Category Archives: inspiring women

Inspiring women: Louisa Lawson – women's suffrage activist and publisher

The fight for women to get the vote was a monument to cooperation, ingenuity and collaboration on the part of many women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These women educated themselves and their peers about women’s issues and agitated for women’s rights. And the women of Australia owe a debt to these women of the past who achieved the privileges of full participation in the political process that we now enjoy, and often take for granted.

In the nineteenth century it was true to say:

“A woman’s opinions are useless to her, she may suffer unjustly, she may be wronged, but she has no power to weightily petition against man’s laws, no representatives to urge her views, her only method to produce release, redress, or change, is to ceaselessly agitate.”
Source: Louisa Lawson, speech to the inaugural meeting of the Dawn Club. Published in Dawn, July 1889.

Louisa Lawson is an interesting example of these women who paved the way for our participation as equals in Australian democracy . Louisa is one of my favourite characters from the Australian history – strong willed and cantankerous, she was one of the key progenitors of the women’s suffrage movement in Australia. And among her important contributions was The Dawn, a journal for women:

“In 1888 Louisa Lawson, who had previously edited the Republican with son Henry, launched The Dawn; a journal for women. The publication’s purpose was to be a “phonograph to wind out audibly the whispers, pleadings and demands of the sisterhood”. It advised on women’s issues, including divorce, the age of consent, and women’s right to vote. As well as operating as an important vehicle for the communication of feminist politics the paper also contained short stories, fashion notes, sewing patterns and reports on women’s activities around the country and overseas. By October 1889, the Dawn office employed ten women as typesetters, printers, binders, and unskilled workers. They were harassed by male workers, and by their male union, The New South Wales Typographical Association. In 1905, after seventeen years, the publication ceased production.”
Source: The Australian Women’s Register

Donna Benjamin (aka @KatteKrab) reports that there is no funding for the National Library of Australia to digitise The Dawn. However, Donna estimates that $7,500 should be sufficient to see the entire publication digitised.

Donna has had the brilliant idea of collecting funds to Digitise The Dawn. If we all put in a little bit then it can be added to the Trove Project and provide open access to this important resource for historians around the world.

UPDATE:  The new Digitise the Dawn website is up and you can follow on Twitter or identi.ca @digitisethedawn.

Girl Develop IT Sydney launches successfully #ozgdi

Girl Develop IT Sydney kicked off well last night with thirty eight students, led by the indomitable Pamela Fox and a number of teaching assistants.

Women from all sorts of jobs and backgrounds came along to grapple with the basics of web development – with the youngest still in high school.

The first session covered the basics of HTML and history of the web. Next sessions are:

Class 2: HTML Advanced Tags – Wednesday, Oct. 20
Class 3: CSS Selectors & Properties – Monday, Oct. 25th
Class 4: CSS Layout – Wednesday, October 27th
Class 5: Final Demos – Monday, November 1st

Google’s offices in Sydney are a great venue – kudos to them for supporting this initiative.

becauseiamagirl

Help a girl and you help a family, a village and the world #becauseiamagirl

I’ve been a big supporter of the Plan Because I am a Girl campaign – if you haven’t shared your story do it now!

The other day @uskovic shared this video about the Girl Effect with me:

 

You Can Help Change the World

Plan International says “There’s no greater enemy of inequality than keeping quiet!”Act now! Spread the ‘Because I am a Girl’ message throughout your network of family, friends and colleagues.

Simple Things You Can Do Right Now …

  • Share your story here
  • Inform people about the campaign through your websites, newsletters, emails and other touch points. Plan can provide you logos and information on the campaign.
  • Host lunches with friends, partners and clients. Depending on the event Plan can provide content and speakers.
  • Plan can work with you to see how your business can build awareness among your customers and suppliers.
  • You can donate to Plan in Australia’s GirlsFund, that works to address the unique obstacles faced by girls.
  • You can sponsor a child with Plan. Over 48,000 individuals and businesses in Australia sponsor children with Plan.  Plan uses funds through child sponsorship to support projects that bring lasting change to a child’s entire community, such as gender equality.
  • For more ways on how you can support the campaign visit Plan Australia’s ‘Because I am a Girl’ website
  • Because I am a Girl Facebook Group
  • Twitter: @invest_in_girls
    becauseiamagirl

    Rethinking a girl’s place in the world #becauseiamagirl

    Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky investigates the oppression of women globally. Half the Sky lays out an agenda for the world’s women and three major abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape; maternal mortality, which needlessly claims one woman a minute.

