As part of my education this past year, I have delved into books, magazines, podcasts, movies and Ted talks to immerse myself in women’s stories. I have been both inspired and incensed by the stories of women who have been deprived of a basic education (literacy and numeracy) or who have had to fight for the right to receive this education have moved me. I have become aware of how limited their lives are because their societies do not value educating women. For many of these women it is as if they have few human rights – their lives are dictated by customs that remove their decision-making power, their ability to enter public life and their opportunities to support themselves and live independently from key male figures. So I am convinced that education liberates and provides opportunities to experience a better life – especially for women who still have fewer freedoms and opportunities. Even in Australia, where education is compulsory for children, education opens doors for women to participate more fully in business and STEM, which continue to be male domains.
I truly value all the education I have engaged in and continue to participate in. Most recently, I learned a great deal – about myself and social enterprise – whilst participating in The Difference Incubator (TDi) Two Feet Program. Eager to step into Two Feet, I appeared at the first workshop brimming with enthusiasm to connect my knowledge of not-for-profits and new ideas from social enterprise. I have emerged from this learning experience realising the extent of valuable knowledge I already have and that this could be tapped into to benefit others.
So I was thrilled to pilot the Feathersome LeadHer Story program with Mabel Park High School. Developing the program and enabling young women in high school to explore leadership through storytelling has been incredibly fulfilling. Meeting these amazing young women who express their hopes for being seen, heard and valued as people who have worthwhile contributions to their community and society was inspiring to me. The influence of a positive and passionate female role model at school is leading these young women to aspire to exploration and study of STEM, with only 16% of women being STEM qualified.^ Reading and listening to the work the young women produced as part of the program uplifted me – knowing that this quality of person is going to hold my future in their hands is comforting. The whole experience has just reinforced how crucial education is to women and their ability to participate fully and with integrity in all aspects of life. Read the story Gina Rambold-Dent and Anastasia Walker created about their teacher Stacey King in Feathersome Journal Edition 1.
This year I continue to be provided with opportunities to share my learning. My involvement in social enterprise over the past 2 years has elucidated the barriers that women experience in industry, evidenced by an under-representation of women in the start up space. According to a report by the Office for Women 2015*, the numbers of women in business remains at just over 30% and women are currently entering business at increasing rates. The OECD Women in Entrepreneurship Report 2016# adds to this picture, noting that women remain risk averse and this may account for fewer female entrepreneurs worldwide. I am therefore thrilled that Feathersome is collaborating with the University of Queensland’s Ideas Hub to deliver the Start Up LeadHers program for female entrepreneurs to resource women to enable them to develop their business ideas and pursue entrepreneurship as a viable means of work.
Education is going to continue to feature in my life. I am certain that each day I will learn and I will teach; I do that every day of my life. Learning is such a natural part of life – it is our survival skill – because as human beings we are all built to learn. What did you learn today? And what will you teach?