This is a recap of my attendance at #YFactor2019 and not paid advertising.
It is a truth, sometimes unacknowledged, that large groups of women are, sometimes, a little scary to other women. The tropes are rife in social media. The backlash is strong when a woman speaks her mind about something unpopular. It is a scary place in the world today to be a woman who speaks her mind.
Not so at the YFactor. Hosted by team who also brings you #YMag, this two day conference bought together entrepreneurial business women from around Australia and allowed them a safe space to share their journeys, their insights and their passion : their ‘Y’.
I have been through the conference circuits many times. I have attended and spoken at industry, professional, educational, and empowerment conferences and been in the audience for many more. I saw Jane Caro speak before she was a household name. I knew Jack Delosa when he was training to be the powerhouse he now is. Yes I am also older than I look!
And I have never attended a conference like this. The stories were powerful, visceral and real. If you are keen to find out more, any copy of YMag will showcase these incredible women and I absolutely recommend you grab the latest copy to hear from the utterly beautiful soul that is Bec McMillan (https://www.facebook.com/luminouscrystalxo/).
Her story had everyone feeling all of the feels. And it was beautiful. I have never seen 60 women all focused on supporting and loving another woman in the way that this room responded. There were breakdowns, breakthrough and breakouts. You will find out about the cage dancing if you join us, because I believe there are plans next year to double down.
Throughout the whole event there was support. There were tissues, pens, and wisdom shared between women from all walks of life and with vastly different experience. What was missing, was judgement. Just think of how powerful that statement is. To be in a room full of women and no judgement. It is a microcosm of the world we wish we lived in. It was an absolute credit to the team who put it together.
And me? I met new friends and made new connections with women I never would have interacted with in my other lives. I put on he performance of my life in delivering my speech and loved ever minute of that freedom – I love presenting, but the chance to perform…. Well you don’t get that at an engineering conference!
I felt accepted, welcomed, even appreciated in a way that I personally have never experienced from a group of women. I met some #gamechangers #thoughtleaders #innovators and #disrupters I met women who cared, who loved, who gave, and who are going to rock this world.
It’s a weird one right? Who would think that working on a film set would have anything to do with construction. The tie in is via my Project Manager qualification and the cross over into this world from a position of observation.
I was safety girl for the film set, a local company that was organising and producing a short film for entry in Cannes Film Festival, and through the power of networking, one of my contacts called upon me to support. It wasn’t a thrilling suggestion, offer my skills for free in return for … what exactly? If that sounds selfish, you might recall I am a highly paid and qualified construction project manager, coach, mentor, and published award winning author. I don’t come cheap and I have worked my ass off all my life to earn that high price. (see journey to cover girl blog)
However, I also enjoy experiencing new ideas and being able to see alternative ways of doing, how other careers work, and I like to learn new things. When I found out there were children involved, I was sold on the idea. To be a safety manager is an important job, one I take seriously. The entire premise is to make sure people are safe and stay safe, and once you add children, and a new learning experience, it was a pretty easy choice. Except they forgot to mention the early starts! The long hours. The disarray that comes from working with a new team should have been something I had thought of based on my own experiences building skilled teams, but nope. Foolish mortal!
I realised early that it really was so similar to project management in the construction industry, that I spent some time thinking about how the various roles matched my experience. It was good fun, and kept me focused on those 14 hour days when I saw both sunrise and sunset. So here goes, a breakdown of the film crew through the eyes of a construction guru… First you have the Producer. They are the client in my world, the ones who put up the money. Our producer was also intimately involved in the film behind the scenes organising, dealing with problems and making sure everyone got fed. I can say not most clients in my work would do that, but it was awesome to have a chance to connect with the person who was responsible for making such a project happen.
