now regularly appears on ITV’s This Morning, Good Morning Britain, and the Jeremy Vine show. 

Turning 40

Afua turns 40 later this year so I wanted to find out how she was feeling about it and what challenges she thinks might lie ahead. 

The word Afua used to describe turning 40 was……’Yikes!’

‘When I think of when my mum was 40,  40 back in 1980 feels a lot older than 40 now.’ 

But I bet my Mum would say the same thing about when my Nana was 40. I feel like I’m so much less mature than my Mum was when she was 40. When my mum was 40, she seemed like she was very together and she was this formidable woman and I feel like a giggly school girl. 40 is not old by any stretch of the imagination. That much we know but I feel like it’s younger than it was back then. 

In one sense of the word it feels old and in another sense, I spend a lot of time scrolling on the ASOS app looking for new things to wear that are wildly inappropriate. I’m “Yikes” because it feels older than I am and I feel like maybe I should start investing in stocks and shares!’

Enjoy the space you’re in

I asked Afua what advice she would give to her 20 year old self? She said, 

‘Enjoy your youth but know that it lasts longer than perhaps you think it does. Don’t worry about things like how you look or what job you’re going to do. I spent so much time worrying, am I thin enough?  Am I pretty enough? Just wasted energy on that. I wish I’d always known that I was always enough. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about where I would end up. About making my mum and dad proud of me. Because they were always proud, you know. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about where the next job was coming from and enjoy the present one. That even applies to now to be honest. Just chill out and enjoy the space that you’re in. Don’t rush to grow up and pay bills.

I asked Afua for her top tips for self preservation? 

‘Sometimes you have to believe your own hype.’ 

‘Remember the dance routines you used to make up in your bedroom when you were 10, remember how much you believed you could be the 2nd coming of Paula Abdul. Remember how that feels, bottle it and sometimes just sprinkle it over yourself. Believe your own hype.  Sometimes that’s the only way you can get up in the morning and keep going. Be the best version you can be.’

Dealing with racism

Afua recently shared a beautiful picture of her daughter on social media. She made a screenshot of a comment made by a troll using the N-word. 

I immediately got in touch to offer my support and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. She said it was supremely hurtful and unnecessary. ‘If you’re going to attack me, that’s one thing. If you’re going to attack my daughter, that’s another level of hate.’

Afua never really experienced racism until she moved to London. There’s now a large Ghanaian community in Scotland but when her parents first moved from Ghana in the 70s, they were subjected to sick racial abuse. Her parents have always reminded her who she is and where she’s from. It’s not hard to see where the fire in Afua’s belly came from and it’s promising to watch her presence grow.   

Having been on the receiving end of racial abuse, I asked Afua if her coping mechanisms had changed over the years?  

‘You become more resilient as you get older certainly. But things still do cut deep. What helps is support from friends. The support always helps there’s so many lovely voices out there to drown out the horrible voices. All you have to remember is that person has a massive problem which has nothing to do with me, nothing to do with my skin colour. It’s to do with the way S/he thinks. S/he isn’t wired correctly and you just keep on going.’ 

Racism. It’s a conversation that needs to happen over and over again until all humans are accepted in the same way. By highlighting it, talking about it, sharing our stories and creating awareness we, as the human race, will continue to seek a united respect for one another.

Catch up with the turning 40 interviews here with the fabulous Charlie Brooks and Rebecca Wilcox.

Comment below with your thoughts and follow us here on Instagram to keep the conversation going.

Rebecca Wilcox on turning 40

TV presenter and radio personality, Rebecca Wilcox is an inspirational and empowering role model. I wanted to find out how she was feeling and what expectations she has since turning 40 last year.

Rebecca Wilcox was a regular reporter on BBC1’s Watchdog and BBC Three’s Mischief series. As well as presenting, she’s been an undercover reporter and worked alongside Nicky Campbell on the prime time consumer series, Your Money Their Tricks.

Rebecca has hosted beauty segments on Channel 4‘s show How To Look Good Naked and was the consumer expert for ITV1’s This Morning. She got to drive a formula one racing car while presenting an one hour biography on F1 superstar Lewis Hamilton and after the experience she said, ‘I’m so tired and I’ve done nothing.’ Pretty much sums up how I feel these days!

Before becoming a presenter, Rebecca worked in television production on shows from Cops With Cameras to Hell’s Kitchen. In 2006 I had the absolute pleasure of working with her for 6 months on the Channel 5 series, Trust me I’m a Holiday Rep in Malia, Crete. The schedule was tough and intense but we made up for it with some very debauched nights out. I can specifically remember a rather raunchy dance off between Rebecca and I in a very empty, out of season, nightclub. I can’t tell you who won as I passed out drunk and pulled a muscle attempting to pole dance. Those are memories we both cherish forever although witnesses of that night can’t unsee what they saw. And we apologise for that.

‘It left me so starved I suffered blackouts.’

I imagine that with being in front of the camera comes a huge pressure to look your best at all times. After losing her father in 2000, Rebecca comfort ate her way through her grief and after going up a couple of dress sizes turned to the Tracy Anderson method which left her so hungry she suffered blackouts. Since then she attributes her health and happiness to a balanced diet and regular exercise.

