It’s time for a story. Last month marked Women’s Agenda’s 8th birthday and if you’re reading this you obviously know something about Women’s Agenda but you might not know the whole story. And you should.
It was the brainchild of Marina Go and was launched by Private Media, an independent digital publishing company, with Angela Priestley at the helm as editor and a small team. The idea was to publish smart content, for work-minded women, and send a daily newsletter out at lunchtime. The newsletter would get busy women up to speed quickly on the news as well as provide fodder for thought, inspiration, encouragement and solidarity. Around politics, careers, the juggle and more.
After its first successful year, Angela Priestley went on parental leave to have her first baby. I was on parental leave from BRW magazine at the time, with my second daughter, and was approached by Marina Go to be the acting editor while Angela was on leave. I’ve told the story a million times and I always will because it shows what’s possible.
With a toddler and a baby I didn’t strike myself as being anyone’s ideal employee. Marina thought differently. She worked with a toddler and a baby and knew it was absolutely possible to hold down a busy job while also attempting to hold down a busy home life.
At our very first meeting, over coffee in a Surry Hills cafe’s courtyard, Marina said she thought I’d be a great cover for the job and then she said the bit that made it all possible.
“You have a toddler and a baby, I know that arranging care is a nightmare, so I know it might look different but why don’t you have a think about how you could make the job work with your family and we go from there?”
With that – flexibility and understanding – as the starting point, it was absolutely possible. I didn’t waste a moment worrying that my hours in the office weren’t as long as others because I knew – from the outset – that wasn’t going to be the yardstick I was measured by. I was to be measured by how well I did my job.
Being measured by output rather than input facilitated the development and progression of my career at a time when that is notoriously difficult for many women. Not because they lack the skills, ambition or work ethic but because having a Marina is rare.
Which brings me to the next part of the story. When Ange returned to work, we commenced a job sharing arrangement for a few months before Ange was promoted to publisher and I became the editor.
Having Marina meant both of us had flexibility and trust at the point we needed it most – and it was not at the expense of our career progression. Marina showed us both what was possible for working mums when the paradigm shifts.
When the starting point is, ‘You’ve got this. There’s more than one way to work.’
So much of what we wrote about wanting for women in workplaces wasn’t just an abstract theory. We were fortunate enough to be living it. We wanted a world in which ‘having a Marina’ was the norm rather than the rare exception.
A few years later just after Ange had her second son, she was suddenly given an opportunity to acquire the business from Private Media. She had a six week old infant and a toddler, which few would deem the optimal life-stage to acquire a business, but she knew it was an opportunity that would not wait. She knew that working hard and having small children weren’t mutually exclusive. And she knew that Women’s Agenda was always more than just a publication she worked on.
A month or so later we met for a coffee near my house and with two babies in arms, my third daughter was a few weeks old, Ange brought me up to speed.
She was going into business with Tarla Lambert, a young dynamo we’d both worked with at Private Media. It was immediately obvious to me that the future of Women’s Agenda was exciting and secure.
When they asked if I’d join them as contributing editor when I was ready to return to work I couldn’t accept fast enough. I didn’t even pause to ponder how I’d juggle my work responsibilities with three small children because I knew it was going to be possible. I knew that because of the relationship Ange, Tarla and I had, fostered by Marina, that we would make it work.
So why am I telling you this story? Because fast forward another few years and between Ange, Tarla and myself we have seven children. Ange had her third son in 2019 and Tarla gave birth to her first son in January.
I remain a contributing editor but Ange and Tarla are the powerhouses who keep Women’s Agenda – an independent media publication 100% owned by women for women – alive and growing every day. They’re expanding the Agenda Media business and growing their team, but have also identified an opportunity to change how they work: with Tarla stepping up to become Editor in Chief and Ange stepping back from editorial to head up strategy and work on podcasts and their new digital products.
It’s easy to take for granted the conditions that have enabled Ange and Tarla to make all of this happen while also having small children. We have been immersed in a facilitative work culture for so long it’s easy to forget that isn’t universal.
But every time I tell the story of how Women’s Agenda started, and how it has evolved, I’m struck by the fact the business itself has become a reflection of what we set out to achieve. A reflection of what’s possible.
Marina Go believed women deserved a better story – and she went about creating one through Women’s Agenda. Ange and Tarla are both too humble to tell you about their successes – but I’m not. They’ve taken the baton from Marina and through extraordinary commitment and hard work have continued to tell and create better stories for women. Every day.