Celebrating International Women’s Day

By Kathy McKenzie, Director FIRE UP

As a female CEO it would remiss of me not to celebrate the achievements of all women today. Firstly, and most importantly, I will honour my mother who shows such strength continually.  As a mother of 12 children she has instilled strong values in all of us and given us a desire to make a difference in whatever we do.  Last week she had a total knee reconstruction and her attitude is as it is always, it’s getting better every day.  It was with great excitement on Day 3 post op she recounted to me that she has just done a full lap of the ward. I have no doubt she will be back in that garden before the month is out.

One of the greatest lessons Mum has taught me is to keep focused on the strength and learning that comes from dealing with adversity. I still have the card Mum sent me when I was going through a very torrid time whilst living in Canada.  I was wrongly accused of defrauding the company I was working for at the time and battling my way through clearing my name.  The poem is entitled ‘Never Never Give Up’ and is a constant reminder that tough times do pass and there is always someone to love and support you when you need it.

I am grateful for that same level of love and support that I get now when I am running a company and inevitably have the challenges that one has if you want to be successful. Fortunately now the successes far outweigh the failures and even then I go back to “there is no such thing as failure it is all feedback”

I will also pay tribute to my 8 sisters who through pursuing their own passions have such a positive influence on not just their families but also their communities.

This post is a reminder to celebrate and acknowledge the achievements of all the wonderful women you know.

Driving to work I was listening to an interview with Gillian Triggs who is such an inspiring and articulate role model. She quoted that in the top 100 Australian companies there are only 6 female CEOs.  At the same time as this reality exists, the data shows that Australian Women are the most educated in the world which makes one wonder how these two realities can coexist.

I spoke at an International Women’s Day Event on Saturday afternoon for Didi Bahini Samaj Victoria (DBSV), an organisation that I had not heard of until recently, but is a community of Nepalese refugees who have resettled in Melbourne.  I was approached by Dr Sabrita Kaphle to do a session on ’Igniting the potential within’.  My brief from Sabrita was to help men and women in their group to identify their own passion, interest, skills, and ability to lead positive change in their life. The emphasis was on how men and women can take actions to promote gender equality. As I only had 40 minutes I utilised Tim Gallweys model of P=P-I.  PERFORMANCE = POTENTIAL – INTERFERENCE. My focus was on not letting stereotypes and our own limiting beliefs create interference in achieving our potential and performing at our best.

Early in my career with FIRE UP I approached the Commonwealth Bank about an overdraft that was guaranteed by the house I owned in Ballarat. I wanted to avoid selling my house to fund the business and remember that all I needed was a $10,000.00 temporary overdraft.  I took in a fully prepared business plan and was all optimistic about the future business I was creating.  I was rendered utterly speechless when the business banker claimed he had seen people like me come and go and if it was such a great idea why were we having this conversation (i.e. why did I need money). I remember walking out with the fiercest determination that no one like that was ever going to determine my future success. Back yourself and belief in what you can achieve.  I never for a minute when I am in male dominated environments accept anything less than being equal.

As women we have to keep standing up and having the courage to challenge obvious inequalities and discrimination. Have a wonderful International Women’s Day and take time to tell another amazing woman that she is indeed amazing.

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