Daring snuck up on me.
I now know it has always been there, nudging me – propelling me towards the freedom to be myself.
When I started work on an industrial site, I dared to wear men’s steel cap boots with a floral dress while they waited for stocks of women’s work gear – no, I didn’t walk up any ladders that day. Finishing the outfit off with a fluoro yellow high-vis vest was certainly a fashion statement. It was also another statement – they got the message. Oh, and the store was well stocked with women’s gear after that.
I thought things had changed a lot until I came to WA in the late 1990s. On the plus side, I finally had a female colleague on the leadership team. Though she had extra privileges; she worked in the administration office. I didn’t.
Instead, I dared to walk where no other woman had – through a crib room full of men whistling “God Save The Queen” while I went out to the back paddock to visit the Port-a-Loo. Progress. They’d been thoughtful enough to consider my needs and had arranged it especially for me. At least it saved me the driving up to the administration office when I need to … eehm … ‘go’.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved those times, and I loved the people I worked with. In the main, they were awkwardly respectful while coming to terms with having me around. Me? At the start, I was just plain awkward.
We all want to fit in, but how do you do that without turning into someone else?
Over time, I worked out my way of fitting in and still being myself.
Before coming to WA I was already aware of the rights and opportunities I had that my mother didn’t – by law, she had to resign her job when she married.
But the differences I noticed when I arrived in WA dared me to realise that things are different for women depending upon where they are, and the prevailing culture.
Since I wore my fetching fluoro floral ensemble, twenty years have zipped by.
For women in Australia much has changed for the better, yet there’s plenty of room for improvement. As I write this we’ve just marked the 105th International Women’s Day with the theme ‘Leave No Woman Behind’.
This means as much to the woman next door, as it does the woman in a third world country.
I am deeply concerned.
Concerned that in some countries, women’s rights are stuck in the middle ages. While in other countries, decades of progress has been unravelled rapidly and with frightening ease. Concerned that the unprecedented rights and opportunities we currently have might suffer the same fate. Concerned that unless we’re careful, we may create a backlash which threatens our hard-won gains
Lately, I’ve dared to wonder what more can I do.
Many people are doing good work to challenge the status quo and fix ‘the system’. But what can I do? I’m not powerful or influential – am I?
So I’m daring, and I’m scared.
I’m daring to say what I think and accept the consequences.
I’m daring to say to all women – aspire for equality in terms of rights of opportunities.
Aspire to be equal to yourselves, not to men.
Aspire to be a positive role model for your daughters, sisters, and neighbours – then reach out a hand and help them aspire.
Aspire to challenge what needs to be challenged with fortitude, but with the respect you hope to receive.
My purpose, my cause, is to dare other women to be themselves, to create their own picture of success, and take baby steps towards it until those steps turn into strides. Until they stride up onto the stage of life and show other women that they can dare, too – dare to be themselves and change the world for the better, one woman at a time.
Jacqui Alder is an internationally experienced executive, consultant, and coach. As a director of her own HR consultancy for 15 years, Jacqui delivered complex change in organisations where she had personal experience of the challenges women face as they move through the corporate world. She launched her blog, Bitch In The City, after sharing experiences with a work colleague about how women conduct themselves in business and personal relationships.
Why are we doing this thing? Because there’s enough noise in the world telling women what we ‘should’ be doing.
We should parent more consciously, but not be helicopter parents. We should take care of our bodies, but not be vain. We should make boys pay, but demand equal rights. We should dress appropriately, but also be confident in our skin, wear what we want, but not be provocative, oh and please feel comfortable in the world’s skimpiest school bathers but then wear your jeans to the formal because last year the boys looked up the girls’ skirts and so you’ll have to be the ones to modify your behaviour. Yeah. No.
We are a mother and daughter writing team who launched a platform for women 14 – 104. Women who need to read stories of daring. Women who need to write them.
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