Count Her In!

It has taken me a while to curate content for the Her Space section of this blog. It is the place where I will hopefully get to share more about the hot topics of interest and concern to me when it comes to developing women. Navigating some of the topics excites and partly terrifies me. I suspect the latter has much to do with the sensitive nature of issues I wish to get a bit more vocal about because I sincerely believe a lot of great women never arise because they are either programmed to never see themselves as movers and shakers, or they are continually sidelined in the growth and development journeys of nations. Before I begin, I have a simple request of you and that is to keep an open mind. My mission has always been simple, to save the world with one thought at a time as I capture, narrate and relate about the experiences of Her – every woman whose journey and experience I speak to. I hope to provoke you into seeing, thinking and acting differently so that together we enable Her and count Her in! So here goes!

I’ve always been inspired by my big brother; he is part of the reason I chose to study economics in my senior years of high school and subsequently pick an economics major for my undergraduate studies. When we do talk about economies, potential ventures and opportunities I always walk away intrigued for a variety of reasons. Around mid-October 2019, we attended an investment information session in the heart of Sydney CBD. It was on a Tuesday night after work and earlier in the day I had contemplated skipping the session as I was feeling under the weather. However, this was something we had signed up for about a month or two in advance of the session, and knowing I’d have a familiar face in the room was enough incentive for me to rally myself to make it for the session which turned out to be worth our while (Dear descendants you’re welcome 😊).

We were among the first to arrive and be ushered into the room we were to spend a good hour or so of our lives getting wealth creation 101 tips. As we waited for the session to start, we were treated to an interesting selection of cocktail style eats. I’d normally photographically document this for my own memory bank but on this occasion, I chose not to, opting instead observe the room and people more closely. As other attendees entered the room, I made a remark to big bro about the composition of people around us. It was mostly your late-thirty to early-forty-somethings from non-Anglo backgrounds. We had a conversation about the migrant’s wealth creation battle. It is never one of ease particularly if you are one of the first-generation folks who start out in the foreign country without a lot to your name. As more people arrived something else caught my attention that I did not get around to chatting with the bro about as we had to settle down. I had noticed that all the people who walked in were men. By the time we sat down, there were 15 or so people in the room and of those 15 there were only 2 females. One other lady and I.

Naturally I wondered about this and my initial assumption was that perhaps financial advice sessions would be something that most women are not interested in. As soon as this thought completed its course, I felt my entire being reject this notion. Instead of paying closer attention to the introductory remarks from the presenter, my mind had embarked on a different journey and it had begun to race in search of alternative explanations that would justify the gender imbalance in the room. It did not take me long to come up with some solid justifications. However, I had to pause my thoughts 5 minutes in as I had to remind myself about the main reason I was in this room on this particular evening. It was only towards the end of the session that I resumed thinking about this and in the days since the session it has crossed my mind multiple times. I’ve now settled on a couple of possible explanations that I’d like to share.

  1. Timing and location

The first thing I realised was that the timing and location of the session may not have been suitable for most women considering this was held in the CBD after 6:00pm. Most people are at this point of the day winding down from the day’s activities. For a majority of women, with carer responsibilities and/ or family this could prove challenging. In addition, there is the never distant thought and question about the safety associated with late night travel especially if you live some distance from the CBD. It does not matter what walk of life you come from, the reality is, no matter what part of the world you are in, safety is always a priority. I’d like to acknowledge that these are just my assumptions, and they would likely not hold true for some women.

  1. Cultural barriers

The second thought I had about the gender imbalance related to culture and its associated barriers that hinder women from engaging in certain spheres. I know from the lived experience of others that events like this and any finance, economics or wealth creation related endeavours are considered as the “business of men”. Many women would just never have heard of, dared to think or dream about being the ones in such a room to hear for themselves.

I remember once having a conversation with one girlfriend some years back about some of these expectations. The girlfriend in question had just purchased her first property and on one occasion this bit of news had been shared in the company of a family friend. This family friend – a male she considers a brother – having congratulated her went on to say to her, “Wow, you now have a university level education, have got your car and now own a property. Are you not afraid this will narrow the market for you?” What the gent was referring to was the narrowing down of potential suitors and prospects of marriage because in the culture, she would be considered a difficult catch and an intimidating woman because of her accomplishments!! All I could say in that moment was the AUDACITY!! Certain cultural norm’s and expectations need reassessment and certainly the standards set for young girls would be something many of us need to start having real conversations about. That one should restrict their vision and drive to live purposefully and make an impact all for the sake of not “narrowing down the market” is beyond ridiculous.

  1. Skewed representation

The third thought I pondered about was in relation to skewed representation. Thinking back to when I had signed up for the session, I remembered how all the sessions, though free, had been scheduled on the same day of the week across a couple of months in the evening. Although the sessions were held across parts of Sydney, they remained predominantly night sessions.

I cannot speak much to the background information about this session and I am not passing judgement on the organisation. I actually commend them for what they are doing because it really is helpful. However, I could not help but wonder if there had been women involved in planning these sessions and whether one of them had perhaps pointed out that there was a key part of the market that would likely be excluded by virtue of the structure and approach adopted for the sessions. Perhaps a morning session after school drop off and before the afternoon pick up would enable more women to attend? Perhaps switching up the days of the week? Or better yet find partner organisations to link up with that could provide an hour or two of childcare? Or even better yet, take advantage of the digital assets at our disposal and have an online session? Like I said, these are just my musings based on a one-off session. I’m sharing this for the benefit of current and the up and coming industry shapers. If there is a desire to make a change and particularly change the trajectory of women, the planning and structuring of marketplace sessions needs to be accommodating.

I would have liked to follow up with this company and share my thoughts, but I was not entirely confident in doing so for a variety of reasons that have to do with the behind the scenes I’m not aware of. I always dislike it when unsolicited advice comes to me without an understanding of my context and so I thought I would not jump the gun and do so to someone else. I’ve opted instead to write this up.

I follow many debates on gender equity and how women are economically worse off.  I honestly think if we are serious about addressing this issue there is a lot we need to consider more closely. There must be a closer interrogation of systems, cultural norms we hold and an openness to exploring some of the unconscious biases we hold and how these inevitably exclude women from participating in the marketplace.

As a minority within a minority, I do hope we can really start to have some open and practical conversations about moving Her forward! She matters too and she is part of the solution to building our nations! Count her in!

Until next time😊

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