Women to watch in 2018 and beyond 

By Sarah Cannata

It’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is Press for Progress.

Reality is, inspirational women are all around us and we all have a story to tell. We’re not just talking about the high profile women you see on TV each evening. Or, the people gracing magazine covers or appearing in your news feed on social media. We’re referring to the women whose names you may not yet have come across.

This International Women’s Day, we’re shining a light on some incredible women doing game-changing work.

Tracey Spicer – iconic media professional, writer, speaker, trainer

It’s impossible for us to devise a list of women to watch in 2018 and beyond without including Spicer who’s seemingly become the face of journalists bringing alleged sexual predators to justice in terms of the Australian media. In many ways, it’s difficult to know where to begin when looking at the television, radio, newspaper and online journalist’s career.

During her 30-year career, Spicer has become renowned for her courage. In recent times, she led the charge in naming and shaming alleged serial predators in the Australian media with her comprehensive and methodical nature. (We’re not going to name the alleged perpetrators because they don’t deserve to be named among this list of incredible women.) Awarded an Order of Australia earlier this year for her services to broadcast journalism and charities, Spicer is spearheading a movement in the media that will ensure our daughters are less likely to face such challenges moving forward.

“The fragmentation of the mass media, and destruction of traditional business models, is of huge concern. There are two ways forward. One involves putting money towards investigative journalism. People will pay for robust, unbiased work which exposes corruption and the misuse of power. The second is to diversify the type of people both at executive level and onscreen. We simply don’t see enough people of colour, older women, or marginalised communities. Diversity of thought will forge a path forward.”

Christine Smith – Rowville Community Kitchen/Recipe4Change

Earlier this year, Christine Smith promised the world big news. She revealed that after working with long-term unemployed job seekers for nearly seven years, she decided 2018 was a year of change and that she could do more. After speaking with teachers who told her that their year 11/12 students with disabilities would “never work,” she helped these young people to change their stories by giving them traineeships so that they have a viable career path.

Smith Teaching Youngest Student
Smith teaching one of her youngest students how to cook up a storm in the kitchen.

The move will come as no surprise to anyone who’s encountered Smith, a social justice advocate and the founder of Rowville Community Kitchen and Recipe4Change, which is helping to change the lives of everyday Australians by using food to overcome barriers to a better life.

Smith on what motivates her to continue her work:

“I came to understand my inner motivation later than most. Why? Probably because I had a comfortable life growing up and later when I married. I have always been rich in terms of being loved, plentiful food and family.

“Quality food was the focus. My parents said eat well, keep warm, be happy and stay healthy. Because you are feeding not only a food hunger but emotional hunger too.

“I set up Recipe4Change because my desire is for everyone to have a stable life, especially kids who wear the poor decisions made by their parents and have no voice. I despair at the number of kids who don’t have enough wholesome food to feed their bodies so they can think, learn, play and be the best they can be.”

Kylee Fitzpatrick – TEAM Women Australia

If one thing hits you instantly about TEAM Women Australia, it’s that the social enterprise isn’t interested in doing anything in halves. The organisation’s founder, Kylee Fitzpatrick, is unapologetic when communicating that the social enterprise specialises in the power of storytelling to inspire, empower and enable women to stand up for themselves and one another to live their best possible life (yes, this sounds very similar to This Woman Can but we’re all about supporting organisations who are on the same page and are doing incredible things).

Kylee Fitzpatrick
Kylee Fitzpatrick, founder of TEAM Women Australia

Passionate about research and storytelling, Fitzpatrick has spent over two decades in the media working on the launch of some of Australia’s most successful and iconic female lifestyle brands. For the past 15 years, she’s specialised in leading individual, group and organisational performance-based transformation programs. TEAM Women Australia was born in 2014 when the founder was leading a mentoring group for women who were juggling all things that life typically brings.

We spoke to Fitzpatrick about her most rewarding career achievements to date:

“The launch of Body & Soul and Fitness First Magazine – two firsts in their respective markets. Body & Soul was the first ever national newspaper product inserted into metropolitan newspapers across the country targeting women. Meanwhile, Fitness First had never launched a magazine.

