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What it feels like to celebrate 238 women (and counting)

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Angela Priestley

he first of her family to start year 12, Jessa Rogers (pictured above) is getting ready to study at Harvard University later this year, after receiving a Fulbright Scholarship.

The PhD scholar fell in love with teaching Indigenous girls after initially pursuing a teaching career that she believed would enable her to care for her son, who she had while she was still a teenager.

I know all this, only because I read it on Dr Kirstin Ferguson’s Facebook page.

Jessa is one of 238 women Kirstin has celebrated this year via Facebook and on Twitter.

Committed to celebrating 730 women by the end of 2017 (that’s two a day, every day), Kirstin’s on track to reaching her goal and is showing no signs of slowing down. Kirstin’s managing it on top of her regular day job – as a non-executive director, sitting on the boards of a number of organisations including the ABC, SCA Property Group, Hyne Timber, the Layne Beachley Aim For the Stars Foundation and more. The project’s called #CelebratingWomen, and it’s getting a lot of attention.

Last week I caught up with Kirstin and asked how the project is going – particularly how she fits it all in and if, now going into its fifth month, she’s starting to find the process exhausting.

I found Kirstin to be seriously passionate and enthusiastic about the work. “I just love it,” she says. “I think one of the reasons people enjoy following #CelebratingWomen is that it is really a big bucket of love. There is no negativity, no judgement, no test to pass. It is simply celebrating women for all they bring in whatever form that may be.”

Kirstin started the project earlier this year after penning a piece for Women’s Agenda urging more of us to rally against the denigration of women on social media.

“I began this with a view, which I still hold, that every woman is a role model to someone else,” she says. “When you read the 238 profiles so far, every single woman has achieved, has overcome, has persisted. Every woman has a story to tell, regardless of whatever it is they may do in their home or at work, that can help other women.”

Read through the profiles and you’ll also see a broad range of diversity in the women profiled. Is this deliberate? No, it simply just happens. Kirstin asks women to fill out a form in order to submit their profile, she then edits and publishes them according to the order they’re receive. There is no ‘vetting’ or favourites, with every woman who submits the form ultimately featured (although there currently is a wait list).

This means that we have now had woman from around the world (more than 16 countries so far), women from different ethnicities, different socio-economic backgrounds, different sexual orientations, different abilities, different generations and different educational backgrounds,” says Kirstin.

“There is nothing that unifies the women who are profiled in #CelebratingWomen other than gender.’

The only rule when submitting a profile is that you can’t use position titles, something Kirstin describes as a real leveller in forcing women to find other ways to describe what they do. “I have had government ministers having to work around that,” she says.

So how does she find the time to keep publishing? “Well, I think in 2017 the only answer is I get up earlier to get them done! Today I had a breakfast event starting at 7am, so I had to set my alarm quite early to factor in my ‘#CelebratingWomen’ time.

She’s also a multi-tasker, posted profiles in the back of taxis on the way to meetings, in airport lounges, while traveling overseas and even while crossing the international dateline. “I have not missed a day and I am committed to make sure that I don’t,” she says.

It’s been the most rewarding thing she’s done, Kirstin tells me, especially given the reaction she’s had from the women involved and others who say they’ve been inspired by those featured. “The feedback from people saying that it’s inspiring them and that it has made a difference to them gives back to me more satisfaction that you can imagine. There’s also the impact it has on the women profiled, seeing the pride in comments from the women’s families and friends, feeling so proud. For some women it’s seems to be the first time their families have learnt about, or been able to acknowledge, what they do.”

“I hope #CelebratingWomen can, in even a small way, help change that view and make diverse role models visible.”

To share your own profile, fill our Kirstin’s form here.

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