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IWD 2023: The reality of ‘cracking the code’ within a male-dominated industry

With the theme of ‘cracking the code, this year’s International Women’s Day is all about using innovation and tech to break down barriers for women across a range of industries.

I know from personal experience that women with an innovative idea can face a huge range of challenges in order to have their ideas seen and heard - especially as young women.

At the age of 31, I faced a huge number of challenges trying to pitch my business idea to a room of executives within the disability sector. My idea to design a system that could be led by the participant or their nominee, not the provider, hadn’t been attempted before. The idea was met with scepticism by many and downright disbelief by others. I regularly felt judged and underestimated simply for being a young entrepreneur.

Merely being taken seriously was my first hurdle. I needed to impress - and that was before I even attempted to prove that my business concept was viable.

My business idea was seen as far-fetched and out of the box, especially since innovation and change were not always embraced within the disability sector (especially pre-NDIS). It took time and effort - ten years, in fact, to explain my vision and make people understand that my idea can and does work.

Imposter syndrome is pretty common in the workplace, especially for those who set high standards for themselves. However, for many entrepreneurs, those moments of doubt can escalate when you leave meeting after meeting, wondering whether you’d be taken seriously or just dismissed as another person trying to ‘fake it till you make it’.

We must work extra hard to overcome those voices - whether they’re coming from external sources or from within our own internal self-talk. Despite all these challenges, I persevered and built a successful business that has changed the way the disability sector operates.

I’m well aware that I’m just one story among a sea of others. I’ve often seen people who don’t possess a ‘bulldog’ attitude be interrupted, spoken over and undermined. In order to drive lasting change, we must challenge the assumptions and internal biases that lead ourselves and others to back women and other marginalised groups into a corner.

Innovation and technology have been put front and centre this International Women’s Day. But in order to drive true innovation across a range of sectors, we need to keep having difficult conversations about the reality faced by women and marginalised groups when they attempt exactly that.

My hope is that the discrimination and rejections I faced just a decade ago aren’t quite as harsh for the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. I hope they’re able to recognise discrimination for what it is, call it out and stop it in its tracks.

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