“Leading the transformation of News Corps National distribution operation and the merger of The Federal Publishing Company (FPC) with the Community Newspaper division of News Corp, were two major highlights because of the impact they had on the business, the people and my own career development as a leader. FPC was the leading publisher in Community Newspapers. As our main competitor and the number one in many markets, it was a massive undertaking to consolidate teams and optimise the market while rebranding products.

“Launching TEAM Women Australia in 2014 was by far the most personally rewarding as far as the impact it had on women’s lives.”

Fatene Ben-Hamza – Cogite/Drosos Foundation

Being an entrepreneur is a tough gig at the best of times including for those in Tunisia where for entrepreneurs wanting to start their own projects, they face many difficulties. This is why in 2013, Fatene Ben-Hamza joined Cogite, an entrepreneurial hub and co-working space hosting a community of impact-driven entrepreneurs and organisations. In a country where so many young people suffer daily because of a lack of economic opportunities, Cogite has created something that is priceless: a community of dreamers and doers. Working as the company’s Chief Operations Officer (COO), Ben-Hamza and her team’s tireless efforts have paved the way for countless start-ups to succeed.

Fatene Ben-Hamza
Fatene Ben-Hamza who joined Cogite in 2013.

The founder now resides between Morocco and Tunis where she has taken on a leadership role for the Drosos Foundation.

Ben-Hamza spoke to This Woman Can about what motivates her to continue working on Cogite’s development:

“I am passionate about building safe spaces for people to create, express and exchange ideas. I strongly believe that each one of us can create outstanding things when provided with the right support and the right environment.

“While developing Cogite, we faced multiple challenges such as an unfriendly legal framework towards innovation and entrepreneurship but also a striking absence of a collaborative mindset. As a strong believer in the critical importance of people working together and supporting each other to achieve more, my main motivation was to build an environment for anyone holding an idea or a project to be able to find the right support to bring it to life.”

Sarah Wilson – New York Times best-selling author and journalist

When it comes to books, there are a few gems that leave a lasting impression on readers for a long time. Sarah Wilson’s First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, which explores coping with and managing anxiety, proved to be one of those books for our founder and for millions of others around the globe. To say Wilson’s achievements are remarkable, is an understatement – especially once you’ve read her raw, honest and open account of coping with anxiety and what it has meant for Wilson both personally and professionally.

The former editor of Australian Cosmopolitan magazine has moved on to write a number of best-sellers including her I Quit Sugar book, which proved Wilson was years ahead of almost everyone else in terms of the health impacts of sugar addiction. Recently, she announced the closure of her I Quit Sugar business arm, which safe to say, took most by surprise.

In an interview with the ABC in early 2017, Wilson shared her thoughts on anxiety:

“There’s no point in wishing I didn’t have anxiety; it is what it is…

“But I also wouldn’t give it up. I wouldn’t give back the richness, the depth, the emotional spectrum I’ve experienced.

“Anxiety is the thing that takes you down, this anxiety about not knowing what life is about takes you down. But it’s also the thing that ultimately takes you to where the answer lies.”

Chandra Brooks – The SocialPreneur

In 2017, Chandra Brooks launched The SocialPreneur, which prepares potential candidates to get ready to run for political office and mentors women to own their power and leadership within their company, business and/or community. Born and raised in San Jose, Brooks is the former Vice President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and is currently the Commissioner of Santa Clara County’s Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. Additionally, she’s the Chair of the Justice and Advocacy Committee that manages the Commission’s oversight of Elmwood’s women’s correctional facility.

Chandra Brooks
Chandra Brooks, founder of The SocialPreneur.

Brooks on what inspires her to continue her work with civic engagement and women in leadership:

“I am inspired to continue my work in civic engagement and women’s leadership because it’s necessary. Seeing more women and people of colour running for office and taking seats at decision making tables inspires me to keep spreading the message of owning our true power and the power of the people around the world.”

