They told me I couldn’t do it … so I did it anyway
Hello, and welcome to issue 83, our Women in Tech issue. We’re choc-full of all kinds of women who work on or around tech. I hope you enjoy sharing their stories.
You’re hopefully aware that I recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for Womanthology. It’s been a bit of an epic journey setting up the magazine. It all started off when I was stood in the queue at the supermarket and I had an idea that would change my life. I’d unloaded my trolley I caught a glimpse of all the immaculate women on the covers on the newsstand who had all been airbrushed to within an inch of their lives. Who were they supposed to represent? It certainly wasn’t me.
Not pretty enough, not clever enough, not rich enough, too old, too young…
Without exception, the women and girls I spoke with told me that many articles they read in the media made them feel bad about themselves and I felt the same. On a daily basis we are bombarded with unrealistic images of women and narratives that basically tell us all we’re not pretty enough, not clever enough, not rich enough, too old, or sometimes too young. The list goes on…
I would read product round ups and feel inadequate because I couldn’t spare £2000 for the latest coat or a new coffee table. (What was wrong with me?!!) I was well into my thirties and I didn’t have the perfect family and I didn’t even have the excuse of being a jet setting global executive who wasn’t allowed the time for a personal life. Blimey.
What was wrong with me? The answer: Nothing.
Let’s start telling the truth: There is no such thing as “having it all”
There was this unspoken ideal that we were all supposed to live up to – the notion of “having it all”, but, in reality no one could even agree what “having it all” meant. This was for the simple reason that there is no such thing.
So, I had a thought. Well, OK, lots of thoughts:
- What if there was a new type of magazine for women that changed the rules?
- What if it was filled with positive stories of women of passion and purpose?
- What if the audience wasn’t segmented in such a way that women over 35 were hidden from the sight of anyone younger?
- What if women of all ages were able to share their wisdom and experience?
- What if we the headlines about the appointment of a new female chief executive didn’t feel the need to mention her age, and her status as a mother / not a mother when completely different narratives were applied to stories about their male equivalents?
- What if supportive men who understood all of the above were welcome to share their ideas too?
- What if we reassured everybody it was OK not to let work commitments run their lives?
- What if we understood that everyone was just doing their best and getting by as best they could, and that no-one has all the answers?
After all, none of us is perfect. So let’s start telling the truth.
Create the things you wish existed
So, I had an idea. What if I was to create the magazine that I wished existed? We could hear from women in their own words and it wouldn’t be framed around looks or style. (Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing at all wrong with liking fashion and beauty, but it isn’t what defines us all as women.) The magazine I imagined would be framed around passion and purpose, and just being yourself. Ironically, when you’re doing something that you love and that gives you purpose, you don’t need to worry about the way you look because you’re already glowing.
There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices in life
I wanted to show girls and women that they could be a rocket scientist, or a surgeon, or a mathematician, or a racing car driver, or be a teacher, or work for a charity, or start their own business, or do anything. They could also combine this with motherhood (or not), or other types of caring, however they chose. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices, there’s just doing what works best for you and those closest to you.
A platform to share your own ideas in your own words
Coming from a communications background, I was aware of the challenge of getting to hear from people who don’t have access to public relations advisers. My research told me that men were far more likely to put themselves forward as ‘experts’ in the media, whereas women, already underrepresented in many occupations, didn’t always feel comfortable sharing their ideas if they didn’t have a communications support network behind them.
So, what if we got over this obstacle by allowing everyone, regardless of their vocation or employment, to share their own ideas in their own words? And so I did.
They told me I couldn’t do it … so I did it anyway
Of course, many people told me it would never work and it couldn’t be done. Don’t get me wrong. None of it has been easy. But I managed to come up with the format for Womanthology in my spare time. I had no budget to speak of, so I had to get creative. Once I’d developed the idea I tested it out on people and they seemed to like it.
So, I started to reach out to women who I admired, as well as supportive male champions of gender balance, to ask them to share their stories, and the response was phenomenal. Right from the first issue I had huge support. An incredible number of people got behind the idea, because they shared the vision about the possibility for something different.
It took many long hours of work – I’ve regularly sat up into the night, or on some occasions right through the night (not to be recommended) in order to get an issue out or to finish an urgent job.
But Womanthology is nothing without our contributors who take time out to share their stories and their wisdom. Womanthology is the people who take part in it.
Interestingly though, a common thread amongst pretty much all the women I spoke to was that they were told they couldn’t do something and this was precisely what drove them to actually go on and do it. I have to say, this is exactly what made me all the more determined to make Womanthology a reality. When the doubters said: “You can’t set up a magazine,” they just made me want me want to prove them wrong.
This is why I chose the theme #IDidItAnyway for the Indiegogo campaign I’ve just launched. Now I’m looking to grow the magazine so it can reach more people and I need your help in order to do this.
I chose Indiegogo as my platform for several reasons. Danae Ringelmann is Indiegogo’s founder and Chief Development Officer, who worked to set up the company alongside Eric Schell and Slava Rubin. The platform is very female friendly, with 47% of campaigns that exceed their goals led by women. The support from the platform is excellent too, so I thought I’d also be able to use the experience to help other women-led projects that are incredible, but struggle to access the funding they need. It just felt right.
Please check out the campaign page and support if you can, or else share it and spread the word. Let’s move things forward together to show women they can succeed in whatever career they choose, and they should follow their individual passions to prove the doubters wrong, no matter how hard it seems.
Support the campaign here: https://igg.me/at/womanthology