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The Women of The Year Lunch is a fantastic annual event which brings together 400 extraordinary women from every walk of life and every background.

Women of the year 2013: Ford Dagenham workers

These women are not all high-flying professionals (though there are plenty of those), nor are they all scientists, sportswomen, artists, politicians, actresses, farmers, members of the armed services and designers. They’re not all famous, but they are all women whose passion, dedication, devotion and determination has seen them achieve remarkable things in their lives and often for the lives of others.

That’s certainly true of two of the guests at my table this in 2013. Their names – Sarha Kavia and Barty Patel – won’t mean anything to you. But what they did, and the results of their actions, changed the lives of every working woman in this country.

Sarha and Barty were two of the Dagenham Ford factory female machinists who went on strike in 1972, and then again in 1984, in order to force Ford to formally recognise that their skill level matched that of the men doing the same job and that they also, therefore, deserved to be paid the same as their male colleagues. Their fierce refusal to bow in the face of pressure, not just from their employers but other workers and even their own families, made the headlines and their campaign was directly responsible for the instigation of the Equal Pay Act. Their story was also made into a hit film – Made in Dagenham – starring Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson and Bob Hoskins.

The Dagenham women were chosen to receive the Outstanding Achievement of the Year award in 2013. Sarha and Barty came to the lunch, resplendent in their gorgeous saris, along with six of their former colleagues to receive the award on behalf of all the women who took on the industrial might of Ford. Their adamant determination saw fairness and justice done and it changed the working world for women.

Women of the Year 2013

Having been involved with the lunch for over a decade and I can safely say I never fail to be moved, inspired and comprehensively humbled by the women I meet each year – 2013 was no different.