100 years ago the Suffragettes fought to get women more rights. They chained themselves to railings, lobbeyed MP's and the Prime Minister, went on hunger strikes and stood in front of horses. They wanted change and refused to put up with the lack of equality. It worked.
However, life is still not equal a hundred years on. We see very few women in board level positions, there is still a pay gap and women are not represented equally at events. We've seen issues this year in Hollywood with the #timesup campaign and I see issues everyday in retail. There are some companies like Virgin Australia that support women at all levels of the organisation and are even committed to adding 50% female cadet pilots to their cadet intake this year. They have a female leadership program and they're a pretty good company to be part of.
Along with responsible retailing, women in business and leadership is something I am very focused on. I've worked for 25 years now in retail and have experienced plenty and learnt a lot so I like to share what I can when I can. We love to empower everyone at F&F, men and women, to be the best versions of themselves and to be fulfilled. I was lucky enough to speak at a few events last week including a leadership breakfast on Wednesday. There were 150 powerful, inspirational, women present and a few men too who wanted to hear what we had to say. I also helped run a workshop in Melbourne on Saturday called Born to Disrupt. There were around 20 women and men sharing their journeys and challenges.
Whether you are working for someone, working for yourself, at school, uni or a stay at home Mum (or Dad) there are some key points I think we can all relate to so I hope these are useful.
1) Be Fulfilled and Happy. There is often conversation about getting to the top. I think we need to define what that means to us individually. We aren't all going to be, or want to be, CEOs or leaders. But, hopefully, we all want to be fulfilled in what we do so don't think about what role you want but what is actually going to make you happy. I hear a lot of people saying 'I want a C Suite role' and I often ask them why. What's driving that need? Is it the money, the power or the genuine desire? What would actually make you happy and are you being honest with yourself? Is it working for yourself or working with a great team developing innovation and making a difference. And what are you prepared to work. Is it 9 to 5 or is it more than that? Listen to yourself and meet your exectations, no one else's.
2) Back Yourself. Us women particularly are bad at this. We struggle to back ourselves. Have you ever been in a meeting where you don't ask a question because you think someone else will or you're worried it's a silly question. Ask that question! Always ask the question and back what you're thinking and your gut. We need to learn to be more confident and realise that we're actually pretty good at what we do.
3) Push Yourself Forward. We feel we need to tick every box before we apply for a new job and research has shown that is quite different to what men think. Generally men know they don't tick all the boxes but they apply anyway so let's put ourselves out there and be confident.
4) Be Authentic. Be You. The best women leaders I have met are unashamedly themselves. I am me whether in work, at home or with friends, warts and all. You're at your best when you are you so be you. Don't develop a facade or turn into an ice queen because you think that is what is needed. Just be that confident you. So whether you are meeting Mums, sitting in a board meeting or grabbing lunch with a supplier be authentic. It's one of the most powerful traits you have and it can be very disarming.
5) Work With Your Peers. Whether you are male or female one of the best pieces of advices I have had in my career is to work with your colleagues and your peers. They are really valuable to you and very powerful in your success or demise. So look after those who you work with. When I recruit, or promote someone, I like to know what colleagues think of that person because it's a hint as to how they work with people and will they be respected in their next role.
6) Don’t Shut The Door. It can take a lot for women to climb up that greasy career ladder so when we get a promotion or get that senior role we feel it's taken so much to get there that we aren't massively inclined to help anyone else. Don't shut that door. We still have a massive gender bias when it comes to senior roles and it's our duty as pioneering women to lead the charge when it comes to equality and it comes to supporting women in senior roles.
7) You Don't Need to Be Liked. This is one that may be hard for us to digest. You are not going to be everyone's friend and not everyone will like you but you do need to be respected. That's how I approach life. I am a certain person and I won't be everyone's cup of tea, and I'm ok with that, but when working with people I do want people to respect me and how I work. So I always behave ethically, fairly and leave emotion at the door. I'm absolutely not a robot but sometimes you have to make decisions not everyone will like so make them, have your reasonings and back yourself. That's all anyone can ask.
Have an amazing International Women's Day and celebrate being the very amazing person you are and the women around you are!