Rabia Siddique

Thinking bigger and getting into the arena

THINKING BIGGER AND GETTING INTO THE ARENA

Last month I spoke about the quality of authentic, values based leadership that was so obviously displayed by the Prime Minister of New Zealand in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks.

Over a week ago ago Australia voted in the Federal election for its new Government and Prime Minister. The surprising results said a lot about our country and why people voted the way they did.

I usually avoid commenting on politics and political parties. But, rather I tend to focus my views on specific policies and leadership decisions, and how they impact people, communities and a nation.  However this election has given me much to reflect on, especially in light of what we have seen with the people and their elected leader in our neighboring country

The election campaign saw both sides, one in particular, wage a very negative war.  Rather than focusing on its policies and agenda for the country it focused it’s messages around discrediting and belittling the opposition and using the narrative of fear to persuade people to favour one party over another.  The other side were not much better.  Rather than clearly articulating their policies, agenda and values, they pushed the narrative of fear and division, waging a class war and trying to pit the alleged poor and working class against the middle class and perceived wealthy.

The whole pre-election spectacle for many of us was uninspiring, disappointing and a reminder of the lack of storing, honourable and courageous leadership we currently have in Australia.  The election results make it clear that our country has joined those that have increasingly embraced the rise of conservatism and nationalism in some parts of the country. The results showed the continued tendency by our political leaders to focus on short term wins over longer term sustainability. Neither major party offered a clear strategy to assure sustainability.

When I voted my focus was not on the impact of my back pocket, or home accounts, but more on things that are bigger than myself.

My thoughts were about the future and quality of life of our working poor, our unemployed, of our under-represented and often voiceless Indigenous brothers and sisters, of our asylum seekers and refugees, of our marginalised communities, of our farmers, and of my children and their children and the planet they would be inheriting.  This is what informed my vote, and I assumed it would have informed the vote of most of Australians.

But it seems I may have been wrong.  The unwillingness to think bigger and the language of negativity, fear and division that leaders across the Western world have been feeding led to one of the most shocking election results in Australia’s history.

So what now?  Do we put action on climate change on hold for another 3-5 years?  Do we continue to indefinitely intern asylum seekers?  Do we sit back and watch while the poor become the homeless and mental illness grows from surge to plague proportions?

Or do we dust ourselves off and remember that democracy should occur every day and not just on election day? We must demand of our leaders that they demonstrate integrity, vision and true custodianship of our land, our people and our future.

We must show our leaders that we are better than what we have been.  We must use our privilege, our voice, our education and our influence to impact positive change in our lives and, more importantly, in the lives of those around us that need it the most.

That is our legacy, that is our responsibility and it’s down to us all.

That is why for three days at the end of May I attended  s p a c e!  Not literally our outer galaxy, but a gathering like no other – an un-conference if you will, where everyone is a contributor.  s p a c e is the coming together of many other thought leaders, disruptors, innovators and change agents.  Like and un-like minded people will explore what we as a people can do to collaborate, inspire and deliver change where it is most needed. These are the people that, as Brene Brown said in her talk “Call to Courage” are the ones in the arena getting their heads kicked in on a daily basis, but choosing to continue to show up, get dirty and take action.

Are you in the arena?  Are you being distracted by the side shows that we have seen in the run up to our election? Are you thinking bigger?  Are you using your voice and influence for the greater good?

As I often say about the commitments we must make as leaders, we must be prepared to constantly face our realities, challenge our perceptions, protect hope and do the uncomfortable and courageous.

One of Us

ONE OF US

April is a significant month in many ways.  While Christians around the world celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, the son of God, on Easter Sunday and honored his sacrifices, the month is also marked by other significant reminders of human sacrifice.  Notably, Anzac Day on April 25 is a day when Australians and New Zealanders commemorate all their brothers and sisters who have served and died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

When reflecting on these celebrations it struck me that while we remember death and sacrifice, both Anzac Day and Easter also focused on the celebration of life, courage and the legacy left by human life.

Tragically this year’s Easter celebrations were deeply marred by the barbaric terrorism attacks in Sri Lanka which killed almost 300 innocent men, women and precious children.  Just like the Christchurch attacks a few weeks earlier, these souls were massacred whilst peacefully praying and practicing their religion at a holy time in their places of worship. These were places of sanctity where they should have been safe.

Like most of you I have been shocked, enraged, grieved and despaired by these and other acts of terrorism that target groups of people and communities around the world. 

As I reflect on these senseless attacks I keep coming back to one question we must all ask ourselves:

HOW DO WE FIND WAYS FORWARD TO PREVENT EXTREMIST IDEOLOGIES FROM PITTING US AGAINST EACH OTHER?

