With International Women’s Day right around the corner (two days’ time, to be exact), we thought we’d pick the brain of one of the most inspirational and driven women around, Dr Kirstin Ferguson!
Dr Ferguson has an extensive resume to say the least, and currently sits on the board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Layne Beachley’s Aim for the Stars Foundation, among others. Pretty impressive already, right?
Well in 2017 she also started the #CelebratingWomen hashtag, a movement that went viral. Unsurprisingly, Dr Ferguson (pictured below) has got a whole lot to say about why International Women’s Day is so important, and how we can make equality and inclusion the norm.
Any opportunity we have to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of other women is valuable since every woman is a role model to someone else, whether they realise it or not. Making women’s achievements visible to others is also a great way of inspiring the next generation of young women.
I initially started #CelebratingWomen because I wanted to see less denigration, and more celebration, of women online. I am active on Twitter and social media generally and there was a moment in January 2017 when I saw a number of negative tweets directed to various women in media. And without really knowing what I was getting myself in for or whether it would just fizzle out in a day or two, I decided to try and make some positive noise to celebrate the fact that every woman is a role model.
I committed to celebrate two women, from all walks of life and from anywhere in the world, every single day of 2017. I achieved my goal and by the final day of last year had celebrated 757 women from 37 countries and it was simply the most rewarding experience. It has led to an entire community of women supporting other women which is part of a wave of such change we are seeing around the world right now.
Inclusion must be the strategy and from that, diversity and equality will follow. There is no point having diversity targets, for example, but then allowing a culture to continue that does not truly include diverse ways of thinking.
The rates of gender pay equity, the superannuation gap women face when they retire, the number of women in leadership positions and the number of women on boards are just a few examples of where significant work still remains to be done. We can all assist through creating workplaces that respect and embrace women and end cultures where harassment or unconscious bias has been allowed to thrive.
I was very fortunate that in the business I ran we had a large number of women and in some cases more women than men. So within the business I did not face any issues due to my gender. However the clients we worked with were in the mining and resources industry which was very male dominated so like many women, I had to find ways to work in that environment and succeed.
My three key pieces of advice would be:
I am really proud of my two daughters who are young adults themselves. They are confident, intelligent, self-assured young women who I know will make their own mark on the world. I am also incredibly proud of the #CelebratingWomen campaign and all it achieved. It reminded me that one person, with a relatively simple idea, can make an impact as long as they have tenacity and a vision for what they want to achieve.