Business Chicks International Women’s Day Breakfast: Amna Karra-Hassan, Rabia Siddique, Susan Alberti

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day (IWD), I attended Business Chicks‘ International Women’s Day breakfast at Crown Towers, Perth.

Despite the annual “why do we need IWD?” (more than ever!) and “what about International Men’s Day?” (19 November) resistance, I’ve been celebrating the sisterhood for as long as I can remember. Yep, I was that 12-year-old kid in high school wearing the purple, green and white ribbon, embracing the term, feminist, pretty early on.

Each year, as IWD approaches, I consider whether I’ll go to an event, whether I have time, whether it’s worth the investment (of time and/or money), whether it’s the right fit, and simply, whether I should still go. What’s the point?

Once again, it was all very much worth it.

I chose the Business Chicks event for a few reasons:

  1. I’m away next week when many of the IWD events are hosted, so it fitted in with my schedule (boring, practical rationale)
  2. The venue (swoon!) is nearby (another slightly less boring, but equally practical rationale)
  3. The speakers were compelling
  4. It was therefore worth the time/money investment

I’m an embarrassingly huge fan of Rabia Siddique. The first time I heard her speak was at a CEDA business lunch in 2014. Not only did her (incredible!) story blow me away, but so did her power as an engaging, empowering storyteller. Wow. I’ve now seen her tell her story four times, each time refining and tailoring the message to the occasion and/or audience. Still wow. Every time.

I’d not seen Amna Karra-Hassan speak before, but holy moly, she, too, blew my mind. So passionate and powerful (and funny). And part of her rationale for starting the first AFLW team was impressive (albeit surprising!) to say the least – to, among other things, use it as a platform to help change the post-9/11 stereotypes about her community and be included in the conversation/s she / her community was being excluded from. I had no idea she wasn’t (initially) that interested in the footy part!

And while I had heard of “the footy lady”, Susan Alberti AC (and although not an AFL follower, even I jumped on the Doggies bandwagon in 2016 when they reached the grand final), I did not know her whole story. Holy smokes. What a fighter. On so many levels.

The three women (and Business Chicks CEO Olivia Ruello), all phenomenal, touched on issues still relevant, still warranting an IWD breakfast, still warranting conversations to be had so change can be made:

  • Quotas – the challenge of their potentially positive outcomes and risk of the person being perceived as only getting the gig / being at the table because of gender
  • Intersectionality – and how to know your privilege, listen and make space for others, and know the power of words (oh yes, and how!)
  • Firsts – the joy and responsibility that comes with being a “first” (woman, Muslim, person to do xyz)
  • Creating change – via socio-poltical, practical mechanisms such as policy
  • Using storytelling – to give meaning and value to our individual and collective experiences
  • Giving a voice to the voiceless

Rabia left us with four calls to action:

  • Confront our realities – acknowledge the beautiful and the ugly
  • Challenge, and if necessary, change our perspective – instead of thinking it’s too hard, an individual can’t do anything, and nothing will change
  • Protect and preserve hope – at all cost
  • Do the uncomfortable – when others remain seated / silent, call people to account

My favourite quote came from Amna (quoting bell hooks – aka Gloria Jean Watkins):

“How do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”

With compassion.

As well as meeting some fabulous women at my table from Perth Brain Centre and the event charity partner, Zonta House Refuge Association, the morning was definitely well spent – and worth doing.

Let’s keep telling our stories, lifting each other up, and continuing inclusive conversations – yes, with everyone.

Thanks again for a fab event, Business Chicks, and thank you to the wonderful speakers.

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