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We Asked Australian Women What Being Female Today Means to Them

by Nicole Singh

If the last few months have been anything to go by, what it means to be a woman is changing fast, and for the better. Whether it's been in the media, in the workplace or in our even on our social media accounts, women have been sharing their stories and thus empowering more women to tell their own while fighting for change. As we push forward for equality within our personal and professional spheres of influence, one resounding message through it all is that given the chance, we can and will be all that we want to be.

So, as we push for change and reflect on the amazing women who have come before us, we spoke to 11 inspiring women in all different walks of life about what being female means to them, what they want other women to know, and the changes they are pioneering for themselves and for others. Read on for their inspiring perspectives below.

PHOTO:

Getty Images

D'Neale Prosser, leadership and talent manager, IKEA Australia

What does being a woman mean to you?

For me, being a woman means being a wife and partner, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend and a committed career woman. An individual that recognises my own success but also acts as a mentor to other females, so we can all triumph and flourish.

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for?

I’d like to see more women recognise and give themselves credit for their achievements. Dreams don’t have an expiry date. We need to remain focused on what is important to us—and don’t forget that the waiting and those in-between moments all serve a purpose. Trust your process. Even the delays and plot twists.

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

Pay equality will be a strong focus in 2018. At IKEA we already set salaries independent of race, gender, age or other life situations. Our aim is always to secure equal pay for equal position and performance. We constantly review and set checks to ensure we continue to work in this way—something that I am genuinely proud of. In 2018, I am on a mission to start a courage revolution to support people and my co-workers to shake off any limiting beliefs and have the courage to step forward and unleash their full potential. 

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?

Figure out who you are. Don’t apologise for it. Then become even greater than you thought you could possibly be.

Danielle Cross, artist, Danielle X

What does being a woman mean to you?

Being a woman, to me, means: Strength, resilience, vulnerability and passion. Being a woman intrigues me with our layered complexities. It means balancing our feminine and masculine. It means trusting our inner intuition, as this is what will navigate us.

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for?

If only women lifted each other up and realised that there is no 'I' in team! I wish women gave each other more credit and less competition. No matter what industry or experience, teamwork really does make the dream work. We are a force when we support each other, flaws and all, that’s where our strength lies. And we can have a hell of time together doing it!

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

Equality. But to be specific human equality. Being a mother of two incredible strong and sensitive amazing girls, I hope that they witness that gender, race and sexuality should never play a role in who they are, what they want to be and their life’s purpose. I look at 2018 with optimism and positivity.

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?

Strength in vulnerability. It is the purest form of strength. It is the very thing that connects us to our human experience. And connection with each other is the only real experience that we are continually searching for, but it's incredibly hard to master. This is the year!

Pip Vassett, founder and director, IN BED

What does being a woman mean to you?

Woman are incredible—we're resilient, strong, can do a million things at once and have so much empathy and care for others.

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for?

Everything really. Women are the first ones to downplay their achievements as 'no big deal' or make light of something that, really, we should be giving ourselves more credit for.

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

There's great momentum for women's rights and equality in general currently, so I really hope to see that continuing and gaining more and more strength in 2018 and beyond.

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?

Same as every year really, and it's nothing too inspiring, but I think something all women do on a daily basis 'just get on with it.'

PHOTO:

Lorna Jane, Pip Vassett, Rebecca Vallance.

Caitlin Barrett, CEO, Love Mercy

What does being a woman mean to you?

Being a woman means embracing 'feminine' leadership traits which are of course available to men, but more commonly found among women. For me this means leading with a spirit of collaboration, vulnerability, empathy, humility, and diplomacy. It means managing many competing priorities and being present in the moment. Being a woman means having the courage and freedom to lead with those traits at the forefront of your life rather than feel pressure to fit into a mould. 

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for? 

Female leaders are often humble human beings, which is a great thing. I wish women readily took more credit for their innovative business ideas, their pioneering leadership and for the fact that they often have hustle in spades. Some of the most efficient and effective workers I’ve known have been working women, mums especially, who have limited time in the day to get the job done but who hustle like crazy and achieve results.

