Now in her 50s, Sam remembers asking why it was expected that all the girls would take home economics while the boys did metal work at school – she could cook at home, why couldn’t she take metal work? Her teachers sought her parents’ permission and with it, Sam sealed her fate as a change agent – someone who would always see the discrepancy, root out unfairness and aim to bring it to light in her quest for diversity and equality.
She’s the ultimate rebel, but her cause is about helping others understand they’re not stuck in their current context rather than just shaking up the status quo. Often, all it takes is a new perspective on an issue to realise there are other ways of thinking, doing and being. This is the crux of her lifework, redefining the very essence of what it means to be labelled ‘rebellious’.
Sam was inspired by watching her stay-at-home mum transform into a shoulder-padded bacon-earner in the 1980s. Keen to follow in her high heels, she swept aside the usual ‘Saturday job’ as she wasn’t yet 16 and instead started her own business by solving a crucial gap in her estate at the time – all those power suits required ironing, which most working women simply didn’t have the energy or inkling for when back at home after a long day on the clock. So, her entrepreneurial spirit was stoked.
Unfortunately, Sam’s mom found it hard to balance her own needs and took her own life when Sam was just 21. This led to deep introspection on how to help women flourish. With the help of her sister prompting her to search the Yellow Pages and name her business ‘something starting with A so people would find it easily. And so Aspire was born, evoking dreams and ambitions, thinking big and doing big things.
Aspire for real change: We can all be feminist heroes
Women’s movements supported by allies have always been powerful in making a difference, from the suffragettes of our great-great-grandmothers’ era to the social media-powered movements of today. Aspire is now an adult at the age of 21, an activist organisation that empowers people of all genders to be the best they can performance-wise, advocating for making a real difference in their own communities with a snowball effect to the wider world. While this is usually seen as the realm of government or charity, there’s also individual responsibility to do what you can.
Regularly taking action starts with speaking up in meetings. Being around others who are supportive and passionate, approaching change from a place of positivity rather than being overwhelmed and exhausted by it. Change the language of inequality from an angry fight to one of peaceful understanding. Channel your strengths into something good by taking part in inclusion and diversity programmes. Striving to break stereotypes. Supporting women’s career advancement so it becomes the norm. Working through the internal noise and advocating for yourself. Closing the pay gap. Making the world a safer space. It starts with the spark to find out more and grows with Googling a situation or term you’ve never experienced, educating yourself on everything from gender-based violence to modern slavery to human trafficking.
Instead of seeing the world in blue and pink gender stereotypes, encourage boldness and compassion of yourself and the next generation. Feminism, after all, remains tied to the belief in empowering the feminine, working with kindness to do the right thing. The new wave is a way of life or being, of being kind, and inclusive of everyone. It’s also about educating yourself on the intersectionality of inequality. Once you start there’s no going back, as you can’t ‘unknow’ what you learn in this mindset. In the timeless words of Gandhi, Sam encouraged us all not to hold back; to ‘be the change we want to see’ in creating a more inclusive world, as most women driving change have a rebellious streak that they have pursued. Nurture the trait as it is infectious. Focus on what lights your fire. Think about it. What’s the change you’d like to see, to improve the lives of women and girls? What does being rebellious mean to you today? Where would you like to have more impact? Let us know. After all, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? Intrigued and inspired to do more? Keep the conversation going and join the movement with our internal Women at Kantar employee resource group (ERG) on Yammer or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also become a changemaker with Aspire and purchase your copy of “Rebellious: Women who broke the rules and changed their world”, in which Dr Sam Collins features women who have harnessed their rebellious nature to challenge norms, change rules and achieve the extraordinary. Proceeds support Aspire’s Women Supporting Women scholarship programme and up-and-coming new pro-bono mentoring programme. Also listen to their stories, as featured in Sam’s Stripped Back podcast.