My view is that the answer to this question lies with every one of us.  It is in the language we use, how we treat others, the perceptions we have of ourselves and our community, what we teach our children, the values we hold dear and the priorities we give to kindness, inclusivity, peace and acceptance.  It is calling out and challenging racist, prejudice, bigoted views in the workplace, in our homes and in public places that serve to perpetuate the ‘othering’ that has been the subject of so much divisiveness and fear mongering in the narrative of many of our leaders and politicians.  It is the willingness to sit down and have meaningful conversations with people that don’t look like or live like us in an effort to understand them better and see similarities between us all, as well as celebrate the differences that make up the rich tapestry of our modern societies.  It is the commitment we make to find common ground with all our brothers and sisters, and using that as the cement with which to unite us.

It is, as Prime Minister Adern said in one of her speeches following the Christchurch attacks, seeing all the victims of hate and terror as one of us.  It is deciding to focus on them and celebrating their life and telling their stories.  It is doing everything we can to comfort and bring in closer their communities and it is refusing to give attention and a name to those that spread fear, terror and bloodshed.

Those that normalise, give permission to and perpetuate extremist, radical, hateful ideologies do so not in our name.  We must make that clear in the way we live, lead and teach those around us.  Those that are the victim of that hatred must be protected, engaged with and understood better.

That is how we can all play a role in making our communities and our world a safer and more tolerant place to live.  It starts with our daily acts and thoughts and it is the undeniable and unstoppable ripple effect of ordinary people like us that will be the change we so desperate need in our world. I passionately believe this.  We must all believe this.

To the victims and loved ones of Christchurch and Sri Lanka – we mourn with you and we stand by you.

Are You Brave Enough?

ARE YOU BRAVE ENOUGH?

 

 

Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacityIf by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably mans superiorIf non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women…”
– Mahatma Gandhi

“Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

I have just returned from an amazing week away and feel incredibly fortunate for the life I have and for being a woman with privilege, a voice and a platform.

I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the unveiling of the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue on London.  For those of you who don’t understand the significance of this event or the statue, let me explain.  In 2017 one of the largest international banks and asset management corporations, State Street, were tired of standing by while gender inequality in finance and business continued.  They decided to do something brave.  They decided they would no longer advise clients to invest in listed companies who did not have women appointed to their boards. In addition to this, they wrote to over 1200 listed companies and advised them of their new policy.  Within a year 300 of those companies appointed women onto their boards of management and, as all the evidenced based research proved, those companies saw an increase in profits as well as improved and sustainable performance.

To symbolise their new policy and the stance the corporation were taking in their own battle against gender inequality they commissioned a female artist to design a statue which would be erected on Wall St, New York, an iconic place that represents wealth, finance and power.  This statue was unveiled on International Women’s Day 2017, almost 2 years ago to the day.

Fearless Girl rapidly became not just a symbol of gender diversity in finance and commerce, but, I suspect beyond the expectation and intention of State Street, she became a global symbol and icon. Fearless Girl represented gender diversity in its broadest sense, the women’s human rights movement and the raising of female voices. She also symbolized the taking back of feminine power in the forms of campaigns such as #MeToo and the United Nations #HeforShe movement.

This 3.5 foot statue became one of the most photographed attractions in New York and the conversations she ignited and action she inspired exceeded all expectations and hope.

State Street decided to use their influence and privileged position and act in alignment with their values and their corporation’s mission to advise investment for global good.  Realising there was more they could do to leverage Fearless Girl and the hope and inspiration that was becoming her legacy, State Street commissioned a replica statue to erect outside the London Stock Exchange. She was unveiled in London’s Paternoster Square just days before International Women’s Day 2019.

Being asked to speak at such as internationally significant event and address the Banking Hall in London, which was filled with brave, intelligent, powerful and inspirational people, was a memorable and incredible privilege.

If that wasn’t enough of a privilege I then hot footed back to Wollongong via Sydney to address over 800 wonderful women and men at one of the largest International Women’s Day events in Australia.  The stories that were shared that day of incredible local women who had impacted change on people’s lives and the community and the palpable warmth and heart in the Entertainment Centre where we gathered was humbling.

Receiving a standing ovation at both events was memorable. It was not something I interpreted as a reflection on me or my story, but more so a reflection of how my messages resonated with all that heard me.

At both events I explored the theme of fearlessness and asked my audiences if they were brave enough.  Were they truly fearless in their lives and in their leadership of others? 

