When I was 15 years old I had the opportunity to do work experience for a few weeks. I divided my time between the largest management consultancy firm in Australia, the largest law firm in Australia and the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross (a refuge for the homeless and for people with mental health and substance abuse issues.)
I learned an incredible amount from my corporate gigs and I was particularly impressed by the management consultants. They were smart, articulate, bi and tri lingual and clearly on a path to change the world.
And yet it was the Wayside Chapel that captured my heart. Or one person in particular. She was a sex worker, not much older than me. We hit it off instantly and became fast friends. Everyday I was there she’d drop by for a chat and we’d share stories about our lives.
Toward the end of my time there, she arrived later than usual for our daily catch up. She was bleeding with her period and needed a tampon. We cleaned her up and then sat down for a chat. When I asked her why she was late, she said she’d been with a client and that she’d had to see the doctor earlier in the day. She’d been diagnosed as HIV positive. She shook as she told me but then defiantly stated, ‘I didn’t wear a condom with that guy this morning. They don’t like it and I figure, some guy did this to me, so fuck ’em.’
I only saw her once more after that and she’d spiralled badly. She was high and angry and definitely not interested in a chat with the girl that would soon be heading home to her safe and comfortable life in the suburbs.
I never knew what happened to my friend but that experience never left me. It lit something within – a desire to support women, to empower them, to raise them up above the misery of life.
After my time at the Wayside Chapel I moved into the world of management consultancy.
There I uncovered a whole other form of misery.
I spent the week assigned to a partner who just a few months prior had become a mother of twins. She was back at work and working long hours. We spent a lot of time in meetings as she discussed matters that were well over my head and when we sat down to debrief at the end of the week, she asked me if I had any burning questions.
I had one. And it was burning. I asked; ‘How on earth do you take care of twins and do this job?’
She looked disappointed in me. As if I had let her down by recognising her gender. As if I didn’t realise there was a secret pact that all females made when they walked into the office; just pretend you’re a man and perhaps they’ll keep letting us in the door.
‘I have a nanny of course’ she replied shortly and then went back to work.
Another light was sparked in that moment. A light to support women like that partner who shouldn’t have been expected to pretend that she hadn’t just given birth a few months prior. Who wouldn’t have dared had the babies come and sleep under her desk when they were really little or asked if the office could add a creche to its facilities so she could breastfeed every few hours (despite the fact that the office had a gym and cafeteria and many other facilities that the men thought essential to their daily existence).
Those experiences have long stayed with me. Two females selling themselves for money – one with her body and one with her mind. Both at the expense of what was most dear to them.
Both pushing down, ignoring their souls and doing the very best they could to navigate their way through a world in which they had limited power and choices.
In the 25 years since those encounters, I’ve been navigating my own path through body, mind and soul. Looking for a way to bring them together in an integrated fashion. To honour the feminine within whilst operating effectively in a world of men. To embed heart and soul right in the midst of business operations. To embrace all women and offer them the opportunity to raise themselves up and claim their space, unapologetically and without compromising what matters to us most.
It’s time to change the face of business forever. It’s time for women to stop hiding and compromising. It’s time to claim our true natures as the powerful, all creative expressions of the divine Goddess that we really are.