You are 13 years old, living in Sydney, going to a wonderful school and surrounded by friends and family that love you for all you are and all you are becoming. You are growing into a remarkable young woman that your Daddy and I love you more than anything in the world. You are resilient and strong, confident and willing to speak up for what you love. Equally, you are courageous enough to challenge and question the things you disagree with. You light up the room with your smile. You have so much love to share – for your family and friends. You are a go-getter with a willingness to try anything.
And let’s be honest – you also win the award for ‘The Messiest Room in the World’ with clothes spewed across your ‘floordrobe’ and an inability, it seems, to notice the rubbish, the dirty washing, the used make-up remover pads, the empty bags and the overflowing rubbish bin.
But then maybe I was like this at 13 too! I get there are more important things in your life right now.
A Month of Celebration
This is the month that we, collectively, stop and acknowledge the progress of women around the world. And whilst we are making progress, it’s frustratingly slow. We still have lots to do to build a world of equal rights, inclusion and belonging, but trust there are many adults – women and men – doing all we can to challenge the status quo and to change things for you and all girls.
There are still girls that are unable to access education, girls already married and bearing children, girls that are sold into slavery and raped by men who don’t seem to care about the fear or emotional trauma they are causing. These little girls, just like you, are human beings with hearts and feelings, with fears and emotions, with fleeting thoughts and dreams of what they would like to be when they grow up. And for all the girls around the world, my darling Taya, please continue to follow your dreams, to be all you want to be and to use your strength, as you grow up, so that you too can shine a light on what needs to change for others.
Every generation of women has had a job to do and you will have one too.
From the Suffragette movement fighting for our right to vote, to your great aunts and grandmothers holding the fort at home, raising families on rations while war raged around the world, to your Granny’s generation many of whom had to give up their own dreams to raise families.
To a generation of women who started to challenge workplace bias, some of whom felt they had to develop a tough and strong exterior to operate and succeed in a ‘man’s world’. These women– my first female bosses – inspired me. In them, I saw drive and determination. I saw passion and belief. I was encouraged to do more and become more. They spoke to me of their challenges around work:life balance, of the sacrifices they felt they had to make, of the unconscious bias that stopped their progress and belittled their dreams, of society’s expectations of what they should do and how they should live their lives. They inspired me because they also spoke of their determination to never ever give up because they ultimately loved what they were doing and were following their passion.
To my generation of women who continue to push against perceived norms and rules of the establishment, who are highlighting unconscious bias as it appears and making some serious cracks in the glass ceiling. Women who are working smartly to pursue career and business dreams whilst standing in conviction of our real selves, embracing our individual versions of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, with our multiple and individual facets of who we are and what we stand for.
We know that our job is to continue to challenge ourselves and those around us.
We know that through our everyday behaviours and actions, we are setting a new precedent for individuals, for leaders, for organisations, for society.
We know that for change to happen, we have to continue to speak up, to step up, to stand out.
And whilst, your parents, family, friends and teachers are equipping you with all the tools you need to navigate your place in the world and change is happening – there is still work to do.
Inequality of Pay
Unless change happens, as a woman you will get paid less than your male counterparts for doing the same work – you will actually have to work 56 days more in the same job to get the same pay*
Taya, this is one of those things that I can’t explain. I have no idea why this is still such an issue and I hope we get to equality before you start work. The truth is IT SUCKS – even if you study the same course, get better marks, the statistics still say that you will get paid less for doing the same job. I question how this will affect your motivation and your self belief. Whatever you do, continue to value your education – it is a lifelong asset – soak it up, learn something new every day and know that you are worthy. There is nothing less about you at all and don’t ever let anyone tell you or make you feel that you are not good enough. Look them in the eye, be brave and challenge them because you are worth every cent of who you are.
Shared Responsibility of Parenting
68% of primary carers at the moment are women – and most aren’t getting paid for this work and yet 90% of men and women believe that parenting is a shared responsibility.*
If you decide you want a family, find a partner that lives and breathes, through their words and actions, the shared responsibility of parenting. You are so lucky my darling – your Daddy is an incredible man, father and role model. Remember all those moments he was there for you – wiping the tears away, giving a much needed hug, in the playground, at sport, picking you up from the bus top, taking you to rowing in the early hours, delivering forgotten items to school – and all because he loved you.
