I love all of my interviews, but there are some that really make me sit back and think ‘wow… the world needs to hear this’.
Fay’s interview is one of them.
As a writer, I’m supposed to write a big, flowing introduction, but Fay’s words don’t need an introduction. They deserve to take centre stage. They are inspiring, empowering, feel good… I could go on, but why when Fay’s words get her point across better than I ever could?
Where did the idea for Lily Mentoring come from?
LILY grew through a number of small decisions that took me in that direction. I always knew I wanted to do something to support women to reach their potential but wasn’t sure how or when that would happen.
Then about 2 years ago, I was drawn to an advertisement for a one day personal development event called ‘Prosper from your Passion’. As cliche as it may sound, I had no idea what it was going to be about but I felt a strong pull to attend. On the morning of the event, I woke up really early with a million new ideas running around my head and I just knew that the day was going to have a monumental effect on my future. It was like I could sense a transformation.
At the end of the course, I committed to a longer term coaching course and that was really the start of my passion for coaching and mentoring.
This new found passion and skill set in coaching, paired with my desire to support women to reach their potential and look past traumatic experiences, meant that I started connecting with women in different circles, which led me to meeting my dear friend, trusted advisor and LILY ambassador Tracy.
I reached out to Tracy on LinkedIn even though I was sure would ignore my message! Tracy was previously the CEO for Domestic Violence Australia and currently has two CEO positions for Child Abuse Prevention Service and Child Domestic Violence Australia. I knew she was high profile, well networked and very, very busy…. I messaged her anyway.
I couldn’t believe it when she messaged me back and told me that she recently put a call out on social media to mentor 2 women and had over 30 responses. She asked me if I had any ideas for how we could support these women and I knew this was my chance.
I developed a unique mentoring model and it all grew from there.
You host events where women share their stories and walks where survivors of abuse can meet others who understand their experiences. Why is it important for you to provide these opportunities for women?
I really believe that people, and particularly women, are often burdened by experiences they did not ask for. These experiences have debilitating consequences and hold us back in all areas of our lives.
My ‘Journey to Survival’ walking group is specifically for women who have experienced sexual violence. Whilst LILY is for women with diverse experiences and backgrounds, I recognised that women thrive in environments that remove shame and encourage acceptance.
In founding both of these programs, my one goal was to create a community of strength, a place where we bring our whole selves and expose our vulnerabilities in order to help fill doubts with possibilities. Both LILY and J2S have similar values and objectives, even though they offer different things.
Have you ever doubted yourself and your path? If so, how did you overcome these doubts?
Yes! I doubt myself all the time! I suffer with imposter syndrome a lot. I am not sure if I will ever fully overcome that as new challenges present new doubts, however, I have definitely developed greater coping mechanisms.
My relationships are the foundations of my self esteem. Having a circle that really believe in you and reflect where you want to go is imperative for self development. When I feel I do not belong or I am doubting myself, being honest with the people who love me is a grounding experience as I know they will tell me if I can do better as well as believe in me so much that they fill me with the energy I need to keep going. There is nothing like a hug from the people who love you to remind you how worthy and capable you are.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?
I feel my life has had two completely different parts. I am from the UK and when I arrived in Australia seven years ago I had no education, a background in retail and was suffering with the long term effects of childhood trauma and post traumatic stress. I was running away from a life I couldn’t bare with a fear that I wasn’t worth any better. I really had no idea what the future held for me but I knew it had to be better than what I had known before.
I arrived in Melbourne and met an admirable woman who thankfully gave me a chance by giving me my first recruitment job in Australia. I finally had a career and a professional support system that built the foundations of a whole new direction.
From here, my career grew in to a leadership position and brought me to Sydney, which felt like the next level of growth for me. Eventually I got offered my current role as a Commercial Manager of a successful recruitment company. This opportunity has certainly felt like a highlight.
