Diana Moran speaks about International Women's Day
Q. This year International Women’s Day falls on March 8th. The Campaign theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias. How are you going to be participating?
A. Thankfully during my lifetime, I have seen many changes in attitudes towards women and now a gender equal world does seem a possibility. At 83 years of age, I can now imagine that we are closer to a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. But we must all make a huge effort to ensure that our world is accepted as diverse, equitable, and inclusive, and is a world where the difference of sex is valued and celebrated.
Individually as modern thinking women, whatever our age, we’re responsible for our own thoughts and actions each day, all day and every day. But together we are strong, and we we can forge women's equality, and collectively we can #BreakTheBias. For young women choosing where to work is important and by choosing progressive companies many find that the barriers have already been broken down allowing talented women to move into leadership roles.
Whether it’s deliberate or unconscious, for women any form of bias makes it difficult to move ahead. But knowing bias exists isn’t enough; action is needed to level the playing field. One of the biggest changes I have observed over my years is the importance of women in the field of Engineering. Today talented women Engineers of any age or diversity are in huge demand, to shape the world in many fields, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical Engineering and more. I admire and congratulate them succeeding in what was traditionally a man’s world.
So it’s up to us women to be strong and to help break the bias that still exists in our communities, in our workplaces, in our schools, colleges and universities. For me and other mature people like me in our later years, we will hopefully be able to experience a break in previous bias which no longer surrounds us older folk, male and female, in hospitals and our retirement communities.
But on International Women's Day (IWD) and beyond we can all break the bias. Are you in?
Q. Your life has been so exciting and adventurous – did you come from a high achieving family?
A. “Not really, I had a very ‘ordinary’ start. Of all of my girlfriends, I was the first to get married, I got married, had my children very happily. And then my other girlfriends had a bit of a chance to have a successful job. I envied them.
But suddenly, life presented other opportunities to me. And I really took the banner and waved it like crazy. I was proud to say, “we women aren't only for the home, and to bring up the children and look after the husband. Yes, we want to do that. But if we have the capability, and we can organise it, without too much disruption, then let's find out about ourselves and get on with our lives.”
It's been surprising over the past 60 years to just see what women have achieved. From my good friend Rachel Heyhoe-Flint in sport to Margaret Thatcher in politics.”
Q. What are your proudest achievements?
A. “I suppose I'm very proud to have created an awareness of keeping oneself fit. And particularly women. You know, all those years ago back in the 50s, and 60s, you really couldn’t go to a gym as a woman. Then, there were no women in gyms, it was full of sweaty men boxing and training for their rugby, for their football and all the rest of it. Definitely not a place for women.
At an early age I understood that we women need to keep us as fit and be aware of our wellbeing just as much as that as men. And I'm quite proud to think that perhaps that's what I have done, particularly for women.
When I was chosen by BBC Television as a fitness instructor in the early 1980’s – we launched Breakfast Television with a ‘Get Britain Fit’ Campaign which introduced the UK to the need for exercise.”
Sir Muir Gray, the Chief Knowledge Officer to the National Health Service said “Diana Moran has made an outstanding contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of people in the United Kingdom. The scientific basis for the work she has done has been recognised by the NHS or the medical profession only recently. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges produced a report in 2015 called Exercise The Miracle Cure but Diana Moran has been promoting exercise effectively and efficiently for thirty years before that.”
Q. So, explain your knowledge and commitment to Cancer Charities?
A. By 1988 I had a very high profile in the UK, and I was always trying to push the boundaries and make women particularly aware of their wellbeing.
And then I heard about H R. T. [hormone replacement therapy]. a marvellous thing that was happening in America, I was 47 and knew that this could be the answer to our dreams as women facing the menopause. So, I thought I'd better find out about H R T. and put myself forward as a clinical guinea pig in the UK.
I went to the clinic, and they praised me as the Green Goddess because they knew my involvement could give HRT some much needed publicity. But first, I had to go through a few health checks. I said there’s no need as I’m very fit, but they still insisted that I had to have checks for my heart, lungs, cervical and a mammogram. So, I did them and went away, forgetting about it. But, within two days, I got a call to say we think you might have moved during the mammogram, so I went back to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London for another mammogram. Another 2 days later I was called back. I said, “Look, can you tell me? I've got breast cancer?”
He said, because you've thought this through. And because you've asked me like that. I have to tell you, you have and what's more, you've been diagnosed as having Cancer in both breasts. The shock was just dreadful I was by myself, I couldn't tell anybody I went sat in my car and howled.