Then there is the Director. It is his vision, his script, his concepts the rest of us were tasked to bring to life. So he is similar to the Design Manager on a project. Creating the vision, the layout, the goals, the ideas from scratch and expecting the construction team to bring it to life. Make it so! The Assistant Film Director and the Production Coordinator are the next two people who come to mind. They are the project management team, the project leads in my world. Keeping the Director focused, on time and ensuring the here-and-now outcomes, acting the liaison between the rest of the team and the vision, they are integral to the success of leading the team through the creation process.
The cinematographer is the Construction Manager. Using a camera instead of a white board, but nonetheless responsible for interpreting the Director’s vision, he uses his lens, carefully selecting the correct one, at the right height, angle and aperture, in order to capture the creation. In much the same way that the Construction Manager will ensure the right people and activities occur according to the schedule, he alters the concept from idea to reality.
Then you have the gripping crew. I struggled at first to place them, but they are the highly skilled operators. Working in close conjunction and consultation with the cinematographer, they use their experience, judgement and precision plant and equipment to create the very effect that the cinematographer needs, the Director desires, in order to make the vision accurate and highlight the beauty of the creation unfolding. Machine operators are not often viewed as being specialists by those in senior management, nor seen as creators. Without them nothing can happen, nothing works quite as it should, and very little can get accomplished. In both worlds.
The film cast are the project team. It might seem weird that they are seemingly not important to the overall scheme but they are critical. They are the doers, the people who get the job done while the vision unfolds around them. Following the instructions from a multitude of management, they are the people who act out the collective creation from all that have been mentioned before.
There was an amazing crew of interns who I would call middle management. The support, the help, the organisers and the runners of the film world, just as they are in the construction industry. Our interns were from a local highschool and they have such bright futures ahead of them from the dedication I saw. Their teacher was also an incredibly helpful support to them and the film crew on the day. You could call him one of the project sponsors.
And then there is the art department. Procurement in my world, they obtain the things necessary to assist the vision. The art, the backgrounds, the props, the costumes, they are the procurement specialist, without them, you run the risk of getting the wrong pipe. Or the wrong prop to complete the analogy. They can make old sheds looks like a mystery world, garages looks like a cavern of treasures and planets look like they were plucked from the sky.
I almost forgot about the sound department! Which is understandable, because we mostly take the effect of background – bird calls, machinery hum, wind – for granted… Until it is not there. They are the unseen support crew, something like the surveyors in a project team. They are just there, doing the work, checking the measures, and without them something just doesn’t feel right. It was ironic, or perhaps simply poetic, that the sound crew were some of the quietest members of the set. But so important to the overall finish and polish of the creation. Just like the surveyors of the construction world, without the sound team, you risk the final product not being quite right.
And if anyone is wondering if I struggled with not being in charge, the answer is yes, I did. After managing multi-million (think $500 Million average) projects and being the overseer, it was a real problem for me to keep out of the way. But I did. After all safety works best when noone realises they are doing their job, but everyone gets to go home. And that’s a wrap.
“it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off’ Florence and the Machine – Lyrics from “Shake It Off”
We have a name for it now. That feeling of inadequacy and the doom that shrouds us when we consider ourselves, particularly in comparison to others, when we allow the not-good-enough to rule our minds and emotions.
I have been active participant in a dance with imposter syndrome ever since I can remember. My father made a point of sharing his displeasure that I had been born a girl. He often expressed that with more than his voice; fists were involved. Fortunately for me I was of the type that used the physical pain to overcome and fight against. The fight was only in my mind for many years until I developed the words to “shake him off”.
My mother was not a role-model for me, many years of domestic violence had whittled away at her for so long she didn’t know who she was. Even if there was a space for her in the world he created; her husband, my father, was far too controlling to allow any form of self-expression.
In my professional life, I chose the difficult path of engineering and construction. I didn’t really choose it, not back then. Back then it was a suitable use of my skills and the fastest way to a high paying long-term career – in my mind – escape! What I didn’t realise, that at no point was this industry going to make my dance with imposter syndrome smooth, more coordinated, elegant. It made it worse. And I still didn’t know what it was, just that I didn’t fit… anywhere.
