Reflections on being a woman and lady boss from Stellar’s leading lady, Carol Williams.





22.8.19



I was very fortunate to grow up in a family where women are respected, and I was never made to feel that I couldn’t do something based on my gender.





In a world that has grown increasingly nuanced in the way that words are used and understood (and sometimes misunderstood) it seems important to keep reflecting, learning, unlearning and re-learning as we go. Words are so powerful. Words shape worlds. A simple word such as ‘woman’ can, and does, invoke a number of different responses. The way that we speak about ourselves, the way that others speak about us - all of these things shape the way we think, feel and act in the world.


I was very fortunate to grow up in a family where women are respected, and I was never made to feel that I couldn’t do something based on my gender. My mom worked to help support the family, my dad cooked when he got home from work and they both shared the driving when we went on holiday. This was my normal.


I remember being very surprised to learn that my aunt had not been allowed to study what she wanted because my grandfather didn’t believe that women should be educated, or that my granny's sister had dreamed of being a medical doctor but never had the opportunity because women simply didn’t do those things. History has always fascinated me and as I grew up, I read about Jane Austen’s life, women in the Bible, and wept my way through movies like Suffragette and Jane Eyre. I remember giving a derisive snort when my dad told me that when he started his career as a teacher, female teachers had to get signed consent from their husbands to continue working once they got married. It all felt so foreign in comparison to what I believed about myself and my capabilities, and the relatively supportive environment I grew up in.


As I have become more aware of this thing called ‘womanhood’ I’m more and more convinced that there are better ways. Following movements like #metoo and #menaretrash and becoming more aware of when I do and don’t feel safe has led to some complex grappling with these things. Subjugation in any form is wrong, and fundamentally takes away from the ‘humanness’ of another person. Can we learn to become more without making others less?


Being a lady boss is fun and exhausting. I think anyone who has pioneered something from scratch could attest to this. Fortunately, I have not had too many experiences where I have been made to feel ‘less than’ based on my gender within my work context (long may that last) and I also refuse to become ‘more like a man’ in order to navigate these spaces.


I really hope that we can get past the idea that when a woman gets ‘difficult’ she is being hormonal and when a man is being difficult he is being a leader. Perhaps we could learn how to recognise the different ways that woman and men lead and learn how to appreciate both of these ways. There is always a higher way. The fact that some women still get paid less than men for doing the same work is unthinkable. I realised though a long time ago that if I spent all my energy being angry about injustice (gender/ race/ class…there is always something to be angry about) then I wouldn’t have the energy to build anything else.


My dream is to build a business where everyone is seen first as a human and treated with dignity and respect. We are building a business where people get paid and hired on merit. Hopefully this will become a more normal way of operating business in the future.


Some more thoughts I’d like to share, in no particular order:

- To all the men out there being awesome - thank you. I’m sure it’s tough being lumped into the same category as the men behaving badly.

- To the men out there who are not being awesome. It’s okay to need help and please get some.

- Hate only leads to more hate. Hurt people hurt people - this doesn’t excuse it, but it does explain it in some ways. Maybe if we raise our boys to be emotionally aware then we won’t have so many angry men.

- Strong women build our society. Let us celebrate this and do what we can to make them flourish.

- Let me eyeball my sisters now. Stop breaking other women down. Just stop it. Stop comparing yourself and feeling the need to make another woman less so that you can feel okay. Ultimately you become just the same as all those men that you hashtag about and isn’t that sad?

- Little girls can love playing princesses and want to be smart. These two things are not mutually exclusive, and we don’t have to make them feel bad for wanting either.

- If we learn to be responsive rather than reactive then I think we’ll shape the kind of world that we dream of living in.


Happy Women’s Month to all the phenomenal women out there!


Thanks for stopping by and chat soon,


Carol