#ChooseToChallenge: How we advocate for WOMEN

By Ange

Happy International Women’s Day!

With every year that passes, I realise the special significance of having a specific day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. And while it would be amazing to see gender equality get the same amount of attention and devotion 365 days of the year, change starts with awareness, followed by action!

One year on from becoming a mum and continuing to grow a thriving women’s focused business I thought it timely to reflect on how I hope to accelerate gender parity, celebrate women’s achievement and rally behind other women as their unwavering cheerleader.

The theme of this IWD is ‘Choose to Challenge’. This is such a powerful statement that reminds us that we are all responsible and accountable for our thoughts, beliefs and actions and that we all have power to call our gender biases, stereotypes and inequality. And lastly that we have the power to choose to take action make changes.

As 23W moves into its third year, we are continuing to shape and evolve into a more robust and supportive community for women of all ages, fitness levels and walks of life. So this year, I thought I would reflect on how myself and the 23W team are choosing to challenge.

We will help forge a gender equal world

Despite a crazy and uncertain 2020, we had a big business decision to make at the end of the year. Every business owner comes to a point where there are simply not enough hours in the day, they realise their finite capacity to keep up the hustle, and to take their business to the next level, they need to invest in their team!

We are proud to now employ two coaches on a full time salary. I believe in my team and I want to create not just a place for them to work but a career. Studies indicate that Victoria has the highest rate of unemployment for women and women are more likely to have casual or insecure work than males. 

And personally, I love that my partner and I are choosing to break down gender roles by sharing the primary care of our son. Choosing to work while being a mum is a completely personal decision and there is not a right or wrong way to raise your children. However, for many women, they are not given enough support or encouragement to remain career focused while having the flexibility in their work to be able to enjoy quality time of being a mum too. 

Jeremy and I are choosing to refuse that one person’s career is more important than the others or that one of us is better to look after the needs of our son. 

We will challenge gender stereotypes and bias

Ask any 23W members how they feel after hitting the gym and you will hear words like empowered, strong and more body confident. It is sad that many women simply do not feel confident enough to train in a mixed gender commercial gym. This is one reason why women love training at 23W, no judgement, no criticism or unwarranted and unsolicited advice around ‘how to train’ or perceptions of ‘femininity’.

It is time to throw away out-dated, miseducated and misinformed ideologies of what it means to be female or feminine. 

It is sad that so many women never really love their bodies because of unattainable, unsustainable and sometimes unhealthy physiques that have been popularised in the past. At the age of 35, I love my strong, muscular and powerful body but it has taken me some time to realise that societal pressures that I believed my teens and 20’s put me in conflict with my body and my unique self. I have become educated, confident and able to call out (and disregard) people who make comments that I look too muscular or that my muscles are not attractive. 

We will forge positive visibility of women

We live by our motto, ‘Wellness, wisdom and wonder’. This is all about strong women empowering strong women and the collective shared wisdom that exists within our community. 

We also love connecting and collaborating with other amazing, influential women who are like minded and passionate about supporting women to be their best. If you are looking to support some incredible business women who are forging the way to gender equality, get in touch with:

Jane Ghiotti: The founder, director and skin extrondinare at SKN By Jane Marshall. Located in Carlton, SKN is all about creating an individualised treatment plan for your skin to ensure optimal results. @sknbyjanemarshall

Jacqueline Mifsud: Comedian, actor, writer and TV and radio host, Jak is a multi-talented, triple threat. For a great giggle, be sure to book a show to watch her perform. @roses4betty

Maryellen George: Another amazing comedian (and incredible 23W coach)! Maryellen’s upcoming show actually combines fitness and comedy in a unique spin class environment. @maryellenroseg

Steph Lo Bello: Owner, director and beauty boss at Skin Fitness Reservoir. Located in Reservoir, Steph and her expert team of beauty professionals are dedicated to specialise in a range of treatments and services. @reservoirskinfitnesscentre

Julijana Petrovski: Owner, director and hair extraordinaire at Saint Hair. Located in Preston and 4 years old, be sure to check out Saint hair for all your cut, colour and styling needs. @sainthair3072

Kerrie Stanley: Kerrie Stanley: Milner, make-up artist and commentator, Kerry is an absolute power house of talent.  @kerriestanley

Taryn Hunter: Podcaster and voice behind Story Tellers. Storytellers is a celebration of people who have stepped outside of the box and forged a new path. @stroytellersid

Non 23W members we are loving…

Connie Neeskens: Owner, director and experienced physiotherapist (and as clinical pilates instructor). Northside Physio located in Thornbury is your go to physiotherapy and clinical pilates practice to help keep you moving well. @northsidephysio

Sally Flower: Sally Flower is Australia’s first KonMari Method trained organiser, an avid yogi and corporate advisor. You can work with Sally via her KonMari consultations, corporate wellness programs, as a keynote speaker or workshops.  @homesanct

Annabella Dickson:  Founder, director and dance babe behind Mixtape Studio. Located in Thornbury, Mixtape is an inclusive space where people can feel free to express themselves, dance, laugh, let go of their worries and to not take life so seriously. @mixtape_studio_melbourne

We will try to influence others’ beliefs and actions

Lifting weights is for everybody! Humans were designed to lift and move. Exercise and weight training is something that helps us return our bodies to the conditions for which they were designed. This is not something that is gender exclusive. In fact women especially need to be hitting the heavy weights in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond to slow down (even stall) the 3% drop in muscle mass than happened every decade after the age of 30.

Unfortunately many women are simply not educated properly around the importance of strength training for their health now and in the future. 80% of people with osteoporosis are female. By the time you turn 30-35, your skeletal system slows down its remodelling upgrades. After menopause the rate of decline in bone density accelerates due to the loss in protective effects of estrogen. 

Many women are still carrying around misconceptions that weights will make them look ‘bulky’. Firstly, if a woman wants to grow some sweet muscles this should be something that is embraced by society! But in reality, it is actually really hard to build the kind of muscle size you see on elite bodybuilders and cross fitters on Instagram. These ladies have been adhering to a structured training program and nutrition regime for a significant period of time that has supported muscle growth. For the vast majority of us, strength training will make us stronger, leaner, move better, less injury prone, more energised, improve our sleep, improve our metabolisms, decrease our risk of osteoporosis and the list goes on… 

We will celebrate women’s achievements

Strength comes in all shapes and sizes. We love that we work with women of all ages, abilities and backgrounds and help them feel totally BAD ASS from lifting weights. 

We also love encouraging our members to practise gratitude and recognise the big (and small) achievements in their world. The 23W community is never short of high fives or a round of applause for women doing amazing things!

If you are looking for a new training community, be sure to join our 1 week trial pass for just $47. 

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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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