I was in an industry that (back then) was much more resistant to females in the ‘power roles’ – admin and HR were perfectly fine – but engineer, leader? I was one of 10 women in my university course of over 600. I had some wonderful men who didn’t see my gender as an issue, they went out of there way to acknowledge that as I was bright, determined, and logically smart, I could make it. They supported and trained and mentored me before mentoring was even on the radar as a powerful tool. Since then I have become my own mentor, failing to find anyone who could fulfil that role for me during the early professional years of my life.
Fast forward through sever and on-going chronic illness, the final death of my father and my mother coming to live with me, and the many numerous projects and construction experiences I have had and it is only now, coming out of my thirties, that I feel I am now the lead in this convoluted dance. I chose when and how to turn, I choose the steps and the path. The imposter syndrome is now subdued, my pet almost, something that lifts it head for attention but does not insist any more than I dance to the tune of its making. I check in with it every now and then, because I also do not want to become its opposite – an ego monster, one so enamoured of itself that it becomes as consuming as the imposter syndrome once was. But it is now a tool, a function, one I have embraced and integrated into my life, rather than forced out. I stopped giving it permission.
The voice that tells me I have come so far from that scared, frightened, shy and subdued young lady is now a roar that echoes through the lives I have affected, showing the world and its propensity for shutting down the shine, that I am here and I am an incredible survivor, a high achiever, and I am not stopping any time soon.
I hope that your journey with imposter syndrome can be turned on its head and that you too can see the light that shines within you. I made it, I know you can too.
“pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel, like you’re less than f###ing perfect” P!nk – Lyrics from Perfect
Becky Paroz doesn’t fit in. She has worked for nearly 30 years in the construction industry, taking names and making one for herself. She loves her workboots, colours her hair purple and speaks loudly with a strong and confident voice. Bek makes her place in the world, she has never waited for a space to open for her Moving beyond mentoring within industry for the last 10 years, Becky is now seeking her tribe to connect within and would love to hear from any fellow mavericks and nonconformists out there at any of her social media spots which you can find on her website www.wordsofbek.com.au
If you would like to talk to Bek about her mentoring please fill in the form below:
I was to have travelled to India to speak at the Women’s Economic Forum (WEF) 2019. It is a conference where women (and men) come together to exchange ideas in the hope that sharing experience, knowledge and networks can support economic and personal growth for women around the world. It is a global network and approximately 200 women were expected to attend. I was to be one of them.
Combined with that, I was one of the group chosen to speak with a charity run by the Australian delegate supporting this forum, the wonderful @Shar_Moore These wonderful young women had come from all kinds of backgrounds and were facing the possibility of studying to become doctors and engineers and I was looking forward to sharing my story with them and the myriad of possibilities that lay before them.
