International Women's Day – some things to celebrate but more work to do

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It is International Women’s Day again and surveying the scene here in Australia for women I find much to celebrate. Yet there remains much work to do for the women of Australia.

Here we see, for the first time, a crop of women in senior political leadership positions.

GOVERNOR GENERAL & STATE GOVERNORS
Quentin Bryce – Governor General
Marie Bashir – Governor of NSW
Penelope Wensley – Governor of QLD

POLITICIANS – FEDERAL
Julia Gillard – Prime Minister
Nicola Roxon – Federal Minister for Health and Ageing
Jenny Macklin – Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Penny Wong – Federal Minister for Finance and Deregulation
Julie Bishop – Deputy Leader Federal Opposition
Christine Milne – Deputy Leader Federal Greens
UPDATE: Kate Ellis, Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women (thanks to Tom Voirol)

STATE PREMIERS
Anna Bligh – Premier of Queensland
Kristina Kenneally – Premier of New South Wales
Lara Giddings – Premier of Tasmania

I’m sure I’ve missed some of the women in politics – do please let me know of any additions  to the lists.

It was interesting to note that all states except South Australia have had a female Premier and that these female Premiers were all from the Australian Labor Party:

  • Carmen Lawrence, Premier of Western Australia (12 February 1990 – 16 February 1993)
  • Joan Kirner, Premier of Victoria (10 August 1990 – 6 October 1992)
  • Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland since 13 September 2007
  • Kristina Keneally, Premier of New South Wales since 4 December 2009
  • Lara Giddings, Premier of Tasmania since 24 January 2011.

But when we turn our attention to the corporate world in Australia there is a real dearth of women at the helm. Of course, there’s Gail Kelly at Westpac – but which other women are running large public companies in Australia? As the Business Council of Australia noted recently:

“Currently only 10.7 per cent of senior executive positions are held by women and just 2 per cent of CEO roles. Women chair 2 per cent of ASX 200 companies and hold just 8.3 per cent of board directorships.”

It makes me think it might be time for board quotas for women. We’ve been asking nicely for a long time, and if women were going to get board appointments on merit it would be more prevalent by now.

Then there is the sad state of affairs with women’s financial independence. This coupled with continuing pay inequity that is experienced by many women means that women are entering retirement with substantially less savings than their male peers.

The paid maternity leave scheme that was introduced by the current government is a huge step forward for women and equitable financial treatment.

Also it remains a matter of grave concern that the level of domestic violence against women remains stubbornly high. As noted in a Crikey article in 2010:

“It’s simple; domestic abuse and sexual assault against women are community issues impacting our wives and partners, mothers, daughters, friends – everyone.

One in three women over their life times will be physically assaulted. One in five will be sexually assaulted. The cost of domestic violence to the Australian economy was $13.6 billion in 2009.”

The report card for women in Australia is along the lines of:

A good effort so far; but more hard work is needed.

It’s time for women to reclaim the word feminist and continue the good fight. There remains much work to do.

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Don’t forget to sign up for the next Sydney Social Innovation BarCamp 26 Feb

Social Innovation Sydney
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Join us for the next Social Innovation BarCamp in Sydney. It’s free registration so sign up now and participate in a day of ideas, conversation and creative thinking.

Register for Social Innovation BarCamp 26 Feb 2011 in Paddington, Australia  on Eventbrite

Again we’ll be crowdsourcing ideas for creating new business models for social good and building up our community network of changemakers.

Like our previous Social Innovation BarCamps this one will provide a place for facilitated conversations (details of the session format here) where anyone can share:

  • a story or an idea
  • kick off a discussion on something they are passionate about
  • share about a cause they want to rally support for
  • road test new social innovation ideas and workshop them with a group

This is your chance to get your ideas out into the open amongst a friendly crowd, as one of the participants said after our last BarCamp:

“thanks #sibsyd, without the barcamp I would never had courage to actually talk about my ‘silly’ idea with somebody else let alone pursue it.”

When: Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Venue: COFA Cnr Greens Road & Oxford Street, Paddington 2021 Australia

Register for Social Innovation BarCamp 26 Feb 2011 in Paddington, Australia  on Eventbrite

Social Innovation Sydney
This post was originally published on Social Innovation Sydney and is reproduced with permission.

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Guest lecture UNSW law school

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Late yesterday I spoke with a class in the Strategic Public Advocacy for Civil Society course at UNSW law school. They are lucky to have Joan Staples as lecturer – because she is one of the few people in Australia who understands these issues at both a deep practical level and at a theoretical level.

The class and I talked about the digital revolution and its impact on social activism. We covered topics such as wikileaks and the implications for activist groups, the risks of cloud computing, and some of the successful digital campaigns (such as Greenpeace’s Nestle action).

