Imagine if your working environment was 93% female? And then imagine if of that 93%, 90% were between the ages of 12-17. We are talking about an all girls secondary school where the emotions are high, the grudges are held and the sass is real! How do you get through a day without pulling your hair out! Marysia Rice shares with us how although she loves her job if she didn’t have someone to break it down with, she might not make it back!
I sat down with Marysia on the couches in my lounge room. Our conversation, like all of our conversations, started somewhere else entirely and eventually we got around to the topic in question, empowering female relationships. We began by talking about the friendships we had at school “I was never in one group. I was always a bit of a floater with lots of friends in different groups. Which was great, but it also meant I was often forgotten” When you float from group to group people tend to see you as a bit of an outsider, someone who isn’t a consistent member and therefore doesn’t have to be invited to parties and sleepovers. Having a group to sit with at lunch at an all-girls school is the be all and end all. If you never find your place you’ll forever be on the fringes hoping to be included.
School was not the place that Marysia found those empowering relationships but that doesn’t mean she didn’t find them. “What I’ve learnt about myself is that I’m a one on one kind of person. I like to get a coffee with one person and have those conversations that span ridiculous to serious in moments. I’m more comfortable getting to know people that way and in turn letting them know me that way too. I’ve been able to draw strength from friendships with women who have the time to be present to the conversation.” And for Marysia, that’s from quality one on one time that she makes sure to find time for.
I wanted to know what it was like being a woman working in a female dominate profession. Marysia is a secondary school teacher at an all-girls school, it’s fair to say that it is a campus with a lot of oestrogen! “It’s hard not to get caught up in the drama!” She cries when I ask her what it’s like. “Teenage girls are living through so many hormones, and it manifest often in a very passive aggressive way” as a teacher not even she is immune. “It’s so important to have ‘your people’ when you work at a school.” It’s somewhat of a balancing act between being an approachable figure that students can talk to as well as being a person of authority, she explains, it can get difficult. “knowing that I’ve got someone in the staff room who is ready to talk it out with me, or grab a coffee or laugh at it all with me gives me the energy to continue. And there is a big difference between having a male co-worker to do that with and a female. I need amazing babes in my life!” I think she’s right in saying that, sometimes I want the no nonsense frankness of a male co-worker to help me brush it off, but so often I crave a woman to hash it out with, to justify my emotional response and in the end, carry on with the job at hand knowing that they’ve been through the same thing I have. Empowering another woman isn’t always a grand gestures, often it’s just being able to say, I feel you!
What I loved hearing Marysia say when talking about the women that empower her, was that she now has a desire to give more. As she’s grown and been helped by her mentors she wants to be able to offer that same advice to young girls around her. Not in an over the top and forceful way, but to be open for conversation. To be ready to listen and reassure, the same way that she was. Isn’t that what being an empowering woman is all about? Sharing your experiences and encouraging the next wave of women to be able to achieve and succeed in life. We are here to raise each other up, because when one rises, we all do.