On the other hand, I don’t think there is anything more rewarding in my life than founding and growing LILY. LILY is my passion and being in service to a group of amazing women who are all so interesting, inspiring, determined and successful is unbelievably empowering. I remember hosting my first ever LILY event and talking to a room of 60 women about sexual violence. At the end I had many people come to talk to me, email and message me to share their experiences. In that moment, I knew I was accomplishing what I set out to do.
I feel grateful for the chance to develop, be challenged and learn consistently. In every moment of growth, I recognise the distance travelled to get me to each new opportunity. Enjoying the journey and appreciating the hard work is often more rewarding than the major moments.
You talk a lot about empowering women and how their successes and achievements in turn empower you, but what does ‘empowerment’ mean to you?
Empowerment for me means authenticity, connection to self and wanting more for yourself and others. It’s connection to one’s own journey, determination, courage, energy, understanding, learning and purpose. It is recognising that I cannot rise whilst others suffer and fighting for that.
Just thinking about the word empowerment makes me want to start a movement!
A lot of what you do promotes understanding of other’s experiences and creates a sense of unity with women no matter what their background. Why was it important for you to dedicate your life to this?
This is a big question for me as there are so many reasons!
Women globally are suffering. I know men are too and I am so pleased there is a growing platform for conversations around men’s mental health, suicide, sexual safety, gender, domestic violence and more, but I am a woman so that is what I connect more with. Being a woman means I see what really happens to the women around me. I have always felt a strong connection to understanding how other women experience life outside of my own reality.
I am from a single parent family and my mum worked full time with two kids. I watched her struggle, suffer with illness, be lonely and broke, make mistakes, work hard and love harder than anyone I know. She was my first ever female love and still is the most influential person in my life.
My mum taught me that women find a way to fight, no matter what they go through. I have always been in awe of her ability to still lead with love, even when she was broken.
Unfortunately my mum couldn’t protect me from all aspects of growing up a woman and I learnt that the world can be a very dangerous and scary world for a little girl, learning quickly that sexual violence is a risk that many young girls and women are faced with.
Not all women experience sexual violence, but there are millions of women globally who do. For the women who have been fortunate to not have these memories, the likelihood of them experiencing other, unfortunate, gender based issues are extremely high.
There are 131 million girls in the world without education, 200 million girls globally have experienced female genital mutilation, reproduction laws are passed by men who think that the uterus and stomach are connected, domestic violence rates are at an all time high, there is sexual harassment in the workplace, body shaming in the media, a lack of gay and transgender rights, the gender pay gap, racism, genocide, cyber harassment, islamaphobia, victim blaming, the refugee crisis and so much more.
I believe that what connects women in many of these experiences is their shared anger and shame.
Without shame, there is acceptance and through acceptance we find healing. I was blessed with a bond of female energy that came from many different women, through these relationships I learnt that I was not alone, that I did not need to be ashamed, that I could survive and that I needed to let other women know that, no matter their experiences, it is in the connections we make that we find the most empowering healing.
This is why it’s important for me to promote an understanding of other’s experiences and create a sense of unity with women no matter what their background.
Would you call yourself a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?
Yes! I am a feminist… why wouldn’t I be on my team? I find it crazy when women say they aren’t feminists and often wonder if its through fear of not looking like ‘the angry feminist’ to men.
Feminism to me simply means wanting equality for everyone, no matter what gender, race, sexuality, cultural background, religion, disability, age or anything else. Feminism has to be intersectional though and I don’t think we hear enough about that, leaving many women feeling the movement is not for them. I think we have a long way to go for feminism to be both inclusive and also remove many of the historical stigmas attached to the movement but that doesn’t stop me from identifying as a feminist, it just means we have more work to do.
A lot of what you do is incredibly selfless, but how do you ensure that you promote your own self care in and amongst all of the work you do for others?
I can be very selfish sometimes actually! I do what I can to support others but sometimes I have an empty tank or I simply want to do something for myself, so I do it. It really is about balance – you can’t give from an empty cup. Luckily, when I hit my thirties, the things that promote self care became the things I actually enjoy doing so that makes it a lot easier. I never would have imagined at age 21 that 8 hours sleep would be so fulfilling!
If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?
All that you need is within you <3