Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, so I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane and put together a list of moments that I wish I could go back in time and handle as a woman with more confidence and higher expectations of how I should be treated.
When a colleague from HR pulled me over in the corridor and told me 'off the record' that I was being paid less than half the salary of my male colleagues. She suggested I may want to ask for a pay rise at the upcoming annual reviews. I remember thinking how it was probably fair I was paid less because they were better than me.
When I asked for a pay rise at those annual reviews (after a glowing review and suggestion of a wider remit) and was told I wasn’t “being a team player by even ASKING the question", and was totally shut down. I’d spent hours crafting my request to seem not too pushy but forthright enough, because ASKING felt so alien to me. I can only assume being a team player in this context meant being paid so much less than everyone else I was allowing them to have higher salaries…? Go me! I didn’t get a pay rise.
When a project that I was a team member on finished successfully, to celebrate my boss organised celebration drinks at a bar with topless waitresses. I was the only female on the project (as well as the youngest) and I felt weird about it, so I decided not to go. I missed out on the team gift (and the career-building networking).
When I was asked to wear a short skirt to work the next day because we had an important pitch and my boss knew a few of the managers thought I was ‘shag-able’, so it might help our chances. It took me an hour to figure out what to wear the next day and I have never dressed for work the same again.
This could have been a top 20, or a top 100 moments, because over my career there have been more incidents than I can count. But one of these moments was a seed that germinated, with the help of more of the same, and ultimately led to me to becoming intrigued by personal image and clothing as an input into gender equality in the workplace.
My work today, Tahlo, is about fashion - but it isn’t really. It is about women feeling amazing in their own style, which allows them to be confident, which increases their chance of success. No hesitation, all opportunities taken.
Sometimes I call our mission guerrilla feminism. We're not tackling some of the bigger, core issues like pay equality or #metoo - thankfully many amazing people are working tirelessly on those. Instead we are thinking about how we can create clothing that is a 'protective confidence bubble' for our customers as they navigate the workplace. Or at least to help eliminate some of the confidence-destroying affects that occur when women feel uncomfortable or uncertain in their own skin.
Now we’ve been going for almost a year, the stories our customers tell us about how good they feel in their Tahlo is at the core of why we’re here - it is about how THEY FEEL, and for us we’re focussed on helping to remove the friction some women experience, and hopefully that contributes to the momentum that is gender equality.
www.tahlo.com.au allows women to edit our clothing designs to express their personality at work through what they wear, in a work-appropriate styles.