‘The Queen of procrastination.’

Rebecca talked me through her typical day which includes a very early wake up call around 5.30am courtesy of her two lovely boys. After preparing breakfast for the family, she exercises and credits that for making her a nicer person. She spends an inordinate amount of time wiping kitchen surfaces having, like many of us, gotten obsessed with Mrs Hinch, even though she hates cleaning. Rebecca openly admits to being the Queen of procrastination. She writes and also preps her radio show but the fallout of lockdown made her realise how much she needs people and without them she’s anti productive. By 8pm, she’s in bed. 

I asked Rebecca what advice she’d give her 20 year old self. She would tell herself to stop giving a shit, eat the chocolate and take more naked pictures so we could look back and love ourselves more. Sweaty spanks were her wardrobe staple back then. These days, she doesn’t really care what she looks like as she’s more confident knowing she’s chosen to be there because she enjoys the work. She feels it freeing to say no to jobs. She says, ‘It’s got to be worth me not being with my kids.’

In her 40s she’s feeling fit, content and hopeful but anxious about what’s coming next. Likening it to being on a paddleboard, so easy to fall off but necessary just to maintain (a life) balance.  

Thoughts on self preservation

Rebecca’s top tips for self preservation are to get as much sleep as you can and to find clothes that fit you, not the fashion, buying fewer pieces that are better fits. 

We agree that finding clothes can be tricky as there just doesn’t seem to be consistent sizing across high street stores and you can often be left feeling really fat and bloated.

The most important belief Rebecca has is to ‘Be the person and the parent and the working Mum that you want to be and not letting other people’s opinions dictate anything you do.’ 

You can listen to Rebecca Wilcox and her Mum putting the world to rights on Sundays at 5pm on Boom radio.

Charlie Brooks on Turning 40

Charlie Brooks has just turned 40. I worked with her on Britain’s much loved soap opera, EastEnders. 

Back then I was a very cheeky 20 year old and assistant to the Executive Producer.

At the time, EastEnders had around 20 million viewers. 

I was one of the few people privileged with knowing who shot Phil Mitchell and it was such a buzz. Top of the Pops filmed at the studios on a Thursday night. We’d all go backstage and get pissed in the bar after. One time I got really drunk on Arthur Fowler’s bench in the square and flashed my tits at the webcam. But I digress. 

Charlie is best known for playing Janine Butcher, receiving numerous awards for her work as an actor. As well as starring on other roles, she’s released a fitness DVD and went on to be crowned queen of the jungle on the 12th series of I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here in 2012. More recently she portrayed the character of a mother to a severely autistic child in the stage play All in a Row. 

These days she works alongside the industry’s greatest and hosts an open mic night at IamPro, a project she’s launched with her brother. It’s a platform to help all creatives access and afford workshops and coaching from people they might never have had the chance to work with due to location or finances. 

Find out more about IamPro here

Charlie Brooks’ advice for turning 40: ‘Don’t stay in the box’

Charlie Brooks describes herself as an actress, an entrepreneur, a mother, a lover, a reader, and listener. She will be who she wants to be. Sometimes she will do it well. Sometimes she won’t. But she will always do it with kindness and joy. 

Her advice is…. ‘Be curious ladies, don’t stay in the box.’

Charlie and I remained friends on Facebook and over the last year, from her posts,  I got a real sense there had been a turning point in her life so I got in touch to find out why and interestingly… it turns out she’s turning 40 in May so I wanted to know if there was a connection between that and her new found contentment.

‘The juicy stuff lays in vulnerability’  

I was inspired by Charlie who said the 3 words that sprang to mind when she thought about turning 40 were ‘Play, Curiosity and Adventure.’ On what advice she would give her 20 year old self, she said ‘enjoy partying but don’t let it take over but have a good time. Trust yourself, listen to your gut, be unafraid and ask for help.’ 

On her tribe, Charlie’s ethos is to ‘Surround yourself with people that know more than you do about everything. You don’t have to know everything because the juicy stuff lies in vulnerability.’ 

Charlie’s tips for turning 40 and self preservation were reading, hot baths and Bulletproof Coffee. Her morning routine includes meditation and journaling where she jots down any of her worries and fears. Having been a thrill seeker her whole life, with 40 on the horizon, these days finding balance and consistency ultimately brings her peace. 

‘Having a bit of fear is quite healthy.’ says Charlie Brooks

As well as naturally worrying about health, Charlie’s greatest fear is not being good enough. But she is understanding that fear can be healthy to drive you to do something new, even when you don’t feel like you can. We are told we can do it, our dreams will all come true, if you believe it will happen. There’s so much on offer constantly and all this instant gratification that our brains are overloaded and we can feel like we are letting ourselves down. 

So let’s be kind to ourselves. Let go of expectation and accept ourselves. 

Just as we are, even if we’re turning 40.

Charlie Brooks is wearing Neo jumper from The Bias Cut.