Within a very short time I was back in hospital, I had what's called a bilateral mastectomy, removing both of my breasts. You can imagine how worried I was, not just by the disease I was also body conscious, I'd been a model. Health and wellbeing had always been uppermost for me. The concept just shattered me and my image and my self-confidence.
I was offered and I had immediate reconstruction. I’d kept the cancer and surgery a secret. I didn't want the press to know, I was back on air jumping around. And it took a long time for the press to finally find out. The whole experience made me so aware of the need to look after your health and encourage all women to have a cervical smear, and regular mammograms.
This all happened in 1988. Then, nobody spoke openly about cancer, nobody. Now, I'd kept a diary throughout which subsequently became published as a sort of an autobiography. It broke the silence that had been about Cancer, particularly breast cancer. My book was published in many languages, including in Russian. And suddenly, people talk women spoke about breast cancer as comfortably and as easily as they could. And I really feel that perhaps I was part of lifting the lid off of that can of worms.
Q. So what a trailblazer you’ve been! Have you had chance to have a private life?
A. I’m so lucky to have had two sons, and now have three glorious granddaughters. All three work in the medical profession. They now have got the opportunity that I would love to have had at their age. When I was 15 years old my mother died and it was expected that I would take over the domestic running of the house. The idea of having a career was not open to me then.
Now I look at my granddaughters who have fulfilling careers and help mankind.
In fact, I look around me today and I see women who are still very feminine but also very strong and very competent. Wherever you look now in business, women are achieving just as much if not more than the men.
Q. So, what were your challenges to overcome?
A. I was fortunate to be asked to do technical things that challenged me. Years ago, I worked for Radio Bristol as a reporter. In those days you were left to fend for yourself and learned to use our recording equipment on my own. One machine was called a ‘Ewer’ which was an enormous recording machine that you had to take with you on interviews. So, you would lug this around, record your interviews and then you had to edit it on your own. So, I used to go into Radio Bristol at the weekends when there weren't too many people there. So, I used to have one of the studios to myself where I would cut and edit my tape. Now I've got these two sons. And one of them in particular is incredibly technically minded. As it turns out he went on to become an engineer and he used to say to me, Mom, can I come in with you? And I used to take him in with me. And he loved some of this technology, watching his mother fight her way through it. But by golly, I'm so pleased I did it. And I even had one of the first computers of all of my women friends,
I just stuck at it. This is years and years ago, at least 35 or 40 years ago, and I just learned by trial and error.
Q. So, you were a trailblazer back in the day as with technology?
A. Well, you know the technical learning process never never stops. Just when you think you've conquered it most challenges, then COVID comes along. And people started asking me if I could do a Zoom meeting, or we want a team meeting and I think what the devil is all of that?
So, forty years later I had to just had to learn how to do it, which has been quite an experience, I can tell you! At the time, apart from lying awake at night worrying, I never have thought that I could have achieved what I have over the last couple of years,
In 2021, whilst under Covid lockdown I learned how to produce, direct and film exercises for BBC TV, and even produced a DVD - Keep Fit and Carry On.
All of this came about because, right at the outset of COVID, BBC Television came to me and said, Diana, can you do some keep fit exercises for people to do in their own homes to encourage movement. At the time we had no idea that COVID was going to go on for as long. So, overnight I had to learn how to use my mobile phone to film myself. I am also a painter, so I put the phone on my painting easel using lots of Sellotape. I turned my conservatory into a studio. And with a very nice, comfortable chair, I was able to do exercises and chair exercises. On top of that I was a makeup artist; lighting; sound. I was director, I was performer. I was producer, I can't believe now that I did all that myself. At 83 Not too shabby.
Q. So, looking back and to today, how do you see the future for women and equality and what would be your message to them?
A. For women growing up today, the world is their oyster. All the things that I would never have dreamt that woman would be able to do all those years ago. Today, there are no limits for women’s ambitions. There is no barrier - manual, technical or artistic. It is extraordinary.
I would state: - “just set your mind to it. There is nothing you can’t do and don't let anybody put you off. Determination can get you anywhere. And if you do face a bias against your sex, call it out, challenge it and #BreakTheBias to encourage further people to commit to helping consolidate an inclusive world.
Now in my 80s, I realise how fortunate I am to have looked after my health. And I suppose that's my final word that I'd say to every woman. Never take your good health for granted. Look after your health. Eat well. Keep active mentally and physically. And as the years go by, it pays off.
You see age is mind over matter. And if you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
So, Will you actively call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it? Will you help #BreakTheBias?
Cross your arms to show solidarity. Strike the IWD 2022 pose and #BreakTheBias. And share your #BreakTheBias image, video, resources, presentation or articles on social media using #IWD2022 #BreakTheBias to encourage further people to commit to helping forge an inclusive world.
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