By Isabelle Rust
A woman is defined by many things but this week confused a lot of us about who and what we all stand for. The week began by empowering others who identify as a woman on International Women’s Day. On the 8th March each year, we celebrate the achievements of women and raise awareness about gender equality. It’s also a day to remind us all to honour the accomplishments of others and our own as we all break through the glass ceiling. I loved seeing all the posts from small business owners run by women perpetuating this message, demonstrating that anything is possible and that we can all work together to show that there is no limit to what women can achieve.
However, in the days following this celebration of women, we were all reminded that we still have a long way to go from what we witnessed in the Harry & Megan Oprah interview. No matter what ‘side’ of the argument you support there is no doubt about how Megan and Kate were villainised against each other. The constant comparison women have to endure was the most interesting point of that whole interview for me because it is this that has an impact upon girls in a school playground right up to women in the workplace and beyond as we are constantly pitted against each other. Megan said it herself, “They <the media> really seem to want a narrative of a hero and a villain”. Media seems to inherently paint women to be either a sinner or a saint, a winner or a loser, a right or a wrong and it just bears stating this - just because two women aren’t the best of friends, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily worst enemies.
Sadly, women had another reminder that it is simply not safe to walk home. Sarah Everard is a reminder of how vulnerable women can be in isolated situations. The events made myself and others recognise that it shouldn’t be normal to carry a key in your hand, pretend to be on the phone when walking past a group of men or to swap sides of the roads. In the event of Sarah’s terrible tragedy it has made people more aware and started a lot more conversations about women’s safety when doing simple things like walking home. Having said all of this, these events are infrequent and hopefully will remain this way as society progresses, becoming a fairer and more of an equal playing field.
The exciting new recognition of ethics being necessary in most things we now do or buy, is what we need to keep focusing on. Businessmen and women have all recognised how the ethical dimension of building a business has become top priority due to changing consumer habits. Equal gender pay and environmental ethics have been vocalised to be necessary to run day-to-day businesses. For example, the revelation that Burberry used to burn it’s unsold dead stock shocked the fashion industry and consumers and was one of the numerous reasons why consumers started to consciously demand what the company stands for and what causes they are supporting before buying from them. Fairtrade policies, shrinking water and chemical use is all part of how companies, particularly in the fashion industry are changing. Cara Smyth, chairman of Fashion Makes Change confirmed this by stating that “consumers are asking what’s in their products and employees are asking about gender equality and the purpose of their work drive.” With all of this in mind, I wanted to show you a few women run businesses, big and small, to celebrate the accomplishments of others without using the comparative narrative.
Let’s start big with Susan Wojcicki who is the CEO of YouTube, the biggest video sharing site in the world. Susan was hired by Google in 1999 as employee number 16, since then she has advocated for gender equality in the workplace and promotes paid parental leave and has aided the growth of a multi-billion dollar business. Boxed Out PR is another business run by women which has been operating since 2013. Hayley Smith managed her PR firm whilst also simultaneously establishing FlowAid - dedicated to ensuring that sanitary products are free and available for homeless women. She has aided the movement to stop period poverty and to help those who are in need. Her work demonstrates how women can work together to create a safer place for us all, especially those who need our help.
Another woman who has inspired me Chantel Davis. Chantel started up her own luxury swimwear brand as a black woman in what is an extremely white privilege market. Her swimwear brand, Castamira is sustainable reflecting her love of nature through the use of eco-friendly fibres and green packaging to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry. I have been obsessed with her swimwear collections for a while now so I had to show you my favourites.
BYCHARI is also another woman run business which specialises in sustainable jewellery. Chari Cuthbert’s approach to creating jewellery is to create an extension and expression for her customers own style through effortless simplicity. Her jewellery is so delicate but definitely on the pricier side so maybe one to admire and not touch just quite yet.
All of these women have been vocal about their struggles of the competitive and judgemental nature when being pitted against a fellow co-worker, often a woman. However, they have all been shown to be just as capable as men, breaking through the glass ceiling, helping to create a better environment for women in the workplace. I for one am proud of my achievements as a woman and believe myself to be representative in the forward movement of honouring others’ achievements and appreciating your own in what often is a male dominated environment.