As we celebrated International Women’s Day 2014 on March 8, I pondered what part of my entrepreneurial journey I wanted to share with you. And I realised that as much as I wanted to I was unable to move past the hot topic of gender equality in business. I’ve had a really interesting month with lots to share but I strongly felt the need to probe this topic further.
Throughout that one week there had been a great deal of hype surrounding what was meant as a day to celebrate being a woman. Activists were out in force on the subject of gender equality, and I’m sure some of you would have seen or heard the campaign in Sydney where men wore sandwich boards bearing the following messages:
• Hi ladies, I earn 17.5% more than you.
• Hi ladies, you’re working for free from 3.45pm today
I absolutely agree that women should demand better. However, I find the activists and campaigns a little patronising. I can’t help but deliberate the fact that women in some countries don’t have the luxuries or opportunities that we have here in Australia. As an Australian woman you can choose to be the master of your own destiny, and each and every one of us has the liberty to demand what we are worth in the workplace.
So I ask why so many people in our country focus on the lack of equality as opposed to taking actual action to remove those barriers for themselves?
I’ve held middle management and senior management roles in the hospitality and tourism industry for over 17 years now. This month I was offered the position of CEO which I accepted with pride. It hasn’t been easy being a woman at senior level where male colleagues dominate the majority of roles. If I contemplate the key factors to my success, they are as follows:
• I’m assertive and strong.
• I’m tenacious.
• I’m commercially focused.
• I’m competitive and very independent.
• I recognise that I’m only as good as the team around me.
• I recognise and value people.
I would never say I was lucky. I’ve worked hard for what I’ve achieved and I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors, both men and women, helping me along the way. There are so many other successful and inspirational women in Australian businesses, for instance:
• Emma Issac of Business Chicks,
• Naomi Simpson of RedBalloon,
• Janine Allis of Boost Juice,
• Kate Carnell of Beyondblue,
• Gail Kelly of Westpac
• Cathy Burke of The Hunger Project
I’ll bet if you ask any of these women whether it was easy achieving their success, their response would be unanimous – no. They have worked hard to be where they are today. I’m certain these business women know their worth and own it.
So to me, International Women’s Day is about being thankful for the opportunities I’ve had. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I’m proud of all the successful women in the world. I think about the women in other countries such the Middle East, Uganda and Malawi who don’t have the same opportunities as you and I, and I’m grateful to be a woman in this country.
In summary, we are all responsible for our own destiny regardless of our gender. Equality is there if you demand it and you’re the only one who can make it happen.
So what are you waiting for? Be yourself, be assertive, ask for a seat at the table and own it.
*Caroline Kennedy is the founder of Gift Wrapped Up and author of The Power of Wow. She’s passionate about helping businesses grow and ensuring that fun is always a part of that growth.