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

I hope that men take more ownership of the women’s rights movement. It’s time for men to start calling out inappropriate behaviour. With the number of women who shared their stories during the #MeToo campaign, it is obvious that there must be men out there who have witnessed or been indirectly involved with sexual harassment. What did they say? What did they do? I hope this year more men step up and call out their mates to become part of the solution rather than silent bystanders. 

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?  

'Soft front, strong back, wild heart.' I read this mantra on January first a book by author Brené Brown called Braving the Wilderness and it embodies how I want to live out 2018: Being open, vulnerable and compassionate but standing strong in my truth, ready for new adventures. 

Rebecca Vallance, founder and designer, Rebecca Vallance

What does being a woman mean to you? 

I think being a woman takes strength and means achieving whatever you set your mind to. I think back to the time when I first launched the Rebecca Vallance brand, I always knew I wanted to be a designer and make clothes, but it took persistence and determination. Now seven years later, the brand has two stores nationally, plus we’re stocked globally at Net-A-Porter, MyTheresa, Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Revolve—and we are still expanding! It defiantly hasn’t come easy, but if there is anything I’ve learnt being a woman, it’s to stay strong and just keep moving forward.  

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for? 

 Everything! As women we can be so harsh on ourselves and quick to criticise our actions. However, if I had to pick just one thing, it would definitely be parenting. Parenting always deserves more credit. Kids can be a full-time job, especially when they are young like my two boys (Matthias is 2 and Rafael is 5 months). So, to women who are working with kids, credit is seriously due. 

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

There is a lot of momentum currently in the women’s rights movement. It would be great to see this momentum continue and be the catalyst for achieving equal pay, equal opportunity and an equal voice for men and women in society. 

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?  

Take more risks. I think this is not only a great business mantra but a good personal one too. I like the saying that goes: Always go with the choice that scares you the most because that’s the one that’s going to help you grow.  

Fanny Moizant, co-founder, Vestiaire Collective

What does being a woman mean to you?

It's about looking out for each other and using our voices to make positive changes by sticking together to build a better future for our daughters and granddaughters. I also think it’s super important that we empower young girls in any way we can to ensure they grow into strong women who use their voices to create positive change. The best allies we have are each other. 

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for? 

I wish we would give ourselves more credit for how strong we are. I think we doubt our strength but forget how strong we actually are, as we’re constantly juggling our different roles: Mother, wife, professional. Sometimes, it's important to step back and take a breath, it doesn’t mean we’re not strong.

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

I’d like to see equality in the workplace, whether that’s equal opportunities or equal pay. We need women to make a stand together as one, to show that we won’t stop until we get change.

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year? 

To trust myself and follow my instinct when making decisions. 

Paola Toppi, owner and head chef, Bar Machiavelli

What does being a woman mean to you? 

I was the oldest child in a very strong matriarchal family. My mother, Giovanna, owned a lot of successful restaurants which some of your older readers might remember, such as La Strada and Giovanna’s. However, my father died when I was in my early twenties, and so, trying to keep my siblings and I together, my mother thrust us all in to business. In 1988 we started Machiavelli restaurant in Sydney on Clarence Street. It was all mum knew how to do. Restaurants were her life. They are my life now too. Being a woman in this industry requires true grit. It’s difficult to employ seasoned chefs who have never worked with a female executive or head chef. I call myself a cook not a chef, as I have no formal training, yet I demand respect in the kitchen, as any chef would. Without respect, I could not do my job. Being a woman allows me to cultivate young chefs, as they look up to me like a child does with their mother. I like being a woman. It makes me more passionate, more emotional—both things that make me better at what I do. Cooking is a passion, no matter the gender. My emotions give me an edge; I allow myself to dream and I learn new things everyday. 

 What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for? 

Women have not always had the choices men have had. We should embrace our ability to have it all. A family, a career… it is possible. We can do it now more than ever before. 

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

I think it would be great to see women standing up for themselves immediately, not waiting years to speak up. We don’t need to follow, we can lead the charge. We all have a voice and if we speak our voices will become a roar that no one can ignore. 

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?  