I was due to travel on the 9th April with the rest of the amazing delegation from Australia. I was in the hairdressers on the 2nd April getting prepped and pimped by the amazing Dana from @beautifyhairdesign
I had received my intravenous medication for my Rheumatoid Arthritis not a week earlier and it was full systems ready, set, GO for the big trip. Plus I was also booked to see the Taj Mahal – stopover for one night after the conference and before the meeting at Project RANi . Except something wasn’t right. Except, I was determined to overcome it, nothing was going to stop me. Turns out surgery did stop me. I was in hospital that night by 8pm representing with a blood pressure reading that was scaring people more than my pain levels, and the pain levels were through the roof. Turns out my gall bladder was filled with balls (technically called gall stones)– so full in fact one had popped out and was lodged in a pipe somewhere. Once that was determined, I was then prepped for emergency surgery. The nurses were very pleased that I had my hair and nails done for the visit and paid me a great deal of compliments. I love nurses. They do a great job in pretty extreme circumstances, and a bit of humour makes a bleak place just that bit lighter. So I always try and make jokes with the nurses so we can both laugh at our shared circumstances. There is no need to abuse the people who are making you as comfortable as you can be in, what are also pretty rotten circumstances for at least one of you #writethatdown I digress, because I am still devastated that I couldn’t go. One of the doctors was pretty nasty about it. I finally received the emergency surgery on Thursday 4 th April. I was maybe starting to accept that it might not perhaps be smart, to maybe consider, that perhaps, it was a possibility, I could not go to India… It certainly wasn’t acceptance at that point. So this particular doctor, on her rounds, with an audience, thought she would demonstrate her incredibly poor, very bad manners, terrible bedside skills, and clearly acknowledging my humanity, that despite making it all that way through what had to a have been a tough journey to obtain her skills
(dubious as I am about them); instead of being respectful of another powerful women, she dug another kind of scalpel under my skin and asked (and yes, the voice matched the attitude) “So, you still going to India?” Now I get that I couldn’t go. I get that it would have been risky and dangerous and quite potentially life-threatening if I got worse and not better. But that was MY acceptance to come to. In my own time, which admittedly, was a short window by this stage. Not her story to mock, to sneer, to spit upon. And it was mocking. It was nasty, nastily delivered, while I was drugged to my eye-balls, vulnerably lying with some tubes still sticking out of me, less than 12 hours after my surgery finished and dealing with my grief at not being able to deliver some (hopefully) supporting and powerful messages to women who might benefit from hearing what I have to say.
And so she sliced. I have several words I have used to describe her that I will not print here. I may make a formal complaint. I may move on from it without doing so. I haven’t yet decided because I am more focused on myself than I am on the slings and scalpels of others. I am more concerned with getting better and continuing my missions to support other women, to lift up those that I can reach, than I am spending time worried about some nasty piece of work having a dig ‘cause thinks I am some privileged women complaining about her holiday plans – or whatever story she told herself to make it okay for her to be such a terrible person in that moment. I get she might not even be a terrible person generally speaking. But she was in that moment a woman who didn’t just drag a woman down, she kicked her while she was in down and in pain. That’s just plain old ordinary average run-of-the-mill nasty. It happens everywhere, every day, to lots of people. And some of them aren’t as willing, or empowered, or confident, or even aware enough to know that you don’t have to be affected, and you certainly don’t have to take on the nasty acts of others. You can move beyond it.
You see, I know where my privilege comes from – I earnt it. I grew up in poverty, in a domestic violence situation where there was never enough money for food but always enough money for drugs and alcohol. I paid my own way through university by getting a low paid “cadetship” (another word for cheap labour) role in my chosen industry. AU$3.33 an hour to be precise. And was paid in minute- long increments, none of this rounding up thank you! If he said I started at 7:36am and I wrote on my timesheet 7:35am, guess what? I didn’t get paid for that minute. Yep, that really happened and yep, I really put up with it. I was 17 years old. It was my first job out of an environment where I was raised to never question what I was told. I had no skills to negotiate or even begin to understand what my rights were. I just needed to work and earn money to get out of the situation I was in, so worked my ass off, I did. His office was also in his own house that he showered and lived in. There were other blokes working there too. I never knew how weird this was until I told people this story and they looked at me like “WHAT??!” That is just one example and it’s the first in my career of 28 years since then and counting. I’ve earned my money, my job titles, my qualifications, my knowledge, and my position, as well as the ability to share how I managed to overcome my circumstances and actually be a success.
During this time I have been working on accepting this really (badword) news about India, one of the ladies I have mentored has written a beautiful message in a guest blog discussing how I have inspired her life in the time we have known each other, and shared skills that have changed her possibilities. Her opportunities.
