Our Notable Women series features inspirational women who are leaders in their field and who we personally admire. We have deliberately chosen to profile women with a variety of different backgrounds, ages and careers in order to celebrate the diversity and creativity of the modern woman.
WE’RE DELIGHTED TO INTRODUCE OUR SEVENTH AWE-INSPIRING interviewee—SOPHIE POWER.
Sophie Power is an ultra runner, entrepreneur and mum of two little boys. A photo of her breastfeeding her 3-month old baby during one of her races gained worldwide attention, as people marvelled at her dedication to her sport and her baby. Since then, Sophie has become an influential voice and campaigner for helping women achieve their goals post-birth. She is now writing a book about female empowerment, based on her running experiences. Sophie is an inspiration to many women (and men!) around the world and we're honoured she took the time to talk to Notable.
WHAT IS YOUR AVERAGE DAY LIKE?
I'm a mum of 2 little boys, social entrepreneur and ultrarunner. We've just moved out of London to leafy Guildford so its all change for daily life! I'm usually woken by Cormac (my 1 year old) around 6—my husband leaves for work at 5.30 so he can be back for bedtime. I do the nursery drop off then either trail run and work from home or head straight to London for meetings with the companies I work with. I've also started writing a book about empowerment based on my experiences—I'm just looking for a publisher! I usually base myself out of the Conduit club where I can both get work done and eat delicious food. If I'm not giving a talk or have an event I pick the boys up and head to the park to play before going home.
I'm motivated to get up mostly by my boys—(who don't really give me an option) but I love the time we get together in the morning and our walk along the canal saying hi to the cows before nursery. Every day is different for me and I'm always excited by new conversations and sharing ideas that can generate positive impact.
What do you see as your biggest achievement(s) to date?
As co-founder and CEO of Airlabs, I developed the first technology to clean the harmful nitrogen dioxide in diesel fumes. The real achievement however was perhaps the media coverage from my campaigning which raised awareness on air pollution and how to reduce exposure and prompted an increase in research. Over the last 5 years there has been a huge increase in focus on tackling air pollution and Airlabs was a key part of that.
I'm now most proud of the positive impact that a photo, I was barely aware was being taken, has made on millions of women around the world. I ran the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, a 106 mile mountain race, whilst breastfeeding my 3 month old son. The beautiful photo of me taken by photographer Alexis Berg breastfeeding at an aid station went viral globally and prompted debates on motherhood. I was overwhelmed with the response from women saying it gave them a feeling of empowerment—that they could be mothers and follow their dreams. I'm now working on a range of projects to support women and speak on female empowerment.
Which other women inspire you the most and why?
I worked on a clean air campaign with Stella McCartney last year and was so inspired both by her incredible passion to protect our planet and her ground-breaking work to make fashion more sustainable. In sport, I admire Lizzy Hawker who not only broke the boundaries for female ultrarunning with her performances but is now working to support young female athletes in Nepal.
Personally, I am lucky to have an incredible set of diverse inspiring women as friends. From my friend Stephanie who is an expert and campaigner on technology ethics, to my friend Solveiga developing technology to combat food waste, to my friend Rona who teaches in disadvantaged primary schools. I admire their drive to make a difference and they give me so much confidence to keep going. I am also continually inspired by all the mums I meet juggling it all and learn as much as I can from how they do it!
Have you noticed a shift in terms of how women are being portrayed in the media in the last few years?
I think there is a definite shift away from obvious outdated images, even before the ban on traditional stereotypes. There is also a shift away from only showing the highly airbrushed unachievable female "ideal" which brands have finally realised is a turn-off for many women. We still have a long way to go but I feel brands are making a start.
What do you think women are looking for from brands today?
I think we want brands that truly recognise our differing needs to men, and that "shrink it and pink it" is not the answer! These brands are more likely to be run by women or with a female design team such as that at Inov-8 who design the female fit first and then adapt for men. I think women do want to be spoken to as women, but without any assumptions beyond that—we are arguably more diverse than men. I also think that we value the ethics of brands very strongly and brands that neglect their social impact will be punished.
What are your favourite brands and why?
My favourite brands make products that not only work but make a positive impact on the world. I love Arc'Teryx whose clothing not only kept me bone dry during thunderstorms in my recent 268 mile race but has stringent environmental policies. Running wise I can't live without my Hoka trainers, EVB female support shorts and my Garmin. Babywise my Omnio stroller which converts to a rucksack is genius and keeps us a really active family. My wardrobe is more and more second hand these days as I buy a lot of clothes from the SmartWorks charity sale—last time I picked up a Victoria Beckham dress which I feel so confident in. I also buy running kit from (and donate mine to) ReRun who upcycle used running gear for a change that doesn't harm the planet!
Do you think we need another term to replace ‘empowered’?
I love the term—so much I'm writing the book to inspire women to become empowered! Until all women have the self-confidence and resources to achieve their dreams we cannot use it enough.