Meeting up with smart and thoughtful young people like this class always gives me hope for the future of our country and for the world. They asked a lot of insightful questions and hopefully the session gave them different perspective on digital technology and advocacy.

There was also a mention of the various #wonkdrinks that take place from time to time around the country. The funny thing about this discussion was one of the students asking what a wonk is. And then immediately followed the dawning realisation that most of the class were, in fact, wonks.

For the uninitiated a wonk is defined as:

“wonk (wongk) noun
An expert who studies a subject or issue thoroughly and excessively.
[Of unknown origin.]
This word is most often encountered in the term “policy wonk”. There are many speculations about the origin of the word, for example an acronym for WithOut Normal Knowledge, or the reverse spelling of the word know, but these claims are not supported by evidence.”
[Source: A.Word.A.Day]

But for me the real sign of a political/policy wonk in Australia is whether they own or have watched the entire series of The West Wing and/or they regularly watch The 7.30 Report and Q&A on the ABC. Other wonk give aways are that they know the names of federal or state electorates and who is the sitting member; or the names and portfolios of ministers; or even of shadow ministers.

For those interested in #wonkdrinks you can follow on Twitter @wonkdrinks.

I also mentioned some of the social change and activist related meetups that happen around Australia, some of these include:

Greenups
The Social Change Collaboratory
Social Innovation Sydney
ASIX
NSW Wonk drinks
ACT Wonk drinks
(please let me know if there are any to add to this list)

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Floods, community spirit and Australia #qldfloods

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Along with most other Australians I have been moved and disturbed by the unfolding flood disaster in northern Australia. The floods are said to cover an area of Australia the size of France and Germany combined. Typical of Australia we also have bushfires in the western part of the country.

Over the past few days as the scale of the tragedy has become apparent I have observed people reaching out to help. Social media has again stepped into the breach in an emergency situation, providing fast breaking news (with occasional misinformation, usually corrected speedily), coordination of assistance, uncovering of scams or shaming bad behaviour, and sharing of needs.

Jason Langenauer’s tweet this morning summed it up for me and made me glad to be a part of this country that pulls together in a crisis and helps out those who are in need:

“The values exposed by this flood – mateship, care for people, altruism – are the complete opposite of the usual values of capitalism.”
Source: Twitter, Jason Langenauer Tweet 12 Jan 2011

There has been an outpouring of support for the flood victims with donations at $32million as of this morning. More information on the QLD government site.

Again Twitter has proved itself to be a great resource in a disaster situation. It has enabled people to easily pool resources and to share information where the traditional media is just to slow or not capable. Some great examples of this include:

Many people tweeted about the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal ensuring scam sites were not used – official Qld government site #thebigwet #qldfloods Donate to the official flood relief appeal here.

Retailers perceived as seeking to cash in on the #qldfloods were speedily smacked down on Twitter – like this one.

Individuals made offers of help via Twitter like:

” If there are pets in need of housing let us know! We have 5acres #qldfloods #thebigwet #bnefloods #RT”

“Now that we’re safe, this is a 6 bedroom house. There’s beds for 3 and floor space for twenty. Peeps in need – ping me. #qldfloods”

“have space for pets from evacuations if needed. On a hill in brisbane. Please rt. #qldfloods”

“Anyone in New Farm area needing some storage space – our place isn’t in the flood zone. Have LUG and a spare room #qldfloods #bnefloods”

It has been heartening to see that only one politician so far has tried to use this disaster as a political sledge hammer. While, in my opinion, the performance of Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and the Mayors of the affected areas has been excellent under extremely difficult circumstances. One of my favourite comments came from the Ipswich Mayor: “If I find anybody looting in our city they will be used as flood markers” (via @1233newcastle).

Kudos to the organisations who have already made donations of greater than $10,000.

Some resources and ways to help:

Donate to the Queensland Government flood relief appeal

Donations can also be made in person at any branch of the Bank of Queensland, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ, NAB or Suncorp.

Donate to RSPCA Queensland to help animals

Can you offer emergency animal foster care in Brisbane area?

Lifeline phone: 13 11 14

Alerts and updates

Live flood updates
Queensland Police Service
@QPSmedia (Queensland Police)
@consultqld (Queensland Government)

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Rebooting business and capitalism

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Last year with the launch of Social Innovation Sydney I was inspired by the idea of rebooting capitalism. I had become depressed about the nature of business in our world today and wanted to do something practical about changing things.

Then I went off to Paris for LeWeb 2010 Conference and ran into Tara Hunt and our conversation got me thinking (I love meeting people who make me think!).

Upon arrival at home I read Tara’s posts about The Hole in the Soul of our Culture [Part 1 here and Part 2 here – both are recommended reading] and these resonated with the feelings that had sparked my involvement with Social Innovation Sydney.

