I spend a reasonable amount of my time reflecting on my all time favourite “F Word”…. Feminist. I reflect about it because I’m often asked why I do what I do, what made me “become” a feminist. The short way to answer both questions is with “because I’m a woman!”
The longer way is the basis of this article. I wrote it when I heard an influential woman talk about her own feminism journey.
I’m a life-long learner
I enjoy continuous learning and my personal and professional growth is a priority for me. I have experienced lots of learning growth establishing three enterprises, building a social media brand, building a powerful womens network and stepping up to visibly and vocally own the brand feminist.
Perhaps some of you reading this who know me well have just choked, as you may have seen me as an avowed feminist from the word go. I don’t disagree.
I am a feminist from the core and always have been.
However I am an ordinary woman who like many other women, has sometimes carefully chosen when and where to claim and voice my feminism. I’ve chosen consciously and subconsciously to have varied approaches to my feminist beliefs throughout my life and career. My choices have been anchored in how safe the environment was or how prudent it was (whether that’s right or wrong is irrelevant here) to express my beliefs. Lets face it, feminism gets a bad rap. Hell, there’s even an anti-feminist movement by women! So the expression of my views about feminism have always been with a healthy dose of self-preservation in mind. Courageous? Nope. But hang in there..
The Oxford dictionary defines feminism as “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”
I grew up believing myself to be equal.
Thanks in no small measure to my mother, who as the mother of three women, knew that we WERE equal and that we had the right to do whatever we wanted to do. But then I grew up and entered the world of work, men, society and peer pressure. And so began my four stages of feminism.
I can’t take credit for the four stages of feminism. I must credit Holly Kramer (Best & Less, Ford Motor Company, PBL, Telstra, and Pacific Brands) who I heard speak about her career and life journey at a conference in 2016. When Holly talked about her four stages of feminism she had me mesmerised and nodding my head vigorously. She could have been describing my life.
The four stages of feminism perfectly captured how I grew up and into feminism.
- Stage 1 Oblivion: I am a relatively privileged, educated young white western woman with the world at her feet. I have choices laid out in front of me, I will be self sufficient and conquer the world. What inequality problem? Of course the way is mine to have. Feminism? Inequality? Bias? Huh! Not an issue for me!
- Stage 2 Awareness: Wow, women are just not being treated equally. You just have to be part of the boys club. What a shame. But hey, things are going great for me, so no sweat right?
- Stage 3 Outrage: You’re joking!! Why are there no women on that board? How is it that I get paid 27% less than men? Why do I have to organise all the cleaning, caring and cooking, on top of a full time career? Why is Australia not even in the top 40 nations for gender equality? Where are all the female policy makers? Why wasn’t I considered for the top job?
- Stage 4 Advocacy (with a healthy dose of resignation) : OK, so its time to stop sitting back and admiring the problem. I will only buy from female owned or companies who have gender equal boards and executive teams. I will advocate strongly for quota’s wherever I can. I am taking matters into my own hands by running three businesses, managing a board career and a professional brand about advancing women. I will open the hatch, extend my hand and help shatter the glass ceiling into a million pieces.
I hover between outrage and advocacy on a daily basis.
However what I have also learned in recent times is to never let a crisis go to waste. And we are in a crisis. Women are not equal. They should be. I’m not going to spout more statistics to you. What I do is take action, each and every time the opportunity arises.
I am a feminist.
When I start a conversation, when I introduce myself to a new person, people or gathering, I ALWAYS state my reason for being. I make sure that my audience (whether its one person or one thousand) hears my all time favourite F Word. Feminist.
Because it starts a conversation and even debate. Which is healthy because then comes awareness. With awareness comes action. With action comes change. So to honour great women like my mother, like Holly Kramer, like Hillary Clinton, like Gloria Steinhem and many many more…I loudly and proudly claim my all time favourite F Word. Feminism.
Michelle advises, mentors and designs for a gender equal world. If you’d like to speak with Michelle about moving your inclusion plan from conversation to action, please use the contact form below.