Today is International Women’s Day and I am proud

I am proud to know and be surrounded by so many inspiring, bright and brilliant women who continue to shape, teach and encourage me in all I do. I will be forever grateful for your time, love and brilliance, and only hope I can impact others’ lives as you have mine.

I am also proud to know so many incredible, smart and caring men. From my wonderful Dad, brother and husband, to friends, colleagues and complete strangers who lift me up and celebrate me for being me. You are all playing a part in turning the tide of gender inequality and I feel proud to know you. I truly believe that strong men (and women) empower women.

Branson family

However while I feel fortunate for my close circle, the world has an unquestionably long way to go before it is celebrated as an equal and fair place for all who inhabit it.

It is because of this, we all need to Be Bold For Change. Everyone needs to play a part in changing the narrative; we can raise our sons to respect and value women. We can teach our daughters to support and lift up others.

But on a larger scale, the opportunities to better the world and create a space where we can all prosper, demands action from political leaders, business leaders and all in respected and powerful positions.

My Dad once said, “It’s sad to see that in this day and age, gender parity is still far from a reality in many parts of the world. I’ve always felt strongly that the best places to work are those that foster an inclusive culture – one where differences are celebrated and our people can be themselves and feel at home.

“At Virgin, we recognise that a culture that brings together a group of people who mirror the wonderful diversity of our world and who can promote diversity of thought is good for business. It’s a huge opportunity, not a challenge, and it’s great for the communities that we serve.

“Equality is not just women’s business; everyone – men and women – should be taking concrete steps to help achieve parity more quickly. We will all be far better off once we do.”

It really is an opportunity, and one we intend to grab with both hands. To that effect, this week we are paying tribute to some of the smart, witty and brilliant women shaking things up in the name of diversity and equality. To accompany their interviews, we have commissioned a wonderful artist to create illustrated portraits of the women, of which, some will be auctioned off for International Women’s Day charities, and others will live on at Virgin Hotels. I shared Radio 1 DJ Gemma Cairney’s portrait on my Instagram last night, but really recommend you check out the others being shared across Virgin’s social media.

We would love you to join in by giving a shout out to all the women you want to celebrate and are proud of, using #BeBoldForChange

After all, “How important it is for us to recognise and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” - Maya Angelou

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