I won tickets to StylistLive for 3 out of 4 days, last month and it was epic! It was exactly as described; an urban [feminist] festival, crammed full with enriching activities (talks, Q&As, roundtable discussions), live performances (intimate music concerts, book readings from famous authors, live stand-up comedy), fashion shows, giveaways, beauty treatments, photobooths, hair styling stations, and a million and one stalls to foray through and shop from. In the midst of it all, my sister heard a dumb nut ask "why can't they do this for men?".
Disclaimer: PICTURE OVERLOAD! But be rest assured there are more pictures from StylistLive to come, and will feature in subsequent posts as I couldn't cram it all in here.
The male equivalent of Stylist Live is anything and everything! Club nights, the races, football matches, car expos...are you kidding me? We finally have an event that celebrates the diverse modern woman and you'd rather taint it by drawing attention to the fact it took 2,015 years to create such a unique event? Building and finding female networks is difficult for that very reason; we are highly critical and are socialised to nurture guilt in our DNA. We feel this ache for others and this need to include, however the same isn't done for us! Approximately 50,000 women are pushed out of work post-maternity leave, and with much talk surrounding the gender pay gap, its only right to highlight that women currently earn £400,000 less than their male counterparts over the lifespan of their career! The working environment still very much favours men, with after-work drinks, billable hours being the universal measure of hard work, boozy lunches, and back-pat intrusive gestures to mark success. With work taking up so much of adult life, and women feeling somewhat alienated from the diction of success, shouldn't we be joining forces to carve out networks that cater to our needs, meet our expectations of a fulfilling working life, and help to better prepare the younger generation?
Stylist Columnist Lucy Mangan
Harriet Minter's introduction to the most recent issue of the Guardian Women in Leadership newsletter praised her 'tribe'. A network of working women, who she has chosen to surround herself with, whom she has found inspiring and motivating. I see this 'tribe' trend permeating to other media of late; e.g. Stylist's 'Work | Life' and Marie Claire's '@Work' columns. The benefits of mentorship is undeniable, and the negative effects on women currently in the workforce, not having a mentor or role model to look up to, is equally undeniable. I attended the first #First100Years seminar and was humbled by the achievements of women who'd broken the glass ceiling, but what struck me was the unapologetic denouncing by one, of the difficulty it took to get there. Perhaps she had beaten that "I'm fine" drum for far too long, she could no longer recognise the truth of her struggle. A woman who admitted to having received a rejection letter which stated in black ink that it was solely on the basis of her gender. A woman who stated that the shots taken to the top were based on sheer luck and favour by a male member of senior staff who had taken her under his wing. I was perplexed to then find upon conclusion of that story, that in her role on a board which empowers her to appoint junior staff on the basis of merit, she has found herself turning her nose up at females, in much the same way she once experienced.
Women hate Women. It wont be the first time you've heard that phrase. Perhaps its been modernised into something like "Girls are b*tches", but the underlying message is the same. The truth is, its just not true. As a feminist, I love fellow women, and I encourage young girls to see beyond their means, in the same way young boys are taught to aspire for greatness. The glass ceiling exists, but it IS breakable. Women on boards and high ranking positions stand as evidence of this, so why are we curtailing our possible achievements with an excuse? One reason is a lack of information. Men benefit from their networks because they are one and the same. Women tend to compartmentalise their relationships; a stark line is drawn to differentiate professional colleagues from social friendships. We develop a complex system of avoiding muddling our personal and professional lives, forever in a bid to split time equally between the two, keeping it all in fine balance...and failing. The infamous words of Anne Marie Slaughter conditioned women to believe we can have it all, just not all at the same time.
Attending Stylist Live put that thought to bed. Being surrounded by a tribe of women who had achieved a published book on international bestseller lists before they were 30, comedians who had travelled the world raising awareness of universal issues suffered by women, artists belting power ballads challenging public perception of race or love, not to mention talented everyday women just doing their thing and loving life in the process. It was inspiring! And it was a moment of reflection, seated in the Emerald Street chill out area that it truly dawned on me. Approached by a budding entrepreneur marketing her cosmopolitan tights venture (Sheer Chemistry), networking took a whole new meaning when what started as a mild pitch turned into a creative hoard, with women soon joining in our discussion and sharing ideas, evernotes, advice and interesting tidbits they had learned from StylistLive. It was in that moment I truly understood what women had been missing out on for so long in the workforce. Perhaps if networking events were centred around nail bars instead of grubby pub bar stools, we'd be more receptive to whatever initiative is being doled out for the taking. Without streamlining all women to frivolous interests such as beauty or makeup, what I'm proposing is an open-minded approach to diversity in its truest form. Water-cooler discussions about the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in equal measure to the football match last night, so we don't feel shamed into secretly scrolling through the Daily Mail sidebar in our spare time. Rewarding achievements by retail discounts as well as season ticket passes! I mean, we aren't asking for much!
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others" African Proverb