Last year I was delighted to take my daughter to see Michelle Obama talk in Singapore. It was an early present for her 13th birthday. I wanted to give Charlotte something that she would never forget and would always have with her. Something that she would take into her teenage years as she becomes a young woman. I couldn’t think of anything more memorable or inspiring than seeing Michelle Obama tell her story. And thankfully, Charlotte agreed.
As we sat together, listening to this amazing woman present, I found myself shaking my head in agreement as she told her story. I sat there feeling a connection to Michelle– shared values, a strong passion for similar causes, similar philosophies on how to raise two girls in this world, and much more.
I felt inspired by Michelle, as did Charlotte. Her story gave me comfort and a sense of encouragement for what I am doing and how I am living my life.
What stuck with me the most is this: “There is no limitation to what we, as women, can accomplish”.
As a little girl, one of my earliest memories of being made to feel limited by my gender was when I was ten and in Year 5. My teacher told the class that there was an Excellence Award at the end of the year and only addressed the boys in the class in his announcement. Girls weren’t capable of winning this Award. I remember being so upset by this – I couldn’t understand why girls wouldn’t have a chance of receiving recognition for their ability. So, I set my mind to it, I was going to win this Award and show that girls could win– it wasn’t just limited to boys. To my family’s and my delight, I won the Award that year.
This dogged determination has never left me, and it fuels my drive as a woman in business. Every day, I come up against challenging situations around my gender; however, I never back down. I never give in to stereotypes. I fight bias, and in doing so, I hopefully broaden perceptions, improve situations and help to create positive change.
However, there is still much work to be done. Only recently, I was reminded of this. I was in a Grab (Uber equivalent) in Singapore going to my office. I had just dropped my other daughter, Amelie, off to school. The driver asked me where I was going. I told him that I was going to my office. He asked what I do. I told him I run my own marketing business and help Australian companies expand into Asia. He then asked me if my business was only in Singapore. I said that I have teams in Australia and Indonesia too. He then said you must be competent. He then proceeded to tell me that I am too strong a woman, too capable and smart, and therefore not desirable to men (not that I asked his views on any of this or care if I am desirable or not). He told me that men want women to work to make money, but they can’t be too independent or think too much or be too capable. Anyway, the conversation carried on for a further 10 minutes – I desperately wanted to get out of the car. I arrived at the office, feeling shaken and angry. The conversation got to me.
It made me think about where the world is still at when it comes to gender equality – not just in the business world but in general. There is still a long way to go. Sometimes, only sometimes, I doubt what I am doing. I think maybe being a woman doing all of this is impossible and that I shouldn’t go against the grain so much.
Every day, there is something. For example, once I was mistaken to be the Events/PR manager for my own company’s opening in Perth. The shocking thing was that the Minister who was our guest of honour bypassed me to talk to my Non-Executive director and asked him what his motivation was in opening Gemstar in Perth. Despite my name being splashed everywhere on the invitations and briefing notes, the Minister was simply expecting the Founder to be a man and was clearly thrown that it was a woman who was behind the opening of Gemstar. There are many more stories that I could give, but I am sure you get the picture.
While we have conversations around gender equality, not enough is being done to create an equal world. Yet gender equality is essential for economies and communities around the world to thrive.
The race is on for a more gender-equal world. I know I will never give up in trying to create change. I owe it to my two young girls as I don’t want them to face the same challenges that I have had. Like Michelle Obama encourages her girls, I too encourage my girls to have a voice at the dining room table, for them to speak their mind, have their views and opinions and to speak up. This way, I think when they do enter the big scary world, they have more of a chance to use their voice as women. We can all do out bit to take action and create change starting in our home as well as in our business or work world.
This IWD, I thank women like Michelle Obama, who are willing to share their story and empower other women along the way. Let’s continue to celebrate female role models, encourage and support women in business. and give hope to the younger generations. I certainly won’t be giving up on my mission to do this. If anything, I will be ramping up my efforts – watch this space.
This article was first published on my LinkedIn page. Read the complete article here.