For me bravery is the ability to confront the realities in our lives and world – the beautiful and the ugly truths. It is about being prepared to do the uncomfortable work of overcoming and changing those realities and in so doing, educate others, change narratives and inspire hope.

As we celebrated all that has been achieved in diversity and equality around the world,  we must also recognize how much more work needs to be done before we come close to achieving real parity of opportunity for over fifty per cent of the population.

As ever, I feel truly blessed to do what I love, believe in what I do and to help empower others to use their voice, their stories and their influence to impact the change they wish to see in their lives, communities and world around them

Postscript:  Just as I was about to finalise this newsletter I received news of the horrific terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed 50 innocent men, women and children.  Like all of you I was mortified and heartbroken, and particularly so as a member of the Muslim community who has tried so hard to break down barriers and promote tolerance. No community should ever have to suffer demonisation, oppression and violence like we, as a Muslim community,  have had to for so long. 

Since the attacks I have been asked been widely approached for media commentary.

My main message to everyone is; do not give air time, attention to the identities of those that inflict harm and pain, do not feed the evil ideologies that perpetrate fear, division and ignorance.  Please focus on the stories of the precious victims that lost their lives whilst praying – praying for their families, for their community and for peace and an end to suffering for all.

It is shining a light on these stories that we will continue to give the human perspective to that which we should all be seeking and playing our part in eradicating.

As Martin Luther King Jr said:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
Only light can do that.
Hate cannot stand drive out hate;
Only love can do that. 

To the people of New Zealand and in particular the Muslim community of Christchurch, and all the loved ones of the victims – we mourn with you and we stand by you.

Start as we mean to go on!

START AS WE MEAN TO GO ON!

 

 

As we commence the Lunar New Year I ’d like to wish all my friends, colleagues and like minded souls a joyful, peaceful, successful and prosperous New Year. As this will be the year of the pig, which was the year I was born (1971), I am particularly excited to see what the next 12 months will bring and I am full of optimism and ready to kick some major goals.

Rather than making new year ’s resolutions, I prefer to reflect on the year that was, remind myself what I did well an d what I nee d to focus on doing better in the year to come. I look at this from a holistic perspective – as a story teller, change maker, thought leader, mother, daughter and friend. I find this ‘ reflect and re-set ’ exercise incredibly gratifying and empowering. Perhaps it’s something you’d like to try – it’s not too late.

One of the things I identified in my ‘reflect’ that I needed to focus on better was creating boundaries – in my professional and personal life. You see, like many of us, I am a giver and a people pleaser. I love to serve and help others. Nothing gives me more joy. But I have done so, at times, to the expense of myself and my loved ones.

As someone who is known for their humanitarian, philanthropic and community work, I find myself in a very honoured and privileged position where I am often called upon to help, advise, and empower others. However, from time to time I have found that the countless hours and days I have dedicated to my pro bono work, all of which has been for and with well deserving individuals and organisations, has resulted in me paying less attention to my family, maintaining and growing my business and my own health and wellbeing.

So, as one of my mentors once advised me to do, this must be the year that I start using the words ‘no’ and ‘not at this time’ as boundary words. In the long run, this will allow me to keep doing good, serving others, preserving the value of my time and loving in a more sustainable way.

Does this resonate with you?  I think at the very least we could all do with a little reflect and re-set!

Sending my warm wishes to you all.  Be kind to yourselves, to each other and celebrate all that is good in your life and in our world.

A time to reflect

A TIME TO REFLECT

 

 

I was incredibly fortunate to be gifted tickets for my birthday from my parents to see Malala Yusafzai in Melbourne this week.  I have followed the story of this amazing young woman, read her book and watched her documentary.  In person she was every bit as inspiring, courageous, wise and funny as I hoped she would be.  Listening to her speak and converse with the wonderful Annabel Crabb was an evening I will never forget.  A beautiful reminder at such an appropriate time of the year that one person, one idea, one voice, one pen or one book really can change the world.  The ripple effect of Malala’s story and her advocacy for the education of girls around the world is the clearest example I can think of today of an ordinary person who experienced and overcame incredible adversities to do extraordinary things.

At this time of year when many of us reflect on the year that was and what is to come, remember the love and friendship that surrounds us and the loss that we feel so acutely during this season, it is so important to search for and find the beauty in our world, the humanity and the hope.

Like many of you, this year has been a challenging one for me, but also one of deep personal growth, so listening to Malala was a timely and beautiful reminder of all that is good in us, and the good we can do if we choose love, peace and hope.

Sending my warm wishes to you all at this time.  Be kind to yourselves, to each other and celebrate all that is good in your life and in our world.

I very much look forward to continuing conversations, working with you and impacting change together in 2019.

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