Skip to main content

April 2024
View PDF

Women Who Lead the Way

Three female leaders are leaving a legacy on the Toastmasters Board of Directors.

By Shannon Dewey

Three headshots of women wearing colorful suit jackets and smiling

While 2024 is already a momentous year with Toastmasters International marking its centennial, there is another reason the organization is making history. The top three positions on the Board of Directors—International President, International President-Elect, and First Vice President—are all held by women. Helen Blanchard, Toastmasters’ first female International President in 1985, would be proud to see this leadership lineup today.

In honor of International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, we asked Distinguished Toastmasters Morag Mathieson, Radhi Spear, and Aletta Rochat to share some insights into their lives.

Morag Mathieson, DTM

2023-2024 International President
Moehrendorf, Germany

Woman speaking at lectern onstage next to men at tables with flags in background

Which female has inspired you the most and why?

Margaret Sinclair (now deceased) is a friend I met in Scotland many years ago. She was born to Scottish parents in Malawi. After she retired, she set about writing a book chronicling her parents’ letters and life in Malawi. She also set up a charity in honor of her mother which supports the education of girls in secondary schools in Northern Malawi.

I admired greatly her commitment to give great meaning to her later life and make a difference in the lives of others. She engaged a wide circle of friends and associates of all ages, which meant events she hosted always brought you into contact with diverse and interesting people.

Where have you traveled that you want to go back to someday?

Cape Town, South Africa. I loved the climate, the scenery, and the vibe of the city.

Woman smiling in dress with necklace

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

My nephews, Aiden (18) and Ethan (17), who are great company. I love their conversation, seeing the world through their eyes, and they have a great sense of humor.

What advice would you give to young women looking to climb the leadership ladder?

Think about what it would mean to say “yes” to opportunities before immediately considering saying “no.” How could you grow through taking that opportunity? What experience would you gain? How would working with a mentor help you advance? Before defaulting to “I’m not sure I can do this, so maybe I should say no.”

Black dog with white paws sitting on grass

Who or what never fails to make you laugh?

My dog, Jana! Sometimes when she’s sleeping, she gets into comical positions, and her curious face when she’s puzzled about something will always make me laugh!

Do you live by any piece of advice or motto?

“Never go to sleep angry.” When you can work through a conflict in a relationship and reach a resolution then you can sleep more soundly. If you go to sleep with an unresolved conflict, then it is easier to continue the conflict the next day and to avoid resolution.

Radhi Spear, DTM

International President-Elect
Piscataway, New Jersey

Mother in purple dress and gold saree posing with daughter in white shirt

Which female has inspired you the most and why?

The person who has inspired me the most is my mother. Despite facing adversity at a young age with the loss of her mother, she displayed remarkable resilience. Raised by a caring but sometimes absent-minded father, she pursued her love for sports, excelling in basketball, tennis, volleyball, and track and field, all while wearing the traditional attire of the saree, despite societal norms and her father’s disapproval. Unlike many of her peers, she pursued a college education, though her father prohibited her from seeking employment. She later found her professional path after marrying my father.

My mother instilled in my sisters and me the values of self-sufficiency and independence. She emphasized the importance of education and encouraged us to pursue careers. She taught us to be worldly wise, and bold, often saying, “Unless you knock, how will anyone hear you? Take the initiative.” She was particularly proud when I joined Toastmasters and found my voice.

My mother was an extraordinary woman and a wonderful mother. I feel incredibly blessed to have had her as my amma!

Where have you traveled that you want to go back to someday?

At just 3 years of age, my family moved from Bangalore, India, to Lagos, Nigeria, marking my first international journey. Our annual visits back to India were never direct; we would stop in countries like Italy, Lebanon, Kuwait, etc., which sparked my love for traveling.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to visit over 30 countries, each offering unique experiences. I’ve marveled at historic wonders like the Taj Mahal in India, witnessed the breathtaking beauty of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, and enjoyed the rich history of museums like the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands.

While I cherish the idea of revisiting some of these remarkable places, I feel a sense of urgency to explore the many other destinations on my bucket list.

