Strength in numbers; women empowering women

November 30, 2018

Strength in numbers; women empowering women

Women empowering women; it’s a concept that’s received a lot of attention recently, but why is it so important? Profile speaks to gender and diversity expert Tami Harriot to find out why women-owned enterprises need to collaborate to grow their business and support their community. There is strength in numbers.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘Lean in Circle’, it was coined by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Cheryl Sandberg back in 2012 when she released her best-selling book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. In the book, Cheryl shares personal stories and extensive research to shine a light on gender differences and to change the conversation from what women can’t do, to what they can do. A lean in circle is an organised monthly meetup for women where they can share ideas, gain skills, seek advice, and provide support. 

Some will argue that we can’t achieve equality if we are creating events exclusively for women. But gender and diversity expert from USC, Tami Harriott, says women need these types of programs to develop leadership skills and take their businesses to a global scale, which, on a whole, helps cities like the Sunshine Coast develop and thrive.

“A lean in circle is about women leaning in, so taking part. Ultimately we want women to join lean in circles and smaller mentoring groups. There’s a lot of support out there for women but they aren’t accessing or learning how to leverage it. We want to bring these things to attention,” says Tami.

Tami Harriot
Tami Harriot

Tami is using the skills she developed while working for big corporates like Westpac over the course of her career, to look at how USC can support women through networking events like lean in circles, especially in regional areas.

Over the last 12 months, Tami has spearheaded a campaign called #Wealthseries to offer a program of 10 seminars to entrepreneurial Sunshine Coast women, which included the W2W event held at the end of November.

“One of the gaps I identified earlier in the piece was women have a social network but we don’t really use it, and that’s something that we want to change. If we do that we can actually improve the economic empowerment that women have.”

From peer-to-peer mentoring, to small collaborations, to the introduction of a collaborative Facebook page, the program has been beneficial to the community of women. 

“These are all the behaviours we want to instill in women and seeing it happen, we’re quite pleased. And we’re extremely happy to have the opportunity to do it again next year,” she says with a smile.

The overall goal for the program is to see net improvement in the number of women-owned enterprises as well as the number of women interested in opening or starting or growing their business. 

“I want to inspire women, not to compete with each other, (unless it’s healthy competition) but we will get so much further if we work out how to work with each other. If we can achieve that through this network by showing women how to truly collaborate, we all become better as a result.

“Leaders do not worry about the competition. The competition worries about leaders,” she adds. 

The collaboration doesn’t just benefit the women who run the businesses, but the local community as a whole. Tami sites a great example from Turkey. 

“The major banks got together and made an agreement that allowed four small manufacturing businesses that were women-owned to supply to the major retailers in the country. That shows how it can be done if you get an intermediary working to get these things done. None of them could have got the job with that retailer because they couldn’t supply them. Those women grew by 30 per cent within the first three years. That is what the power of the network can be,” she explains.

Tami would like the women in her program to collaborate on a global level. With such a large pool of talent on the Sunshine Coast, there’s a massive opportunity to bring women-owned businesses together to establish a global market. She would like to see business owners acting as if they were living in a global city.  

“It’s very important for a place like the Sunshine Coast; we don’t have large corporates; we’re not industry based. Most of the jobs on the Coast are male-dominated jobs like construction. Women looking for jobs are likely to have to get into entrepreneurial activity. If they are going to do that we need to support them to be successful at it. There’s a lot of talent, so we have to teach them how to trade globally. Have a global application and you can go out and compete with anyone, anywhere. It’s not scalable with one person. If we can teach women how to work together it becomes scaleable.”

Tami is not only an expert in her field, she is also a talented poet. She recently wrote, ‘We are informed by our history, not defined by it,’ and says these words help to develop clarity in her life. 

“Often we think we’re restricted by who we are or the circumstances we’re born into or the circumstances we find ourselves. I think it’s always a growing opportunity,” says Tami. 

If women of the Sunshine Coast continue to leverage off programs like the #Wealthseries, they too can use their history, good or bad, to create a new narrative and grow together in the future, to not only benefit themselves, but the Sunshine Coast as a whole. 

lean circle

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