    Her stories are confronting. Only when women in developing countries have equal access to education and economic opportunity will we be using all our human resources.

     

    You Can Help Change the World

    Plan International says “There’s no greater enemy of inequality than keeping quiet!”

    Act now! Spread the ‘Because I am a Girl’ message throughout your network of family, friends and colleagues.

    Simple Things You Can Do Right Now …

    • Share your story here
    • Inform people about the campaign through your websites, newsletters, emails and other touch points. Plan can provide you logos and information on the campaign.
    • Host lunches with friends, partners and clients. Depending on the event Plan can provide content and speakers.
    • Plan can work with you to see how your business can build awareness among your customers and suppliers.
    • You can donate to Plan in Australia’s GirlsFund, that works to address the unique obstacles faced by girls.
    • You can sponsor a child with Plan. Over 48,000 individuals and businesses in Australia sponsor children with Plan.  Plan uses funds through child sponsorship to support projects that bring lasting change to a child’s entire community, such as gender equality.
    • For more ways on how you can support the campaign visit Plan Australia’s ‘Because I am a Girl’ website
    • Because I am a Girl Facebook Group
    • Twitter: @invest_in_girls

    Thanks to my friend Alli for putting me on to the Half the Sky video.

    A woman in … Social Innovation

    One of the things that I’m fascinated by is how narrow our definition of success is sometimes. This is one of the reasons for this post. Michelle Williams is a woman who has taken a step back from the traditional definition of success and who seeks to broaden it.

    There is a new breed of innovator roaming the streets – and Michelle is one of them – called Social Entrepreneurs. These people seek to change the focus of innovation from making money to making people and societies truly rich. It is often called Social Innovation.

    Michelle has inspired me with her passion for social innovation. Her focus is in the areas of environment, sustainability and social justice (in particular the rights and empowerment of Indigenous people).

    After a long career in enterprise she now runs her own marketing consultancy and regularly blogs about connecting the world through social innovation.

    Michelle is also developing her own startup in the social/technology space; she also runs other entrepreneurial events in the tech and social innovation space.

    Here in her own words:

    How/Why I’m doing what I’m doing now?
    I grew up in a beautiful area of Sydney a shy girl, a wallflower of sorts. I have always appreciated technology and the way it can enhance our lives. I enjoy connecting with people, and solving the world’s problems, one step at a time of course. I love to contemplate, explore and learn about the world and how we all behave in it.

    Since my late teens I have felt an intense drive and spirit inside that has taken me exploring the other side of the world, has seen me train intensely in martial arts, and pushed me to develop myself personally, constantly acquiring new knowledge and understanding.

    Just over year ago I was made redundant from my role as the marketing manager for an IT solution provider. I had the opportunity to take similar roles but felt it was time to forge my own path, shed the skin of where life had led me to, and make a concerted effort to carve my niche.

    My vision has always been to make a massive positive difference in this world. Social innovation using technology and the web is not as developed as it could be in Sydney yet, but I will ensure, as I develop myself and create my own, that I do all I can to see it grow to the levels it deserves. I would love to see the entrepreneurial tech and social innovation communities that are emerging achieve all they possibly can and, for greater society to embrace this whole heartedly.


    What is the best piece of advice you have ignored to get where you are?

    To work a 9-5 job, get married, have a kid and buy a house. All around me I saw people settling for the first thing that came along but not really being happy. Yes, I missed out on short term gratification and yes it’s hurt and sometimes been lonely but it never felt real to just do what’s comfortable. I know those things will come but at a deeper, more meaningful level.

    Are you actually happy?
    It is so easy to get out of bed at the crack of dawn when I have a purpose. Thankfully I have the drive and energy to keep going and to pursue my dreams. Is life perfect? No. But I’m not sure it’s meant to be and strangely, when I achieve great feats along the way it doesn’t feel different, the journey just becomes more enjoyable. I do know that I live for the experience of life, live it to the fullest I possibly can and that the best is still to come.