He has always supported my dreams too – encouraging me to think bigger and to go for it – even when I doubted myself, cried in frustration and didn’t think I could.
Together we created the family experiences and childhood that you have had. Togetherness is critical.
Every single one of us has a choice. Own your choice and don’t ever give that choice away because of a society expectation of what you should be doing.
1 in 3 women are Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse.*
This frightens me to the core.
Even as a grown woman, I still feel the fear when out alone in the evening as my ‘spidey senses’ switch on. There are so many times over the years that I have been made to feel uncomfortable, on edge or nervous about a situation I found myself in. I can still remember hosting a private dinner a couple of years ago for 16 smart, driven, successful businesswomen – and at that dinner, the statistic was 1 in 2 had been victims of some form of domestic violence or sexual abuse!
I know you get annoyed at my nagging when you head out to parties or alone but it is because this statistic is so very real. I am, and always will be, your Mumma Bear – it’s my job to keep you safe and to protect you. Taya, there are lots of amazingly brave women around the world right now, speaking up and raising awareness on the back of the #METOO movement but unfortunately, the daily news continues to tell a different story.
Yes, you should feel safe in your own home. Yes, you should be free to walk safely anywhere. But please always stay with a friend, walk in lit streets, be aware of those around you and carry your keys between your fingers. I give you permission to yell at the top of your voice, to kick and scream, to shout FUCK OFF till you lose your voice. I give you permission to be bold and strong and loud and to protect yourself.
And trust your intuition at all times. That powerful voice in your tummy is your secret weapon. It will let you know when things aren’t right. Never ever ignore it. Because that intuition will keep you safe.
Comparison is A Killer
Do not compare yourself to anything you see on social media
I understand that social media and phone messaging apps are your way of keeping connected with your friends and it’s so awesome that the world of knowledge and connection is at your fingertips. But not everything online is a true reflection of life.
Don’t believe everything you see and read.
Don’t compare yourself to those you see posting online.
It is not normal to obsess about how you look or go to endless lengths perfecting the image you are sharing online.
It’s not normal to share private moments with the masses.
It’s not normal to measure friendship by how many likes you get, who comments and who doesn’t.
I still remember when you were in Year 3 and you were bullied at school for wearing glasses and having to go to speech therapy, I remember trying to help you understand the mean comments in the playground of, “Why are you so fat, Taya?”
Even over Christmas, this year, some mean person anonymously posted comments on Instagram about how you looked.
I love the fact you stood up for yourself and yes I’ll forgive you for swearing as you put the person back in their box – “I am happy with who I am, I don’t care about your comments – but someone else may not be as strong as me and you will hurt their feelings. Stop.”
I loved it when you said to me, “Mummy, I love my body now” – it put the biggest smile on my face.
Yes, Taya! Love you for all you are. And know you should never have to defend who you are to anyone anywhere.
Support Other Women Always
Remember we are all trying to do our best – we are trying to be the best mum, friend, lover, wife, manager, teacher, leader. Be fair without judgment and always support those around you.
Being a woman of value and worth doesn’t mean being Wonder Woman. You don’t need to fly around in your Invisible Jet, saving the corporate planet on a regular schedule and then making it home in time to have dinner on the table. That’s not what life should be about.
The buck does stops with you. YOU are the one who decides whether you are good enough. Nobody else. You are an integral part of driving change so start believing that you can. Take ownership of your emotions, step up, step in, use your voice and dictate your own path.
Become a Rapunzel – a woman who will let down their hair to help the women and girls around you to step up and be more. Become a woman who is willing to show the way, mentor and coach, providing opportunities for others to shine, to grow and succeed.
Embrace the diversity of gender, age and colour of skin, of choice and difference of opinion. Virtually high five the successes and life choices of others; support dreams rather than destroying them. We all have to work collaboratively to smash that glass ceiling to pieces.
We have to work together – because only then will effective change happen.
And finally Taya:
I love you more than anything in the world and no matter what, I will always be there in your corner, backing you all the way as you make your own way in the world.
This International Women’s Day I am absolutely celebrating all the amazing women I know and those I don’t know, but who inspire me with their work, courage and determination. But more so, I am celebrating you – the future of all the efforts that we are collectively working towards.
I love you.