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Anything Boys Can Do, Girls Can Do Better

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by Shannon Barlow

9 months ago

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I was asked today why we should celebrate International Women’s Day.  For me it is a chance to focus on the positives, think back to influencers in my life and to highlight the achievements of some incredible women.  There will be lots of posts today about #metoo #pressforprogress #genderpaygap which are very important, but I want to talk about the women who have helped shape and inspire me today.

Let’s start with Mum. You can’t read the print on my t-shirt in this grainy family photo from - I’m not telling how many years ago - but it says, “Anything boys can do, girls can do better”.  I wouldn’t label Mum a feminist, but maybe with me growing up the youngest of 5, including my 3 brothers here, she knew I would need a boost up!  Mum tells a story of a family day at the river where my brothers took turns standing under a powerful waterfall seeing who could withstand the freezing water the longest.  Mum was packing up to leave when apparently, I started tugging on her skirt, insisting that I should have a go too. I don’t remember my 4-year-old self, standing for 2 minutes under the icy cold water, teeth chattering, but it always makes me think that the belief that I could do anything the boys could do was instilled in me early!  Flash forward to today and that belief is still strong and keeps me motivated as I grow the people2people business in New Zealand.

This year I have decided to take the time to celebrate International Women’s Day rather than just take a quick snap with the women in the office and then move on to the next thing.  Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the Co. of Women Kick-off Camp which is a platform for women entrepreneurs to support each other and champion success.  The event also included inducting 3 more incredible women into the New Zealand Hall of Fame for Women Entrepreneurs. The day was hugely inspiring to see confident young women pushing the boundaries in business as well as acknowledging some of the visionary women who have paved the way with outstanding achievements in their industries (Dame Pieter Stewart, Mavis Mullins and Peri Drysdale). I am in awe of their accomplishments (seriously, not everyone goes from life on the farm to consulting to the UN on sustainability!), but what was really inspiring was to hear their stories, to learn about their humble beginnings and to find out that they are not too different from me (or you). They didn’t go into new ventures knowing everything but were determined to learn everything they could and gathered a team around them to fill in the gaps and support them in driving the business forward.  So now I still have the belief that I can do anything boys can do, but also, if I can do half of what these amazing women have done then I’ve really made it!

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