To celebrate this year's International Women's Day, we looked at Basingstoke's most influential women in Basingstoke. 

Presenting royalty 

Basingstoke Gazette:

Broadcaster Clare Balding is one of the most influential women in Hampshire for advocating and promoting sportswomen. 
For many years, she became frustrated with the invisibility of half of our sporting stars. 

Clare says: “In broadcasting and in most newspapers it’s a really rare thing to see coverage of women’s sport. I think that is disrespectful. It is also missed an opportunity to have an audience and readership who aren’t being provided for.

“Female athletes are really accessible. Look at Dina Asher-Smith, how incredibly eloquent she is, how she understands that promoting her sport is part of her job. She has real potential for the next 10 years to be the most high profile, successful and respected athlete in the country.”

Female Figurehead 

Basingstoke Gazette:

Basingstoke figurehead, Diane Taylor, has lived in the town for more than 40 years and recently took the position of Mayor in May 2019. 

After succeeding her predecessor, Cllr Sean Keating, Diane has actively been deeply involved in her community since the couple moved in the early ‘70s.

She said: “It took nearly 300 years of Basingstoke mayors before the first female mayor was appointed in 1937. 

“Now we have a council that is just over one third female, and women have the same opportunities, based on their abilities as men.

“It makes sense nowadays to have politicians who have an understanding and empathy, as far as possible, for all of the people they serve.”

Uplifting women 

Basingstoke Gazette:

Strongwoman Farah Fonseca is included in Basingstoke’s most influential women for her continued work with supporting women in fitness.
Farah has held her title of England’s Strongest Woman in 2016 and 2017 at the age of 22 and has since gone on to establish a women-only bootcamp.
She said: “I think it’s really important for women not to put too much pressure on themselves, especially with how social media has changed that relationship with how women are supposed to look.”

Teaching the youths 

Basingstoke Gazette:

College principal, Ali Foss is one of the few female headteachers in to teach in Basingstoke since 1984. 

After she took up the role in the early 80s, Ali has successfully grown the college to a high standard, recently names in the top 15 per cent in the country for student progress. 

She said: “Queen Mary’s College’s high ranking reflects our ability to be genuinely inclusive,our students consistently gain higher grades than their peers regardless of their starting points. 

“I feel privileged to have such talented and committed members of staff who work tirelessly to teach and support our fabulous young people.”

Fighting your corner 

Basingstoke Gazette:

Political powerhouse Maria Miller rose to fame when she was elected to the House of Commons in the 2005 general election. 

Maria is currently chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, which she has been a part of for more than five years. 

Speaking to the Gazette, she said: “Women still routinely encounter problems that have serious implications for their future: losing their jobs for being pregnant, not finding quality flexible work to balance caring responsibilities or enduring sexual harassment.

“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of women, focus on what still needs to change and to support the work of organisations who fight for the rights of women.”

The centre of it all 

Basingstoke Gazette:

Destination Basingstoke manager, Felicity Edwards, has been developing the town for more than 23 years which offers a “fantastic quality of life for families”. 

Born and bred in Basingstoke, Felicity and her two daughters have been deeply integrated in the community for a number of years. 

Speaking to the Gazette, Felicity said: “I’m lucky enough to live and work somewhere that I love and that has always accepted me.

“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognise and encourage progress to real equality based in ability, skills and experience rather than any gender stereotypes. 

“We have a team of four amazing women who’s loyalty, passion and hard work are an inspiration to anyone, whatever their age or sex.”

Represents the region 

Basingstoke Gazette:

Linda Cheung left the world of banking to set up her own businesses, Cube Social and Intrapreneur Nation. She’s also a board member of Enterprise M3, representing business across the region, as well as being an advisory board member of Vitaccess.

She says: “Sometimes I used to react negatively to being asked to speak as a female entrepreneur but now I have recognised that gender is just the beginning of it.

“I support diversity for the benefit of innovation.

“The greater the diversity, the more likely you will come up with a better approach.”

Shopping mad

Basingstoke Gazette:

Shopping centre guru, Jane Stewart has become an inspiration to many after her role in re-establishing Basingstoke town centre. 

When she arrived in Basingstoke, the shopping centre was simply a building site but in the space of two years she helped develop the site from a pile of rubble into the popular shopping destination is is today. 

She said: “Basingstoke is a great place to work as a woman. The town has so many opportunities to offer but we need more women in senior leadership roles to inspire the next generation of women. An equal community is a better community for everyone.”