Tara Lock – Chilly Towel

In 2015, Tara Lock won the battle of her life: facing and beating cancer. As a result of chemotherapy, Lock experienced early onset menopause. This causes her to suffer from constant overheating, hot flushes and night sweats each day.

Lock then sourced over 30 materials on her quest to perfect Chilly Towel – an instant cooling towel that lowers body temperature and stays chilled for hours when activated with water. Today, she’s helping others who suffer from overheating for various reasons including fevers, hot flushes, medical conditions, poor circulation, menopause and heat stress.

Lock on how her journey to date has changed her:

“Going through these personal hardships has definitely changed my outlook on life, and has sent me into a positive and productive position. From standing at markets in the heat wearing a wig to promote the Chilly Towel in the beginning, to now selling the product online, it was humbling to see the amazing response from so many women going through menopause and other heat related illnesses, which inspired me to go further with this product.

“Myself and so many women are experiencing overheating and constant hot flushes as a result of chemotherapy treatment. Finally, there is a product available to help us find some relief. It keeps me busy too, keeping my mind active and pushing myself further. I have a new found purpose through my journey with cancer. It has pushed me into dedicating my time to get this product out there to help other people experiencing the same thing as I am in any way I can.”

Jade Collins and Alanna Bastin-Byrne – Femeconomy

You wouldn’t think that a taxi would provide a budding entrepreneur with inspiration but the idea for Femeconomy was born in a Melbourne taxi. Fast-forward to 2018. Sister-in-laws and now co-founders, Jade Collins and Alanna Bastin-Byrne, are encouraging women to shop for brands with female leaders to create gender equality. A whopping 85 per cent of purchasing decisions are made by women – that means that the power is in our purse.

Jade Collins & Alanna Bastin-Byrne
Co-founders of Femeconomy, Jade Collins and Alanna Bastin-Byrne.

Femeconomy approved brands have at least 30 per cent of women on the Board of Directors or are 50 per cent female owned. Currently, over 800 brands have met this criteria as Collins and Bastin-Byrne spearhead a women’s shopping revolution.

Collins and Bastin-Byrne spoke to This Woman Can about how informed the average woman is in regards to purchasing power:

“Women make 85 per cent of purchase decisions. In Australia, it is estimated that women spent $818 billion in the 2016-17 financial year. We know that female consumers habitually shop 10 brands.

“We want women to take The Femeconomy Pledge. Make sure your top 10 brands are Femeconomy approved and you will progress gender equality with every purchase. It is another way to press for progress.”

Erica King – Running Divas Australia

At 38-years-old, Erica King decided to run from scratch. She found herself stuck in a rut and wanted a new challenge. So she started to run. Eventually, decided that having a running goal would make for the perfect motivation to stay focused. That’s when she set her sights on running the toughest running challenge there is: the New York marathon. She had 10 months to become a runner. On 2 November 2002, she achieved her goal and raised $97k for breast cancer research.

From that moment, King had the running bug and Running Divas was born. Her reality now is a far cry from where Erica’s career began in her family’s hospitality business. She then travelled the world as a make-up artist before settling into corporate life as a consultant. At 52-years-old, King is now focusing her attention on Running Divas full-time.

King on what running means to her:

“It is my happy place where I absolutely know and believe that anything is possible.”

Manuela Whitford, Zoe Scharenguivel, Julia McKenna – Friends With Dignity

Friends With Dignity
The incredible Directors of Friends With Dignity.

One of the issues that never gets enough attention in mainstream media is Australia’s domestic violence epidemic. According to White Ribbon Australia, one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them.

Enter three ‘everyday’ Aussie mums – Manuela Whitford, Zoe Scharenguivel and Julia McKenna. These three women are the Directors of the nationwide domestic violence support charity, Friends With Dignity. McKenna is related to and grew up with Allison Baden-Clay, whose name may sadly strike a chord with Australian readers. Baden-Clay was reported missing by her husband who eventually, was charged with her murder.

Founded in 2015, Friends With Dignity is a national not-for-profit. It assists men, women and children who have been displaced by domestic violence. It is run fully by dedicated volunteers.

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