Man and woman posing near sign with Perito Moreno Glacier in background

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

I would be honored to have dinner with Indira Gandhi. As the first prime minister of India, whom I remember from childhood, she made a huge impression on me. Seeing a woman in such a powerful and influential position was truly inspiring and helped break down gender stereotypes and barriers for me and many others.

I am fascinated by the challenges she must have faced as a leader and how she overcame them. Dinner with her would be an incredible opportunity to gain wisdom and inspiration from a trailblazer who has left a lasting impact on history.

What advice would you give to young women looking to climb the leadership ladder?

I would assure them that they have found the perfect place in Toastmasters. With a century of experience, our organization is dedicated to helping individuals become exceptional leaders. I would encourage them not to underestimate themselves, to have faith in their abilities, to stay motivated, seek mentorship, learn from feedback, and persevere. The possibilities for personal growth and achievement are limitless!

Do you have any interesting hobbies or hidden talents we don’t know about?

I hold an Extra Class amateur radio license with the call sign AA2MO. Before starting a family, I was deeply involved in the hobby, even achieving proficiency in Morse code at 20 words per minute. Ham radio allows you to transmit messages with minimal bandwidth during emergencies without cell towers or the internet. Now, my focus has changed from practicing communication on radio waves to oral communication skills in Toastmasters.

Woman in purple shirt posing in garden with white fence and plants

Who or what never fails to make you laugh?

When I first moved to the United States, one of the popular sitcoms at the time was Seinfeld. I still enjoy watching reruns. I love the humor, the storytelling, and how loose ends tie up nicely in each episode. I also enjoy watching Comedy Central and like to study the comedians, their pauses, and timings as they deliver their punchlines.

Do you live by any piece of advice or motto?

I firmly believe in the saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I encourage everyone to embrace opportunities and pursue their goals with determination. Toastmasters has equipped us with valuable skills and boosted our self-confidence, empowering us to strive for our aspirations.

Aletta Rochat, DTM

First Vice President
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Woman in short sleeved shirt and white hat posing with water and Croatian town in background

Which female has inspired you the most and why?

I was blessed to have two grandmothers who were strong role models for me. Both were teachers. Each, in their own way, were trailblazers. They inspired many along the way. I remember them being positive, following their passions and making a difference in the lives of their students. They always had time for me. I treasure the time spent in their company.

Where have you traveled that you want to go back to someday?

I loved a sailing holiday in Croatia. Each island had beautiful culture and architecture, not to mention the stunning settings. Stepping onto these islands was like stepping back in time. They were not filled with tourist shops—it felt like we saw the authentic island life on each island.

What advice would you give to young women looking to climb the leadership ladder?

Raise your hand and volunteer to serve! You have specific skillsets and talents that we need as an organization. Be teachable and draw on the wisdom of those who have served before you.

Woman in green tank top wearing medal after running race

Do you have any interesting hobbies or hidden talents we don’t know about?

Running is something I enjoy immensely. Three mornings a week I run with a group of talented, funny, and supportive ladies. We call ourselves the Wonder Women! Those friendships help me get up early, even in winter, and keep me going up the inevitable hills. We chat, laugh, and share stories all the way.

Who or what never fails to make you laugh?

I love being with my family, and especially the children. They are inquisitive, entertaining, and so honest. I find myself smiling as soon as I am in their presence. The same is true for pets.

Family with husband, wife, three children, and three pets posing outdoors near pool

Do you live by any piece of advice or motto?

“The secret to growing old gracefully is to say yes to far more than you say no to.” This reminds me to be adventurous, curious, and bold.


Share this article

Related Articles

Black and white photo of man pinning flower on woman’s dress

News from Toastmasters International

Celebrating the History of Women in Toastmasters

Lark Doley speaking on stage

Presentation Skills

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Illustrated women holding up International Women


Women in Toastmasters Talk Science


Learn more about the award-winning publication.

About Magazine

Discover more about the award-winning publication.

Magazine FAQ

Answers to your common magazine questions.


How to submit an article query, photo, or story idea.


Meet the editorial team.