Tara’s posts also pointed me in the direction of Umair Haque’s I’m Bored – The Significance Manifesto, which I’d missed during my travels.

I believe that we have entered an age where ‘business as usual’ is no longer viable. We need to come up with new business models that are founded on truth, openness, justice, equity, and sustainable profit. No longer can we sustain a world where profit and profit alone is the only goal of business (after all we are not Ferengi). We need businesses that change the world, that make things better for people, that do not destroy the environment for future generations.

We have flirted around the edges of change with notions like the triple-bottom-line to no avail. The existing culture of business has shown itself to be highly resistant to change. Existing business culture does not value the things that go into creating value that are not easily measured as ROI. Thus having a conversation with a customer is often not valued highly over getting the customer off the phone quickly to meet KPIs in a call centre.

I suspect that Tara is right when she identifies a key part of the problem as us:

“But it all comes back to what we value and why I think we have a hole in the soul of our culture. It isn’t merely the businesses and boardrooms where there lies an issue. It’s all around us. In North America at least. We pay lip service to wanting to change the world, to being better human beings, to ‘balancing’ our lives, but when it comes down to it, we tend to be more impressed with big numbers: 1 MILLION hits, 100,000 followers, $1 BILLION market capitalization, etc.”
[Source: The Hole in the Soul of our Culture – Part 2]

The change needs to start with an individual deciding to be different and to think differently. Deciding to shift away from instant gratification and ROI measured in mere numbers seems to be the first step. I also suspect that once an individual changes their thinking in this way that individual behavioural change will not be far behind.

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On this Christmas Eve in Paris

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I contemplate the year past and the year to come and think on how I want my life to be.

What do I want my life to stand for?

Not clamour for power or wealth; not hunger for praise or admiration; not frenzied desire for new and thrilling experiences.

What then is it? I’ve been sitting here in the somewhat chilly lobby of my hotel pondering for a while now.

I want, no aspire, to be civil and just in my words, meanings and acts. I want to meet my fellow human beings with peace in my heart and anger towards none. I want to be real, open, and free of fear.

I suppose that this seems to be all about me. But it seems to me that I am the only thing that I have the power to change.

Interesting to realise how little power I have to change other things and how much power I have to change myself.

Strange ponderings on Christmas Eve.

Wishing one and all a merry Christmas! Peace on earth and goodwill to all.

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TEDWomen – might be worth tuning in?

TED Women
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As they say to introduce this latest in the TED stable:

“How are women and girls reshaping the future? The first-ever TEDWomen invites men and women to explore this question in depth. From the developing world, where a single microloan to a single girl can transform a village, to the West, where generations of educated women are transforming entire industries, women are powerful change agents, intellectual innovators, idea champions …”

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Success but on whose terms? What about personal brands and character?

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There is so much pressure on people these days to be successful.  And I do not think we are encouraged to stop and think what success actually means for each of us and for society in general.  Many of us seem to be on a treadmill.  Go to school, get good grades and get into a good university and then get a good job.  Then get a mortgage on a house in a good area and possibly buy an investment property.  By this stage we are supposed to be successful and thus be happy.

But I’m not sure that this is the correct equation for achieving a happy and successful life.  I see the pattern so often. Many of my friends are on this treadmill.  Some of get to their thirties or forties and realise that they have not achieved as much as they had hoped to.  Perhaps their job isn’t good enough, perhaps they didn’t go to a good enough university. In any case they start to feel defeated and not good enough. They begin the slide down into a gently defeated middle age where they think that because they did not do good enough their life will not really amount to much now.

It seems to me that this is no way to live. Constantly checking yourself out against an ill-defined standard of good. What the hell does good in these contexts mean anyway?  Because the standard of goodness is not defined – and good goes so easily with better and best – there is always a feeling that the good thing might be surpassed by a better thing.

There is little room in this pattern for joy, inspiration, non-traditional approaches, or unexpected roads to fulfilment.

Coupled with this treadmill is the relatively new notion of ‘personal branding’.  Chris Penn wrote a nice piece on personal branding recently which is worth a read (HT: @maverickwoman for the link).

When the idea of a personal brand is tied to the treadmill of a good career it puts even more pressure on people to measure up to these ill-defined standards.

When we look back to history many of the people we most admire did not follow the generally accepted standards of the day with regards to good education, jobs, etc.

It’s time for us all to think and feel and reason about what is success.  How does that link to character (not personal brand)? What kind of person do we want to be?  And what kind of actions do we need to undertake based on that? By thinking about these things we can determine what to do to achieve success on our own terms and not upon the ill-defined terms that seem to be generally accepted in our society.

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Annalie Killian … a woman Catalysing Magic

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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!

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