Another approach was random, completely unexpected, asking me to be a brand ambassador for beyondBeanie insta tag @beyondbeanie
One of the founders is in design and architecture and supports Arthritis Foundation as a volunteer. The sales of the hand-made beanies and other products available support women, artists and children in Bolivia, most of them from rural areas and/or disadvantaged communities. Talk about aligning with my values! I was privileged to be asked and am organising that as I write this. (Watch this space for official announcements – but you heard it here first and hope that this does make a difference and create opportunities for the community.)
I am the guest speaker for an event in Melbourne in the middle of May (tickets available ) and if you can attend, I would love for you to come and introduce yourself. It is the 15th year the BPW Geelong group has been around for and I will be at their Moving On Up Breakfast, which is designed to encourage people to strive to ‘Move on Up’ in their lives and careers. The topic is one of my favourites – Resilience. Your Greatest Asset. It kind of coincides with the theme of my life! There have been more than a few other wonderful moments during this recovery time, where the women in my circle gave back to me at a really low moment. And so, I grieved for my loss, and then I got on with it. I am back at my desk sorting plans and making progress on other things, like writing this blog. Like supporting other women. Like applying for a book award (because you never know if you don’t try!). Like finding other ways to contribute to women through on-line communities while I am in recovery and supposedly “resting”.
I don’t do resting well, although I have had to learn, rapidly. Surgery is not arthritis, and frankly give me arthritis any day over major surgery again. It is always relative, what we can learn to live with, isn’t it?
So onwards, upwards, outwards and over it – as long as you’re using it, you’re not losing it. And that goes for my attitude as well as my bendy-not-so-bendy joints.
The final installment of our blog series where we have been dissecting the idea of the superwoman. The last category for judging is upon you. By now I hope you realise that you are doing well just making it through each day! You are doing the best you can and that is what make you a contender for the title.
This extract is from Becky’ published book, The Words of Bek , and was also the subject of her presentation on Louisville Kentucky USA in 2014.
Action – Flying Safely
You know that making decisions is only half
the story. The other half is the action
required to see it through. Whether
wearing an apron for a BBQ, a business coat for the meeting, a flour covered
housedress while baking; juggling a wooden spoon, mobile phone, mixing bowl and
engineering plans; while organizing school camp, the next monthly budget
report, creating a birthday cake, while setting up the latest science project
due; herding dogs with your feet, children with your elbows; greeting a husband
welcome home and sending that email; you are doing it.
It may not look elegant; it may not be pretty;
it may seem ridiculous watching from afar to another being; it may hurt and it
may not look like that all the time either; however it does feel like this,
some of the time, for all of us, in whatever our situation is.
So today’s superwomen are the women in this
audience; the women who helped put this conference together; the women who will
work in the hotel and cater to us during our stay; the women who are nurturing
and raising the next generation of leaders for our world; the women who are in
hospital recovering from life-saving surgery and the women who are helping them
to recover; women everywhere around our world are the picture we need to have
of the ultimate Super-Woman, because it is all of us that will make our
community truly global if we can but see the superpowers in others and work
Now go back to your list of superpowers and
maybe think about what else you would like to add and go ahead and write
it. You already have it, but sometimes
it feels good to acknowledge it and be supported in that knowledge. Celebrate with someone today about what your
powers are and how good it feels to tell yourself that you are a superwoman
just as you are. B
If you have found this blog series relevant, please drop the
author a line or let her know on social media.
Your feedback is welcome and reviews of her book are always
appreciated. You may also wish to
purchase a copy of her book for more words of bek to support managing your mindset.
Paroz doesn’t fit in. She has worked for
nearly 30 years in the construction industry, taking names and making one for
herself. She loves her workboots,
colours her hair purple and speaks loudly with a strong and confident
voice. Bek makes her place in the world,
she has never waited for a space to open for her. Moving beyond mentoring within industry for the
last 10 years, Becky is now seeking her tribe to connect within and would love
to hear from any fellow mavericks and nonconformists out there at any of her
social media spots which you can find here (hyperlink)
Being given the title of “Woman to Watch” is kind of daunting. I have had some time to get used to the idea, and I have seen the amazing women be really proud of the achievement they have made, an I wonder why I haven’t really made much of a fuss in mentioning it. Some of it has been the wonderful and self-inflicted joy of my new furkids – Freya and Rigga, our 2 new ridgeback puppies – some of it has been a reluctance to “talk myself up”. While I am not lacking in confidence (those who know me would agree) it is a bit different when talking about an award that kind of says you might be a big deal. 😊 I am not used to thinking that way about myself until I stop and realise what I have been through in my life.
