Sunday Mail Column for Sunday 30 May 2010

If someone asked me to define “feminism” when I was a teenager, I think I would’ve started randomly quoting lines from “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” that 1985 vintage-pop number from Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox. Actually, even for 1985 it seemed a bit pathetic that we were celebrating women “coming out of the kitchen” and “working as doctors, lawyers, politicians too ooh-ooh-ooh.” Um, Aretha didn’t that start happening in the 50s? But who am I to question a woman wearing an orange cape hemmed with the tails of about 1000 raccoons?

Anyway.  Times have certainly changed. Many of today’s teenage girls are more switched on than ever to nurturing the sisterhood. Take the girls at St Rita’s College, Clayfield.

I was a guest-speaker at their Mother/Daughter dinner not so long ago and their principal, Mrs Dale Morrow, was proudly telling me how the year 12 leaders decided to set up their own networking opportunity.

“We had found that every leadership conference we attended was male dominated,” said St Rita’s Captain, Alex Watts. “As such we hadn’t had the opportunity of meeting other female school leaders.”

So the St Rita’s girls decided to do something about it and organised their own “Leadership Soiree” extending invitations to a number of female student leaders from around Brisbane.

“It was an opportunity to get together on informal terms where each girl shared their advice and experiences as leaders, as well as their aspirations for the remainder of their year 12 journey,” said Vice Captains Stephanie McKellear and Lauren Slinger.

I couldn’t help but be impressed with the St Rita’s girls.  I mean it’s such a simple and obvious idea – some of Brisbane’s best and brightest girls sharing knowledge and ideas. And yet – like all great ideas – I don’t think anyone had actually thought of it until now.

KDPR Director and Babes In Business Founder, Kristin Devitt was equally impressed.

“It demonstrates maturity on the part of all of the girls who took part, who are able to look beyond traditional school rivalries to share knowledge, connections and ideas,” says Devitt to me over email.

And that – according to Devitt – is the benefit of networking: sharing knowledge and ideas and making new connections and friendships.

For whatever reason women are still waaaay behind the blokes when it comes to networking. For men, networking is an enjoyable extension of the working day. They do it over a beer or a game of golf. Women on the other hand tend to feel guilty about being out of the office. And at the end of the day many women just want to get back to their kids.

Which is why Devitt and her friends created Babes In Business – an organization established eight years ago to connect women through events, mentoring programs, debates and learning.

When we step out of our silos and share knowledge and ideas – great things can happen. Not just in business but also in terms of community service and giving.  I look forward to hearing what those St Rita’s girls do next.

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About Bec

Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.

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