Here I am 15 years old and weathering a storm on a ferry on the way to France having never travelled outside of Ireland before. The girl you see here is dyslexic, though no one will certify this for more than 30 years, and so while 15-year-old Maggie enjoyed certain subjects at school, she would never have described herself as academic.
I suppose even then I did have some of the confidence you see in me today, but I certainly faced the usual doubts of any teenage girl, and not being assessed as dyslexic throughout school meant success in the educational sphere felt like an uphill climb.
Growing up on a 50-acre farm on the west coast of Ireland we had a small herd of sheep and dairy cows to tend to along with the vegetable stock we grew. It was typical of the farms in the area, except for the person running it – my mother. Having lost my father when I was just ten months old my mother was left a widow aged just 42 with 5 children under the age of 11. Through sheer necessity my mother had to enter the world of enterprise and the business of farming, a business I would later realise she was very proficient at. Growing up I watched her taking risks, negotiating deals, balancing stock and cashflow and all this in a world that was striking in its distinct lack of women.
Through the difficult economic climate in Ireland in the 70’s and 80’s where career prospects were scarce and future opportunity looked bleak, it would have been difficult for me to look ahead to know I would find my way to Chicago, stoking my entrepreneurial ambition soaking in opportunity I saw presented by the bold women paving the way in entrepreneurship in the States. The atmosphere of possibility was inspiring, something distinctly lacking in the UK for women at the time.
I never would I have realised that I would surpass educational expectation to gain a master’s in social enterprise, Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Studies at Cambridge University, going on to lecture in entrepreneurship in the UK and United States, now Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde.
That girl who watched her mother struggle and succeed to sustain a farming enterprise in a male dominated world would go on to seek to help other women to stride out and become entrepreneurial change makers.
25 years on since establishing The Women’s Organisation, our team have supported over 70,000 women with enterprise and employment services. We’ve influenced policy around women’s enterprise and on behalf of the third sector locally, nationally, and internationally. While I maintain these achievements are those of a team, not an individual, I am proud of the impact we have made and continue to make.
Why am I telling you this? Because 70% of girls feel more confident about their futures after hearing from women role models. I encourage women in my network to participate in this campaign by Inspiring Girls International led by Miriam Gonzalez Durantez