Being a woman is a complicated thing. Being a woman in the Age of Social Media and Modern Feminism is even more complicated. I like to watch reality TV and dissect the business papers. I love pink (quite un-ironically) and I demand equal pay. I am a feminist; sometimes a quiet feminist, sometimes a raging feminist. I’m in awe of Beyonce and Formation but I’m pretty sure I don’t have the same hours in the day as she does and I certainly don’t have her round-the-clock team. Fitness is incredibly important to me; so are cakes. I can lead a sales pitch and speak in front of an audience of 300+ people but I still can’t change a tire. I’m a girly-girl, a tomboy, an intellectual and a carer. So in my complicated existence as a woman, to celebrate International Women’s Day, I wanted to chart some of the people, things and thoughts that have shaped me as a woman.
The women in my life
— my mother: she believes I can do anything, so I believe I can do anything
— my sisters: would walk into battle blindfolded for me
— my aunties: my role models in everything from business to wellness
— my kick-ass friends: strong, determined, ambitious, they make me swell with pride
— my powerhouse female colleagues: endlessly inspiring and endlessly supportive
The men in my life
— my Dad: a man’s man, a softie, an educator and a voice of reason
— my male friends: proud to be feminists
— my male mentors: shoved me front and centre to help me “Get Ahead”
And of course — my husband: my cheerleader, my sponsor, my number one fan.
If you are the sum of the 5 people you spend most of your time with, then I’m pretty happy. But below are the media, milestones and messages that have resonated with me significantly over the years.
Margaret Atwood and The Handmaids Tale
The Handmaids Tale is very dark story about the repression of women and their bodies in a chillingly realistic dystopian future. It left me reeling for days and turned me into a lifelong Margaret Atwood fan.
This Girl Can
#ThisGirlCan is an initiative from the UK Sports Council to encourage more women to get into sport and it is powerful. It’s raw, gritty and rousing with an emphasis on realness. Jiggly bits, profuse sweating, red faces and laboured breathing are all celebrated as an important part of fitness.
Sophia Amoruso/ Girl Boss
Sophia Amoruso is the founder of Nasty Gal — a ground-breaking fashion e-commerce play who enjoyed a dizzying ascent into the world of investment before having a very public fall from grace. Amoruso delivered her memoirs in the form of her“Girl Boss” book which acted as a very clever marketing hook that radically transformed the conversation around women in business. Every self-respecting Gen-Z has a well-worn copy on her coffee table and eagerly await the self-titled “Girl Boss” Netflix series. Whatever controversy surrounds the brand, I believe Sophia has won this round. And I totally respect her for it.
Going for Growth
Going for Growth is a female-oriented business programme I was fortunate enough to secure a position on. It’s brief is simple — help women to grow and scale their businesses. It is an initiative founded by powerhouse Paula Fitzsimons and her energy alone was enough to power the whole programme, but Paula hand-picked some of the most vibrant, capable and dynamic female captains of industry to mentor us along the way.
“The idea came from recognition that while more women are being encouraged to start new businesses, there is a need to move beyond just starting into growing. My mission in Going for Growth is to support women entrepreneurs to achieve their growth ambitions and to get more women entrepreneurs into a growth frame of mind.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Her rallying TED talk “We should all be feminists” gives a framework for modern day feminism and is now a mandatory reading text for Swedish high school students. It really is a must-watch.
“Being a feminist is like being pregnant — you either are or you are not”
Through her WAH Nails brand to her Future Girl Corp initiative, Sharmadean Reid is the ultimate Millennial Boss Lady. She takes no shit, deals in realness and is on a mission to empower young girls with the practical skills to “build global corporations and not kitchen table ones”
Positive and honest and real and interesting and ground-breaking and original and utterly committed to telling the full spectrum of women’s stories. A media game-changer.
An incredible documentary that reveals how women are portrayed in the media and the gendered conditioning of young boys and girls to fulfill certain roles. Miss Representation is best summed up by a series of the most powerful quotes from the film.
“Women respond to advertisers’ messages of never being good enough: American women spend more money on the pursuit of beauty than on their own education.”
“All of Hollywood is run on one assumption: That women will watch stories about men, but men won’t watch stories about women. It is a horrible indictment of our society of we assume that one half of our population is just not interested in the other half.”
— Geena Davis
“If you and I, every time we pass a mirror, complain about our looks, remember that a girl is watching us and that is what she is learning.”
— Gloria Steinem
Women on TV
I love that the Bechdel Test is being smashed on TV. The above are a selection of dramas that put women front and centre. From the neurotic Lena Dunham in Girls, to the warts ‘n all, meme-a-minute Broad City’s gals, to the chest-thumping, political-fixing Olivia Pope and the scatty, foul-mouthed but total bad-ass Detective Inspector Viv Deering, there’s such a rich tapestry of women invading our weekend boxset binges and it makes me very happy. And of course, Sharon Horgan. Nuff said.
The creator of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder is an American TV producer and author. Her book “Year of Yes” was an important book for me to read while I was in the process of winding Opsh down and thinking “what’s next” — according to Shondra “everything”.
“This moment right here, me standing up here all brown with my boobs and my Thursday night of network television full of women of color, competitive women, strong women, women who own their bodies and whose lives revolve around their work instead of their men, women who are big dogs, that could only be happening right now.”
Some other important bits:
Lindy West: Shrill