I am a terrible sleeper at the best of times. I was never safe in my home as a child and then I was diagnosed with a chronic, incurable disease when a teenager. You’d think I’d give up, right? I was told to by the “experts”. I wish I had someone I could relate to at the time, who could tell me that, in fact, my life was not over. Give up, change your plans, you won’t make it. These were the messages I received. Do these all sound familiar? You don’t have to experience what I had in my life back then for you to be tortured by the thoughts of “not good enough”, the idea that you are a failure, that you will never amount to anything. If you could stop that 2am litany (and all the other times you tell yourself how bad you are as a person) would you take it? I would have if I had found it.
If you could stop beating yourself up, worrying over things out of your control and experience abundance in your life, to know that you are good enough, what action would you take?
I was that person. For so many years, troubled by the never-good-enough-and-never-going-to-amount-to-anything thoughts. Not really believing it was true, but having no one to tell me that I could be good enough, in fact, I could be amazing! And here I am, being a little bit excited by the thought that I might be, in fact, a woman to watch! You can have this too. It took me years of searching to find myself, my purpose, my happiness. I tried everything and looked to everyone for answers. I eventually found them. Some of those lessons have made there way into my book, there is so much more! I want you to have that. To discover confidence, resilience, to become a leader in your own life, to be the star of your story. One that you can start to re-write today.
If this sounds like you, I’ve been there. If you have looked for someone who gets you, perhaps this story has echoes of you. Perhaps it is you! If you have a similar story to share, then please drop me a message, either here or privately, and lets get your boots on to a new way of being you.
For women who know there is more to life than the 2am litany of failures than come with that Imposter Syndrome. Join in and be the star of your own story on GET YOUR BOOTS ON the Facebook Page.
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The process of creating and releasing a book into the wild is unlike any other experience in the world. The long process of writing the book transitions into more of a sales role once you move into the publishing stages.
Editing can be a delight–the idea of making your book into the best product it can be sounds like an obvious statement. The reality of editing can be more like a tour Dante’s levels of hell than the pleasure it should be working on your own product. It is good reason to use an editing person. The editor can be a impartial reviewer and actively work to make your product better, however your responses to the feedback can vary from powerful apocalyptic rage to sobbing grief and shades of everything in between.
You can become so attached to the beauty of your words, the idea of changing them can trigger some extreme writerly reactions! Once you have coached yourself past this stage comes the scary stage of the public gaze.
While you may absolutely back yourself, your words, your work; judgement comes in many forms and fast and swift in the digital age. The writer must brace themselves for the potential for their work to be judged poorly, harshly, unfairly and possibly critically judged against the societal expectations of the time.
As an author, you must learn to take the good and the bad, filter the useful feedback and rise above the slings and arrows of mortal men and women. The trepidation that one might feel over this possibility can actual mar the joy of the outset of your book release. Mental strength is one of the attributes that a writer does need to develop rather quickly at this point.
If you can manage to control all those crazy emotions once the book is freed, then you may be able to consider celebrating the delivery. This means a book launch, a party for your words! This is the celebration, the time that you take to enjoy and revel in the act of creation. Try to put aside thoughts of that drat editor, the amount of time and effort you have expended, and the possibility of the offencerati crowd jumping all over you and your product. Try to divorce yourself from all the flotsam of the real world and jump into that book world you created and spend some happy time there while immersed in the delight of your cosmos.