    How many times they nearly gave up when things went wrong and what kept them going at those times?
    It’s funny that I now have a very positive, optimistic view on life it takes a lot for me to reach the point of giving up. But, on those rare occasions I’ve felt like it, moments later it all falls into alignment.

    It has helped to talk to as many people as I can who share the journey or have some insight into what I am experiencing. Special people of note have been John Wells, Raul Caceras, Mick Liubinskas and Kim Chen.

    However, I have walked away though, like from my first professional Muay Thai fight after months of intense physical and mental training in preparation. I knew in my heart that the lesson was not the fight but the journey to it, and now all I’ve experienced since in the tech, social innovation and music communities.


    What do you wish you hadn’t sacrificed to be such a success?

    Sleep ins but it’s interesting that the more I kick this up a gear the more disciplined and organised I am becoming. I try to encourage a no TV household so we ensure we’re always active or doing something productive. My housemates think it’s funny when I hide the TV, only bringing it out for special events.


    What mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

    A wise mentor repeated many times that ‘it’s only a mistake if you make it twice’. As a human being we make them and we learn from them. I do feel though that my biggest mistake I have made was not being at peace with that, not forgiving myself for being me. As soon as I did find that peace the cloud lifted and it all started to become clear.

    Annalie Killian … a woman Catalysing Magic

    Here is another post in my series on inspiring women.

    This time it is my friend Annalie Killian, who is also known as Catalyst for Magic (yes that is really the job title on her business card) or as @MaverickWoman on Twitter.

    I’ve known Annalie for many years and have always been inspired and energised by her. Over the years she has evolved as an organisational change agent (catalyst) and intrapreneur. Yet several constants have remained with Annalie over the years, for example, her:

    • passion for change,
    • generosity of spirit,
    • extreme curiosity, and
    • deep joie de vivre.

    Here is a bit of insight into the life journey of this woman who has challenged stereotypes and travelled far. In her own words:

    How/Why I’m doing what I’m doing now?

    Let me start with what I am doing now, then I’ll try and cover the how and why.

    Since 2000, when I moved to Australia from South Africa, I have worked as “Catalyst for Magic” at AMP, a large iconic Australian Financial Services brand. My role is Director of Innovation, Collaboration and Communication, and I see it as championing the spirit of “ubuntu” – a Zulu word referring to our inter-connected Humanness” – in all its rich and imaginative and complex essence- and directing that magic towards meaningful and purposeful work and business outcomes. Call it culture, call it engagement, call it creative collaboration, collective intelligence– it’s all of that, and it’s what sets one company apart from the next.

    Why I am doing what I’m doing now?

    My best friend, who unfortunately died of cancer at age 33, sent me a card after a particularly trying incident working for an extreme bully, GM of Human Resources at the time at the Bayside Aluminium Smelter in South Africa. She said: “You will outlive him…you are a survivor- it’s inevitable”. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now….and I think the essence of what she was referring to is my resilience, resourcefulness and extreme adaptability.

    So why do I do what I do? Maybe it was inevitable…I thrive in it! As a corporate maverick, I dodge, weave, swim upstream and take a lot of set-backs but keep on purpose when it comes to innovation and bringing others along. And yes, it is unsettling for some who want to cling to the status quo or the past.

    How do I do it?

    If “life is what happens when you are making other plans”, then I guess I don’t make too many plans but rather find ways to apply my strengths to opportunities I spot and shape my work that way. I have an insatiable curiosity and am highly attuned to faint signals that others often don’t notice. Believe it or not, these skills were forged in childhood by personal circumstances and it taught me to pick up on almost imperceptible signals and anticipate scenarios- giving me the best ability to cope and navigate through challenges. And I am

    Who would have thought that this was preparing me to become a change agent, working in innovation in a large corporation, nurturing the adoption of ideas and collaboration among many to anticipate disruption, embrace change and overcome threats?

