Count Her In: Invest in Women - Accelerate Progress


February 29, 2024

Member News

This year's International Women's Day theme is "Count Her In: Invest in Women - Accelerate Progress." We interviewed several female members across Sydney and Melbourne to hear their perspectives on women in business and their unique experiences in launching their own ventures.

This year's International Women's Day theme is "Count Her In: Invest in Women - Accelerate Progress." We interviewed several female members across Sydney and Melbourne to hear their perspectives on women in business and their unique experiences in launching their own ventures.

At The Commons, we are fortunate to have established networking opportunities with some of the most accomplished businesswomen across our 13 locations in Sydney and Melbourne. This network of women provides a valuable platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange, and potential partnerships, offering numerous benefits such as mentorship, business expansion, and a broader industry perspective.

We sat down with six members to learn more about what it means to them to be a female in a heavily male-dominated industry and what adversities they have each overcome.

Kaylene Langford

StartUp Creative - Chippendale Member

Kaylene is a Business Coach, Podcast Host, Creator, Speaker and Author of the title How to Start a Side Hustle.

As a female, what adversities have you overcome when starting your own business?

Since launching StartUp Creative 10 years ago I’ve had to overcome many external and internal biases of what it meant to be a woman in business. I was 24 at the time and attending startup/business events was often the only or one of the few women in the room. I found it hard to fit into the male dominated environments at the time. Networking in those spaces made me feel out of place but I endured them because I thought that was what needed to be done in order to build a name and a brand for myself. After a few unfortunate interactions and people telling me that my business wouldn’t work or that I wasn’t the right person for the job, I quit attending.

I realised the spaces were draining and not reflective of the kind of inclusive and approachable business that I wanted to create. It led me to starting my own networking events, a magazine and online community of like-minded diverse creative entrepreneurs who were also looking for an alternative environment to foster their ideas and businesses. It also helped me to double down on my personal and professional mission to be the ‘go-to source for straight-up business advice’, no lingo, powerplays and cutthroat deal making. Instead we built a community that is welcoming, inclusive and accessible to anyone who has an idea and wants to make it a reality, we got you and you’re welcome here.

Kaylene hosted and held a panel powered by Squarespace. She invited three inspiring creatives and Squarespace customers who have built thriving online communities and brands through the power of online marketing, stunning websites and their own unique point of view. Our special guests shared the secrets behind their stellar brands and the strategies they've used to Make Their Mark.

Sophie McGrath

Sophie McGrath PR & The Department of Bed Intentions - Gipps Street Member

Sophie Mcgrath has run her PR  Agency since 2015, this year, she ventured into the sexual wellness space creating the first microbiome-certified lube - The Department of Bed Intentions. The idea for this was to create a lubrication that worked for both her body and her partner’s. After much research, she realised the only answer was to make her own.

How have you felt empowered throughout the journey of creating Bed Intentions, do you feel as a woman, you have had equal employment opportunities?

Accelerating gender equality through economic empowerment is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic investment in a more just, prosperous, and sustainable future.  By dismantling barriers, promoting equal opportunities, and fostering an environment where women can thrive economically, we create a world where everyone, regardless of gender, can contribute to their fullest potential. It’s time to recognise the pivotal role of economic empowerment as a catalyst for change on the journey towards gender equality. Encouraging and supporting women in entrepreneurship fosters innovation and economic growth. When women have the resources and opportunities to start and grow their businesses, it not only benefits them individually but also enriches the diversity and dynamism of the business landscape.

Lauren McDonough

Mental Health Advocate and Disabled Curve Model - Wellington Street Member

Lauren works every day to help break down the stigma and judgment many people have when it comes to mental health conditions. Through her advocation, telling her story and her work in the model industry she is helping to unblur these lines.

What barriers have you faced as a woman in the modelling industry with disabilities?

As a woman with disabilities, I’ve faced many barriers - one of them would be for that personally, I often feel as if I am not enough or “pretty” because of the fact my body is different. This might be internalised ableism, but it can be hard because of the lack of representation and how traditionally, the modelling industry focus on unrealistic beauty standards. While it is better than it used to be, we still have a long way to go - and as a disabled, curve model, not only can this world be inaccessible and hard to navigate, it can also be hard feeling worthy enough due to the way the industry traditionally runs and what the main focuses are.

Samantha Lee

Founder and Creative Producer at Tom Boy - QV Member

Samantha created "Tomboy" with the intention of offering a collaborative approach to production. She believes in getting her hands dirty and enjoying the creative process from start to finish.

As a female, what barriers did you face when deciding to open Tomboy?

I am often asked why the company is called Tomboy, and I’ll reason that most female producers you meet will have been called a tomboy growing up. We get our hands dirty, we’re not scared of hard work and we’ll climb over a fence or up a tree just to have some fun.  Although this has a playful meaning behind it, the truth is that the advertising industry has always been a bit of a boys club, and I wanted in. The barriers we face are very systemic. The biggest one being stereotypes of negative personality traits associated with our profession. Exceptional producers who are decisive and fast-paced can often be mischaracterised as bossy and demanding. This diminishes what we do, and our contribution to the industry. Luckily I’m not easily offended by labels, they just push me to defy them.

Gretta Rose Van Riel

Founder and Entrepreneur - South Yarra Member

Gretta founded her first startup at the age of 22 with $24 in the bank. Later going on to co-create The 5TH Watches, which achieved over $100k in revenue on it’s first day of sales, more recently, Gretta has shifted her focus from eComm to tech. Leveraging her extensive knowledge of the influencer marketing landscape as both a brand and an influencer Gretta launched her Influencer Marketing platform − Hey Influencers.

What does it mean for you to be named as a women on the Forbes List of 30 Under 30’s?

You can’t be what you can’t see — I believe that the more we celebrate and spotlight young women who own their success and are building the life of their dreams, the more we can normalise entrepreneurial success for young women.

When I found out I’d made the list it was one of those pinch me, milestone moments. Similar to when we won the Shopify Build A Business. I was 29 at the time so it was really my last opportunity to enter but not something I’d really even let myself consider. As women in particular I do think we sometimes have the propensity to shy away from that kind of recognition. It was such an incredible acknowledgment of the hard work myself and my team put in daily. Plus from a business perspective, great social proof — which is always a bonus. It’s great to be able to take that 100 foot view and celebrate your wins. We should all be doing that more!

In January 2024, Gretta spoke on a panel for the Female Founder World Tour which travelled from New York to Melbourne - this was held at The Commons QV.

Zara Seidler

Co-founder of The Daily Aus - Cremorne Member

Zara, alongside her co-founder Sam Koslowski, started The Daily Aus on Instagram. Since it's inception, they have published a book, No Silly Questions - making important information more accessible and digestible. Siedler has since been named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

Why do you believe there is a notable lack of women in Australian politics? What obstacles do you think women face when entering the political arena?

Our power structures have traditionally been dictated by men, for men - but that’s changing. Across the political spectrum, we’re seeing women choosing to enter politics and rebuild those structures - on their own terms. That looks like building a safe, supportive and flexible workplace - both in and out of Parliament.