Written by Nicola Hazell on the 9th of November, 2018
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Nicola Hazell is the Program Director for SheStarts. She’s an advocate for gender equality and writes about how the stories of the SheStarts founders are inspiring the next generation of female founders.
In less than two weeks time, I’m going to become a mother.
For me – as is the case for many – it’s an exciting, yet daunting time. Among the last minute rush to ‘be prepared’ for the great unknown, I’ve found myself in the quieter moments, wondering “what will I tell our daughter about the year she was born?”.
There’s no doubt, 2018 has been a rather significant year for women.
Certainly, we’ve witnessed – and experienced – our fair share of setbacks… the events of the past few weeks in US politics among some of the most disturbing.
Here in Australia, our own so-called “gender wars” have been fought in the boardrooms of some of the nation’s biggest and most influential companies, where women still make up less than 30% of ASX listed board representatives and just 14 of the country’s ASX 200 CEOs are female. In the halls of Federal Parliament, the statistics have not gotten any better with women’s representation in the current Australian Government as low as it has been in almost 20 years.
But amid the shadows of persistent inequality, this year there have been many shining moments of progress.
From Oprah Winfrey’s powerful Golden Globes address heralding a new day on the horizon; to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s historic appearance with her baby Neve at the United Nations General Assembly; and just last week, the announcement that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon in war. Courageous, inspiring people whose actions are not just driving change in our world today, but are creating ripple effects for generations of women and girls to come.
These are the stories I will share with my daughter – significant moments in the year of her birth that will no doubt shape the future she will grow up in.
Of course, I’ll also share a few stories of triumph closer to home. Like the fact that in 2018, the dial gradually began to move for women in my own industry, with the number of female startup founders here in Australia having risen from less than 18% back in 2015 to around 22% this year (according to Startup Muster). Slow but meaningful progress in the right direction.
Most of all, I will tell her the stories of some of the women leading this change. Like the group of women who came into my life just nine months ago – around the very time she was conceived – when they were selected to take part in our second cohort of the SheStarts accelerator at BlueChilli, to turn their big ideas into global tech companies.
These women are redefining what it means to be a tech entrepreneur. They are all new to startup land, representing a diverse range of backgrounds, industries, ages and ambitions. But each of them share the desire to have a positive impact in the world, and they’ve shown great determination by stepping into this new world of tech to do so.
There is no question, each of their startup businesses have the potential to change lives.
But together, the message these women send to the world has the potential to change the future. Because by challenging the prevailing Silicon Valley image of a startup founder, commonly portrayed as a young white male in a t-shirt and sneakers, the stories of these women make it possible for others to finally see themselves in the opportunities of this new economy.
So perhaps it doesn’t really matter what stories I chose to I tell my daughter about the year she was born. What matters is that by the time I do, such stories have become the new reality of her future.
Special thanks to the talented team at TheStoryBoxes who worked so hard to bring these stories to life for the SheStarts Documentary Series. Rachel Storey, Jessica Steedman, David Lloyd-Lewis, David Jeffery and Sarah Mak – it’s an absolute privilege to work with you all.
To our partners at ANZ, MYOB, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Google for Entrepreneurs – thank you for backing our passionate team at BlueChilli in the effort to build a more inclusive future for Australia’s tech economy.
And most of all, to the startup founders who so generously allowed us into their lives, to capture their stories, their challenges and their triumphs, and share them with the world. Danielle Owen Whitford, Andrèz Coco, Dr Annie McAuley, Zoë Condliffe, Laura Simmons, Lily Dempster and Carolyn Deng – my eternal gratitude to you all.