As I contemplated the messages from this year’s International Women’s Day, I realised the reason I haven’t been blogging for a few weeks is because of the sheer amount of interesting events I’ve been attending and the interesting people I’ve been meeting and hearing from. IWD has become a high profile event in the calendar and a fantastic catalyst to examine how we are both recognising the contribution of women in our society and taking personal accountability for championing change. This theme was highlighted in my last post, and my recent observations have reinforced my belief that we can all Make Things Happen for ourselves.
A year ago my commitment on IWD 2014 was to ensure I started meaningful conversations on how the way we interact is subject to our own conscious and unconscious biases – most of which are a product of our cultural background and upbringing. Now I used to consider this type of statement as strictly belonging to the school of political correctness and hence having no real meaning in my life – but one incident a few months back made me reconsider.
A work colleague came into the office with her two young children, a girl just starting school, and a pre-school boy. As a mother of boys, I naturally was captivated by the mini-man figure with all his bravado and apparent technical prowess with my own work computer. But when the 6 year old girl had finished drawing a beautiful picture on my desk, I was quick to say how great it was. She then said something that surprised me – “this picture is for you to take home and show your husband”. Now that was a lovely thought – but the fact is, at the age of 6, she had no idea of my marital status or even my sexual orientation – she simply assumed, from her own stable nuclear family background, that any woman of my age would have a husband waiting at home, just for the purpose of congratulating me on my day.
Don’t get me wrong – I have no wish to question this lovely image in her mind. But to me, IWD is about the possibilities for all women to be empowered to live the lives they chose at the time they chose in the way they chose – and to be able to fully realise their potential without the hinderance of bias and discrimination. All of us grow up with our own experiences colouring our view of what we are and what we are capable of – which brings me to the “Hell Yeah” moment.
Last month I was fortunate enough to attend a function in aid of 7 times World Surfing Champion Layne Beachley’s Aim for the Stars foundation. Layne was on a panel of illustrious Australian female sporting stars that evening, and she was asked the question of how she choses between the many options she is now presented with of where to spend her valuable time. I really loved her response, which was that if unless her natural reaction to a request is “Hell Yeah” she really thinks carefully before accepting.
I’ve taken the “Hell Yeah” as a call to action for how I want to progress in my own life and the example I want to give for my children. If something feels right and I think I have the potential to do it, I will take a chance even though I don’t have the expertise. If I can help someone else with a difficult time through sharing my own experiences, I will put myself out there and tell my story. If I can show my children I can exhibit of tolerance and acceptance, I will try my hardest to demonstrate those traits. I will not live my life wishing I had been something more, I will be something more. I have a personal responsibility to show the next generation what it means to be the best you can be, however that looks.
It may be one day at a time, but I will not die wondering. I WILL #makeithappen.