Strive to learn each day and bring out the best in my team. Enjoy the moment. Never forget my roots. 

PHOTO:

Christine Black, Danielle Cross, Paola Toppi

Helen Karabassis, head of research and insights, The Media Store

What does being a woman mean to you?

I’m a strategist at heart, so I’m going to be single-minded about what being a woman means to me. It means one word to me: Strength.

Strength of character: Knowing who you are and staying true to that.

Inner strength: Being resilient and dealing with everything that life throws at us.

Having conviction: Strong beliefs and opinions that we feel comfortable sharing with others.

Confidence: Believing in ourselves and our ability because we can do anything we want.

Strength of commitment: Taking action and doing the things that are hard, and not expecting others to do it for you. And feeling strong enough to show our vulnerability and express our emotions because that’s important to us and that’s how we connect with others.

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for?

Their professional successes. Women have a tendency to sit back at the table and not join in, but I’m always encouraging women at The Media Store to join the conversation. It’s important that I do everything I can to make them feel confident about expressing their opinions and their ideas.

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

Throughout history so many women have fought for our rights, but there’s still a long way to go until we have the same rights as men. I hope to see significant progress made towards equal pay, violence in the home, sexual harassment and discrimination. It’s time, and I’m determined to do everything I can to help achieve this.

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?  

Make a difference. I work in an industry full of innovation, and as the head of research and insights at The Media Store, I need to stay on top of new ways brands can interact with consumers so I can make a difference to their business. However, this mantra drives me in my personal life too—I’m always thinking about how I can make a difference to the people around me.

Christine Black, director of public affairs, communications and sustainability, Coca-Cola South Pacific

What does being a woman mean to you?

In the context of helping others, being a woman means I empathise with and aim to support other women achieve their highest potential and set an example for young girls coming up through the ranks.

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for?

Their successes. We’re quick to play down our successes and it can set a negative example for our young girls. The last part of, MyRoad a mentoring program that I am apart of revolves around reflection and celebration, encouraging mentees to step back and acknowledge their wins, which I believe is so important!

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?

More companies (and their male and female staff) tactfully supporting women through various ventures, such as The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 program, which aims to economically empower five million women by 2020. 

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?  

Pay it forward! I worked very hard to get to my position, and I’ve learnt a lot along the way. As a woman, it’s important that I pay it forward to the next generation of women and empower them to feel career ready when they leave school. MyRoad lets me do that from my desk, so I’ve really got no excuse not to help out. None of us do.

Lorna Jane Clarkson, founder, Lorna Jane

What does being a woman mean to you?
 
I love being a woman. I’m a sister, I’m a daughter, I’m a wife, I’m a best friend and a mother to my dog Roger. But I’m also so much more than a woman and it’s important to me that my gender doesn't define who I am or what I can do with my life.

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for?
 
I think women are amazing and so much more capable than so many of them realise. What I wish for the next generation of women is that they don’t feel held back by a society that has preconceived ideas of what is acceptable for women to say, how they should act or what their role in society should be. I want all women to feel that they can do absolutely anything they want with their lives - if they just go out and make it happen.

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018? 

What everyone wants and what every woman deserves: Equality.

 What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?

That’s it’s absolutely OK to want more. 

Kate Wasley, body-positivity role model

What does being a woman mean to you? 

Being strong yet nurturing. Being able to make your own decisions without fear or judgement.

What’s one thing you wish more women gave themselves credit for?

There’s so much more to a women than sexuality. That’s true, but there’s so much pressure on women to look or act a certain way to be seen as sexy for men. I think women have a right to feel sexy in whatever way they want. I feel sexiest when I’m at the beach, cellulite and stretch marks on show, no make up and salty hair, not for anyone else but myself, and it’s a great feeling.

What changes do you hope to see towards women’s rights for 2018?  

I think we have it pretty good in Australia. I’d like to see more done for homeless women and violence against women. I think there needs to be more options for safety put in place so women are able to leave abusive relationships. I’d also like to see America sort out its issues with paid parental leave and more planned parenthood funding too.

What’s the one mantra you’re telling yourself this year?  

My motive for doing things needs to be for my happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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