    My proudest breakthroughs include facilitating the first democratic elections in South Africa in the Zululand region to a peaceful outcome in 1994, establishing the first Community Foundation in Africa and building that into a powerful transformational agency, and establishing + producing the AMPLIFY Innovation & Thought Leadership Festival since 2005. The latter two were the result of spotting signals early and converging many ideas into a powerful vision.

    What is the best piece of advice you have ignored to get where you are?

    Sticking to the straight and narrow road! I have always meandered down ally-ways and side-streets, and these have yielded the richest discoveries and sometimes set me on a totally different trajectory.

    How many times did you nearly give up when things went wrong & what kept you going at those times?

    Know that cartoon about the frog trying to strangle the Pelican that’s eating him? That’s me. I can be almost compulsive-obsessive when I want something. I NEVER give up. I just find a different way. And, I have learnt patience…I can bide my time. This is the hardest of course, but I have been rewarded more times than not by letting go of something and then revisiting it at a later time when circumstances caught up. Ideas can be way ahead of their time and one must be willing to cultivate the eco-system to prepare it for an idea. (This feels counter-intuitive because we know how slow organisations can be to change- but there’s no point forcing something so hard that it forces YOU out!)

    Are you actually happy?

    Yes! Unequivocally yes! I don’t have a perfect life, or actually perfect anything…but it’s sort of all working and there is harmony most of the time. I still have lots of ambition that I hope to realize and it would be great to really push my talents to see where the limits are. There are a few big dreams still looking for a physical manifestation- I’d like to play in a larger international arena and I would also like to help my 2 daughters achieve their dreams. One wants to be a musician and learn Mandarin so she can sing in China, and the other one wants to be a fashion stylist/ editor. I’d like to study Alternate Health like massage therapies as a hobby. (I love spoiling people!)

    What do you wish you hadn’t sacrificed to be such a success?

    It’s a flattering question, though I don’t think of success as a destination, more as a work-in-progress.

    I have not been balanced at all times…favouring the mind and not honouring the body equally. I don’t sleep much…there’s so much living to be done! But no, I have never regretted not sleeping more!

    I think my daughters have missed not coming home to cookies and milk served by me, but I don’t do guilt. I know they have gained in many other ways through the way I parent them, like a belief that being deeply immersed in doing something you love and becoming good at it is one of the most pleasurable things in life, and that all mastery requires effort. It’s very funny when I hear them sharing these thoughts with their teenage friends!

    What mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

    I make mistakes all the time…it comes with taking risk and learning. But it’s crucial to be very observant and spot a mistake quickly, then fix it immediately. It helps to have low ego and attachment to a process so you can amend it without feeling like it’s a loss of face!

    Outside of a criminal offence, there are few mistakes one cannot overcome professionally or personally. But some mistakes can shadow you throughout your life. One of those is choosing a partner that is not right for you- and being tied to a bad scenario for a lifetime until your children are adults. That’s about the only warning I can give! And…mistakes should not be wasted, they are vessels of personal growth.

    What would be the point of a mistake-free life? Can’t think of anything more boring!

    Jo White – a woman in a … startup

    I am very privileged to know a number of truly remarkable and inspiring women who work in, on and around geek stuff. One of my notions for this year was to share some of their ideas and experiences with everyone.

    The first woman who sprang to mind is Jo White (a.k.a. @mediamum on Twitter). She’s been a friend and an inspiration for a while now.

    There are not many women who combine a career in journalism, a large family, activism for breast-feeding, postgraduate studies, teaching, co-founding a startup, and moving to the other side of the world. Jo has done all that and more.

    Jo’s response to my idea was to say: “You have officially turned into the Andrew Denton of the internet. The ‘Are you happy’ question had me thinking for a few days.” (Being compared to Mr Denton is hardly the worst thing anyone’s said of me ;))

    Her responses got me thinking and helped me to consider my own experiences differently. Here are the questions and Jo’s answers about how she got to be where she is now…

    How/Why I’m doing what I’m doing now.
    We moved to the US to pursue this company launch because of a few reasons. Firstly, I firmly believe that my children should see us working hard and really chasing dreams. They saw me do my undergraduate degree by distance education that took three years, and went to Queensland with me and saw me graduate. That kind of thing makes a lasting impression on kids. I want them to have big dreams, and put in solid work to attain them.

