Imagine this: You’re facing a challenge to cross the Atlantic solo and break the women’s world record. You’ve no history of endurance activity, never mind rowing. Would you be terrified?
Here’s the narrative. She’s a competent Head of an inner city primary school in a deprived area. During the day she operates as an effective leader, dealing with the challenges that such environments spawn. At night she returns to the ‘perfect’ home and the ‘perfect’ partner. Hmmmmm! Appearances can indeed be deceptive.
Have you ever played roller derby? It’s a fast, furious contact sport. So, clearly you’d have to be an aggressive risk taker to play, right? But aggressive is definitely not a term I’d apply to my Page 1 Woman™, who’s an enthusiastic, award winning roller derby ‘blocker’. Risk taker? Definitely as she’s on a mission to transform childbirth culture from negativity, pain and trauma to one of parent empowerment, relaxation, ease and even enjoyment.
What would you do if you were in a high salaried job in the lucrative pharmaceutical industry, but were overly stressed and unable to be true to your values? Would you give it all up?
My Page 1 Woman™ did. But it didn’t come easy.
Here’s the scenario, you’re a mixed race woman raised on a West London council estate where career ambition is in short supply.
As a single mum of 2, in a relationship with a narcissistic charmer, you’re an IKEA employee of 10 years paying the debts of material accumulation. Sounds like a stereotype, right? Welcome to the world from which my Page 1 Woman™ originated.
Approximately 85,000 women are raped each year in England and Wales. So, what do you make of that? If it makes you want to stop reading, don’t, because not enough is heard about rape from the survivor’s perspective.
Think of an accountant and who comes to mind? A dry, conservative, pale male nerd, perhaps?
My Page 1 Woman, an accountant by profession, in no way fits the stereotype. She’s definitely not dry or conservative and you would never call her a nerd. She’s bubbly, out-going, funny and larger than life. Small in stature and with a voice that easily hits the high notes you’d be forgiven for mistaking her for someone 10 years younger.
Have you ever met a massage therapist who aimed to help people fall in love with their faces and with themselves? And have you ever had a massage during which you could feel the love in the massage therapist’s touch? Extraordinary, right? That was my experience when I received my first inter-oral massage from my Page 1 Woman™ Lynn Rae - genuine caring, warmth and love.
Now here’s an interesting fact - 83% of working age people acquire a disability as opposed to being born with a disability.
When people with a disability are seen as ‘them’ in relation to us, that figure challenges the world view of disability as abnormal. In other words, it could happen to you or me.
So, picture this: you’re a successful career woman; an out-going, health conscious 29 year old, who attends the gym frequently; you’ve never smoked and drink very little. You go to bed one night and awake, legs paralyzed. You return to work 18 months later in a wheel chair. You’ll never walk again.
Do you know many women who, in their 60s, decide to up sticks and move to a different country? Unusual, isn’t it?
The conventional view of 60-something women, is that they are slowing down, preparing themselves for retirement in familiar surroundings near their grandchildren.
But that’s not the narrative of my Page 1 woman, Terezia Koczka, because for her, age is not a barrier. And she doesn’t fit the stereotype of a woman in her 60s.
My Page 1 Woman was brought up in a Communist dictatorship where life was strictly controlled. People weren’t free to learn what they wanted or travel abroad. That came later.
Did you know that only 1 in 10 statues in the UK are of women? And, surprise, surprise, most of these are of Queen Victoria. With such figures you’d be forgiven for thinking that, unless born to be queen, women have played little more than a bit part in British history. But put simply, it’s all about airbrushing – concealing our contributions in the annals.
Picture the scene: You’re an 11 year old, walking with your parents on the Howrah Bridge in Calcutta, one of the world’s busiest roadways. You suddenly spot a man in a loin cloth dying in the gutter. The world walks by - uncaring, unmoved. How would you feel? For my Page 1 Woman™ this was more than shocking. It was life changing. She’d found her calling. ‘At that moment, I decided that when I grew up I was going to be a doctor working with poor people in global health’. And so began her development as a leader of human rights.
Globetrotting to near and far flung places as part of your job would be many people’s idea of a dream career. Images of excitement and glamour may emerge. And the reality of living out of a suitcase far from partner and family takes a back seat.
If the globe trotter were a global head of HR in a series of large companies, you might then get a picture of status, influence and a huge salary. What more could a woman want in her career?
But what if you love your career but begin yearning for something deeper? What if you felt trapped by constraints and procedures that prevent you from making a real difference?
How many doctors do you know, have left the profession to set up a business creating comics? Sounds crazy? With its high status and salary, the glowing reputation and admiration that doctors attract, especially in the Far East, you’d be forgiven for thinking that those would be enough to keep a young woman within the profession.
But what if she had a passion for comics and a flair for creating comic art that had been carefully honed since she was a toddler? And what if once qualified in medicine, she lost sight of her true self?
Have you ever been rewarded for a big achievement? And whilst listening to the accolades you heard a whisper in your ear saying ‘fraud’?
Behold, the impostor syndrome, the worry that you’re a sham and one day soon you’ll be found out.
Regardless of who you are, the impostor syndrome can sneak up on you. And it’s common amongst high achieving women such as Sheryl Sandberg and Emma Watson. My Page 1 Woman has it too.
Meet Sheree Axon, Director of Organisational Change and Programme Delivery, in NHS England, and a longstanding member of the impostor syndrome club. She’s clearly very smart. So how come she often feels a fraud?
Sixty-six percent of Britons support gender equality, but only seven percent call themselves feminists. When feminists are stereotyped as man-hating, bra-burning, angry, hairy and dull it’s hardly surprising that so many people shy away from identifying as feminists. So, what’s the relevance to my Page 1 Woman? She’s a big supporter of gender equality and her business is about women’s empowerment but.... ‘I don’t call myself a feminist although I whole heartedly believe in equality,’ she said. ‘I just don’t do name tags’.
In the good old days, people started their working life expecting to have one job, one career and one retirement with bags of recognition and a gold watch. Nowadays, that’s no longer the expectation of one’s working life.
Job jumping is the new black and statistics indicate that 5-7 career changes is the norm.
My Page 1 Woman hasn’t quite hit those statistics but she’s changed careers 4 times. You might say that it’s been an evolutionary process, that’s prepared her for solo-preneurship, in line with her values.
Think of a banker. Who comes to mind? A high earning, pale male in a dark suit, motivated by greed? What if I were to show you a banker who is neither pale, male nor driven by greed? What if she were an African Caribbean grandmother, striving to make a difference, give back, help other women to succeed and do the best for her sons? Would that surprise you?
Talk to any teenage mum about her experience and she might share the verbal abuse from random strangers and the stigma she has faced.
Expectations of teenage mums are low. And few expect a 15 year old mum and her child to buck the stereotypes and make a great success of their lives.
My Page 1 Woman has proven that stereotypes are nothing more than that.
And they will narrow your prospects and that of your children, only if you allow them to.
When you hear the word ‘naked’, what image comes to mind? Probably, one that you wouldn’t associate with phenomenal, inspirational Page 1 Women.
But for once, go ahead and associate ‘naked’ with Mel White, my October Page 1 Woman, because she’s the founder and director of that eponymous business.
By now you’ll get that ‘naked’ is not what you might think at first. It’s not about birthday suits or naturists or embarrassment. It’s about women standing tall, confident and self-accepting,