Everywhere you look at the moment, women in business are getting together – championing each other’s causes, discussing the big issues such as gender diversity, the pay gap and juggling business with babies. Women’s networking groups have been on the rise for some time, and are more popular than ever – take Business Chicks, Like Minded B*tches Drinking Wine or LBD Group as some high profile examples. There’s just one thing missing – men. Now don’t get me wrong – as a feminist, single mum and small business owner I am all for women’s empowerment and an even playing field. But are attending events exclusively for women going to get us the outcome we want?
2017 was a watershed year for many large issues facing modern day women - with arguably unparalleled world discussion taking place on issues such as sexual harassment and sexism in the workplace, and 2018’s International Women’s Day theme of #PressforProgress is making sure the conversation isn’t going away. As a millennial career woman, with two young children, I couldn’t be happier the dialogue is continuing – it’s frankly astonishing these issues haven’t been at the forefront sooner. And while I embrace and encourage the conversation sparked by campaigns such as #metoo, it really is just the tip of the iceberg.
It might be hard to imagine if you know me now, but I used to have a physical reaction to speaking up for myself. I was bullied quite considerably in primary school and would avoid standing out – but occasionally felt strongly enough about something to speak up. Before I’d even said anything, I’d get hot, my throat would close up and I would turn a bright shade of red, all from just mentally preparing to share my opinion on something. Even in my twenties I would occasionally still suffer from the same thing. Now, fortunately, I have got control of these extreme reactions but it is something I often think about - primarily because I am the mother of a beautiful little girl, that I would like to raise to be strong, confident and outspoken.
I was lucky enough this week to be invited back to my old high school, Methodist Ladies College in Perth, to speak to the Year 11s at their annual career breakfast. It was a huge thrill for me, as I have wonderful memories of my time there, and remember distinctly the cocktail of feelings being experienced by these young women at such a pivotal time in their lives - excitement, anticipation and determination. Yet also a very real sense of fear, confusion, and pressure. Oh, the pressure. Almost certainly worse now, in the age of social media, but still absolutely real in my senior years. I’m not sure if it’s made worse being at one of Perth’s more prestigious schools, or if it’s the same everywhere – but I remember all of a sudden becoming very aware of having to make a potentially life altering decision. At sixteen. But not having any of the tools required to make such a big decision. The career advisors certainly offered all the right advice – and with the passage of time you can see how true it was. But at the time? I felt confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. And I could see that many of the young women at the breakfast felt exactly the same way.
I caught up with some friends recently, who have a little boy about a year younger than my little girl. We hit a popular park in North Perth, armed with our caffeine, sunscreen and snacks, and tried to keep our kids out of trouble long enough to have a decent 'adult' chat.
Behind us, a three-year- old party was setting up. Now this party was unlike anything I had seen before (and I have been to quite a few kid's parties in my time). A Moroccan-style seating arrangement with plump colour-coordinated cushions and a long table covered in decorations and goodie bags, a food cart with a huge assortment of sweets and treats, various themed performers and of course, a giant bouquet of balloons with a gold 'three' at the centre of it all.
I am so excited to be writing my first blog piece for my new website - www.lannahill.com.au. Launching my personal brand has been something that has been in the works for a while - over a year in fact - but managing one business and brand (as well as two young children!) has certainly kept me busy enough!
I’ve been to quite a few networking events for women in business recently and at each one, the issue of gender diversity has come up. It’s a conversation that predictably unearths a number of smaller sub-issues – female confidence, gender stereotypes, and the gender pay gap. Something else that often gets mentioned is competition amongst women, and specifically, how women compete. “Women shouldn’t be competing with each other”, says one of the women at my table. “There’s enough opportunities out there for everyone.” “We should be lifting each other higher, I don’t compete with anyone” says another. And therein lies the problem.