    I also wanted to demonstrate to my husband the full commitment and faith I have in our ability to travel this path together. There are simply not many husband/wife startup relationships that are celebrated, and this was a massive move for us.

    Finally, of course I would never have made this leap unless I firmly saw the vision behind the company itself. What we are seeking to provide the world with is a tool that will help everyone navigate the web, find credible information, and inform us all on what and who the best resources are on the web.

    I want to really encourage everyone to create more content, and to make it the best content they can pull together, no matter what their space is. TribeVibe will really make that come together.

    I have just written my Masters thesis on the strength of social media communities, and have been accepted the offer of a fully funded PhD position at Colorado University’s ATLAS program. I will be working in the EPIC Project Colorado Lab, researching social capital and other aspects of communication online as they relate to crisis informatics (disaster relief, information dissemination and communication).

    I am also the Program Director for the 60 Weeks Program at Boulder Digital Works, connecting world leading graduate students in cutting edge digital with the best minds in all aspects of digital, innovation and business.

    What is the best piece of advice you have ignored to get where you are?
    I try to never ignore advice, however there is some I’ll give more weight to than others. Successful women entrepreneurs are people I really pay attention to, especially if they have had aspects of the journey I share. I turn into their biggest fans. There are not many of them.

    There remains a view that startups are too risky for people like me – a mother of four. I also ignore the people who say you can’t manage a family, an academic career and a startup. What they’re really saying is that they can’t do it. Not that I can’t. And that’s okay.

    Are you actually happy?
    I stewed over this question for a while. I’ve come to the conclusion that it depends what you mean by ‘happy’. If you mean content, no I’m not. But I don’t think anyone who loves working in startups is ever content. Being content commonly relates to being stagnant.

    But the people I know who are successful are insatiable. If they find themselves ‘content’ then they enjoy it for a short time, and begin looking for the next challenge. That’s me. I’m happy because I’m working towards something I know is enormous. I’m surrounded by the buzz and stress and pressure, but I’m completely absorbed in it.

    There’s a lot of laughter and our home is always busy. My children have never said “I’m bored” and they don’t hear it from their parents. That’s a happy environment for me.

    How many times they nearly gave up when things went wrong & what kept them going at those times?
    I’m not a great quitter. I might feel like it, and spout about it to my closest friends and of course my husband – but I am really bad at throwing in the towel. It’s far easier to say “I’ve had enough” than it is to follow through and close it down.

    Lots of people celebrate failure in the world of startups. I don’t. To me, failure is when you stop. Failure is when you allow a problem to be the brick wall that stops you. That’s not good. I see issues as the speed bump you found a solution to, or the lesson you learned to make yourself better. It’s only failure if you stop. I keep going because I like success.

    What do you wish you hadn’t sacrificed to be such a success?
    I don’t think I’d call myself ‘such a success’ – there’s a long, long way to go. But so far, so good. I have had numerous successes that are the result of hard work and strategic planning. I have learned so much since making the move to the US.

    I wish I hadn’t sacrificed a certain amount of my own faith in my ability. It’s hard to explain but I think that the sense of security that comes with a regular job in an office with a company that’s been there forever gives you a sense of establishment and reinforcement of security, even though it’s in a comfort zone.

    In a startup, that is never available for you. You’re always creating your own success, and the only affirmation you have is what you create.


    What mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

    Mistakes are plentiful. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to make them. (Sometimes, it seems, numerous times a day!) I am big on metrics and informal evaluation, and I use this in all areas.

    I disengage from those people who sap my energy or frustrate me. I also surround myself with close friends whom I respect and learn from all the time, just by being around them – and whose personalities make me happy.

    My biggest mistake has been to try to forge paths with people who were having negative relationships with me, and try to turn them around instead of looking elsewhere for positive relationships. I think I pretty much have that sorted now, but I learn all the time.

    Also I don’t just trust lawyers and advisers, especially on things that are going to affect me and my kids rather than my co-founders and the business. I double check stuff, and on more than one occasion this has served me well.


    Thanks to @victeach, @everydaycook, @150dominos, @silly_billy_boy, @lyrianfleming for their help with the questions.