A few weeks ago I got an email from AGDA VIC (Australian Graphic Design Association) asking if I’d like to participate in a social media campaign they’re doing for International Women's Day. All I had to do was answer the following questions:

  1. What does IWD mean to you as a designer?
  2. How can the design industry better embrace equality?
  3. This year's IWD theme is Cracking the Code, what does this mean to you?
  4. If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be? (And why - optional)

Firstly I have to apologise to Jess Coates for not getting back to you in time and secondly I have to admit that I struggled to form my thoughts into coherent answers. For some strange reason I find my feelings around International Women's Day a bit furry.

While the move away from ‘scones and champagne’ to celebrate doing a ‘jolly good job’ on IWD is slowly being replaced by more meaningful (culturally diverse?!?) events there is still the overwhelming sensation of women celebrating women. There are very few (visible) men celebrating women on IWD. To me, this is kind of like having to make your own birthday cake. 

Why on IWD don’t all the men in the office do some kind of guard of honour and celebrate and applaud every woman that walks into work that morning? Why didn’t men post messages to all the females they know saying that they are appreciated? I think I read one genuine shout out on LinkedIN. International Women's Day was just another day for me - no one stopped me in the street and said - “Hey, you're a woman! Happy international women's day! You're doing a great job!”

No one at work (three males) stopped and said Happy International Women's Day Jess. I could’ve made a song and dance about it but then it goes back to making my own birthday cake right? I think this is the bit I find sticky - it's the men supporting the women that is harder to find examples of, I’m certainly not saying that men don’t support and encourage women, they just don’t do it as well as other women do. 

You see, women support women ALL THE TIME. Women supporting women is a core attribute to almost every single part of my life! At any one moment about 85% of my clients are women, and not just any women but extraordinarily intelligent and passionate women who are literally making the world a better place. I have a beautiful network of friends that are constantly encouraging and cheering each other on to achieve bigger and bolder things. Even this morning, at 6am in the dark I ran into two friends who just filled my cup right then and there. 

Then there are the women you're related to who are by far the most influential and inspirational ladies around. My mother-in-law is the reason everyone else succeeds in her family. I went to New Zealand last weekend where I got to hang out with my Mum, sister, Nana, aunties and cousins - all of which are amazing. My mum is one of four sisters (RIP beloved aunty Barb - the most awesome woman of them all) so the girl power in that family is potent. Nothing is impossible if you have ovaries in my family. If anything, it's an asset because you are more likely to get shit done.

I think that is where the women I know are so impressive - they get shit done. They get shit done in spite of their traditional roles as women. Equality is a key theme of this year's IWD and I imagine this is in regards to pay and respect at work because equality in my household, like most modern families, can at times, feel like the 1950’s. It can be hard to break the cycle of mothers and childcare especially.

I don’t say this to bag out Matt, although he didn’t give me a standing ovation on IWD. I say this because the job of raising a family, at least in my house, is 70% Mum and 30% Dad. Matt would probably debate this as he does the majority of the cooking during the week but  sometimes it feels like I do everything else. The day Matt wakes up and says "it's going to be a sunny day babe, I think I’ll chuck the sheets in the wash” is the day I’ll accept that the paradigm is shifting. 

Until then, I’ll work my butt off all day to support my family financially then come home and sort the washing out, make sure readers get read, school uniforms are ready to go for the next day, there’s lunchbox food in the pantry for tomorrow and then deals with kids who won’t go to sleep till about 9pm at night - when I must go to bed to repeat the cycle the next day. 

I thoroughly enjoy this existence (and Matt does do lots with the kids obviously), it always makes me grimace when my Nana goes on about how she raised four girls under four and I should stop stressing. Times have changed so much. Women are no longer able to take 7 years off to raise kids to school age then gently re-enter the workforce. (I know I’m generalising here but it makes a better story).

When I think about international women's day (and remember I’m a mum, so I’m coming at it from my experience) I think of the power moments when you pull off the amazing feat of having kids wake up half an hour late and still getting them to school on time, in clean uniforms with nutritious lunches and the right books. You then walk straight into a meeting where you flip from ‘yelling mum in the car’ to ‘branding expert’ ready to help your clients business grow. Next you take some potential clients through the factory and discuss how we might be able to help with their extension then followed by a 6km walk around the lake at lunch. The afternoon is spent working with awesome clients, helping them kick goals then it's time to pick up the kids and the night time routine starts. All going well everyone is fed, cleaned and asleep by 8.30. Matt and I get approximately 30 minutes to not talk to each other and read or watch something then it's bedtime again!

Not everyday is like this but those are the days when I’m womening at my best - getting shit done. When I think of International Women’s Day, I just think of how great all the ladies in my life are. So many intelligent, brave, powerful and hilarious ladies. Each and every one of them brings something different to our relationship and makes me a better person for it. 

If you're a lady then well done! If you're a man then go to all the women in your life right now and tell them how great they are and how much you appreciate them. Please don't restrict this praise to IWD only, you can do this every day, forever.

Video of the week
“Be one of many“ | International Women’s Day 2023
Podcast of the week
Bang on: IWD, Circumboob, Jamie Lee Curtis
Font of the week
Around B: Font of the week by Calderón

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