Why celebrating women is more than mere symbolism to me.

An op-ed by Quip Brands Founder, Keeva Stratton

There are few ‘Days’ I feel inclined to celebrate, but International Women’s Day is one of them. Strangely, it’s over the course of my career that I’ve never felt more female.

It was perhaps most pertinent when I was starting out, and my own insecurities about inexperience provided the opportunity and lack of recourse. If you feel this way right now, please know you’re not alone and it’s not ok.

There are too many examples that come to mind. I was told by one of my first bosses not to interview men for the role of my assistant, as men would want more money. 

I’ve seen many an eyebrow raised when my various qualifications are presented, followed by allegedly well-meaning remarks, such as ‘smart too, aren’t you?’ 

I’ve had porn sent to me ‘by mistake.’ 

I had a colleague spill water on my lap and then take it upon himself to mop it up despite my protests. 

My skirt was ‘accidentally’ lifted at a work function. 

Like too many women, I’ve had to decline the sexual advances of colleagues too many times to count. 

Funnily enough, until entering the workforce, being female was something I’d never thought all that much about. 

Twenty years later, I think about it often. 

Just the other day I was told of a young woman whose boss insists on calling her ‘babe’ despite it being highly inappropriate and knowingly making her uncomfortable. 

Gender inequality in the workforce never feels like one direct blow, but in my experience it’s a death by a thousand cuts. Each of which makes you feel trivial for protesting, but when combined has a significant impact.

Thankfully, I feel the solution is also in taking small steps, which collectively will see change achieved.

I’m very proud to be part of several initiatives that exist to break down the gender inequality that exists in the workforce. From SheEO, which helps to close the divide between the funding of female founders and their male counterparts, to Inspiring Rare Birds, which operates on the simple philosophy, if you can see it, you can be it.

I’m also lucky to work with several clients whose purpose is to address key issues that continue to hurt women, including gender-based violence, female homelessness, women’s cancers and emergency services. To be selected to tell these often harrowing and remarkable stories is a privilege I don’t take lightly.

Telling stories about women—their challenges and their successes—is an important part of building our place in history. It’s a place that’s always been there, but too often female stories have stood silent.

I’m also excited by the next generation. The young men and women I work with have showed me that change is happening. It’s inspiring to hear how they talk about gender and their own role in shaping normal behaviours.

I recently met with a client who was worried that the coverage of one of their stories was focussing more on the fact that the subject was female, rather than her actual achievements. In this era of breaking the glass ceiling, it’s possible our focus on gender is all too distracting, but the significance of seeing females in leading roles is one that cannot be understated, either.

It’s a balance.

But, what remains askew is the gap between what women and men get paid, the frightening number of women who are subject to violence and discrimination, and the horrific number of lives lost to gender based violence in Australia, and all over the world.

So today, I want to pause to celebrate women. To acknowledge the many incredible women who have inspired me through their leadership, creativity and their work. I hope you will too.

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