Two weeks from International Women’s Day and there’s no shortage of events on offer for women in Australia to attend.
But there’s one in Sydney that’s really caught my attention. So much so, that I asked the organiser if Women’s Agenda could align itself with the event as a media partner.
The organiser isn’t a major events company, or a massive corporate.
Shivani Gopal is founder of The Remarkable Woman, a platform offering online courses, training and other resources for women, as well as discounts for members with stores like David Jones, Woolworths, Caltex, Myer, Priceline and others.
She’s aiming to get 400 women to her breakfast event on the 8th March, with an impressive line-up of speakers including Leigh Sales, Clementine Ford, Sally Obermeder and Dr Stephanie Burns.
When I sat down with Shivani last week to discuss the event, she shared why she started a business supporting other women, and her particular focus on female financial independence.
Much of it stems from the independence she established for herself in her twenties.
“I had an adult arranged marriage. My marriage was decided when I was 18, and I married when I was 20,” she says.
“In fighting for my own freedom and independence and wanting to live my own life, I thought I’d lose my family, community and friends. The one thing that got me through and gave me my freedom was that I was already financial secure. Financial planner was my trade. I had made some investments, and I had a decent wage.”
She recalled telling a girlfriend how unhappy she was in the marriage, and outlining everything she stood to lose by leaving. When the girlfriend also tried to remind her that she’d have no money, Shivani was taken aback: “I told her, ‘I’m actually fine financially.’ It made me realise that is so rare for other women. So many women stay in unhappy marriages, unhappy careers or difficult situations, and don’t get to have the life they want because they don’t have the financial independence.
“I want to give every women out there that ability to build her career on her own terms, and get paid what she deserves.”
Feeling confident she had the financial independence, she then worked about getting out of the unhappy marriage. “At first it was making the decision, to get clear on what it is that I wanted. The next thing that was really hard, was to get clear on what I was truly good at. How I could capitalise on my strengths and skills to build a career.”
She also realised she needed mentors, but found the process of forming such relationships difficult. People are busy. And no matter how good your pitch to a potential mentor is, you can’t expect people to always say yes. Shivani says she asked around 20 people for help, three agreed.
Having spent most of her career in the male-dominated sector of financial planning, Shivani concedes that being taken seriously wasn’t always a given. She recalls a specific job interview where she was told at one point, ‘you’ll be the only woman, other than the secretaries.’
Still she made her way up the ladder, and her deep passion for financial planning has now extended into her new career as a business owner — and also underpins everything she’s trying to achieve with the business.
“I’ll always be a financial planner at heart. It’s an important skill and one that I want to pass down to as many people as I can. It’s about how to be in the driver’s seat of your own financial plan.”
Women’s Agenda is a media partner on The Remarkable Woman’s Press For Progress International Women’s Day event. You can book tickets to the Sydney breakfast here.