Voices: A Celebration of International Women’s Day

For this International Women’s Day, the team at Curated Content reached out to the most inspirational, powerful and kind-hearted women we know to get their views on what it’s like being a woman in 2018.

What you’ll find in the voices below are women who have gone through intense trials and tribulations and have made it out the other end stronger and more determined than ever. You’ll find women who realised the full extent of their capabilities and pushed themselves to do more than they once thought possible. You’ll find women who run businesses; who fight for the rights of others; who take up social causes; who raise families.

And you’ll find women who are through-and-through standout citizens of the world.

Voices: A Celebration of International Women’s Day


Rabia Siddique

Mother. Lawyer. Feminist. Muslim. British Army Major. Australian. Wife. Author. Hostage Negotiator. Professional Speaker. Survivor. Fighter.

These are just some words that can describe the formidable Rabia Siddique.

A woman, who after successfully negotiating the release of two of her fellow British Army soldiers, took on the British Ministry of Defence for trying to erase her vital role in the mission- and won.

A woman who was abused as a child and has never stopped fighting injustice and standing up for what’s right in the world.

We could go on to fill books- Rabia has her own book- but we’d rather let her answers speak for themselves.

Why we admire Rabia:

Above all, Rabia isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and fight for what she thinks is right. Her strength, tenacity and kindness set Rabia apart from the crowd. She is truly a one-in-a-million woman and someone who’s story can encourage so many other women to smash the glass ceiling and have courage and strength in their convictions.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

Being a woman today is a glorious thing.  We stand on the shoulders of those that have come before us – those women that fought so hard to ensure that we women of today enjoy the rights and opportunities that we now take for granted.

To be biologically capable of giving life if we choose to do so and of being able to embrace both our feminine and our power is such a privilege.

Today, unlike our sisters that came before us,  we have the right to vote, to work, to have flexible work practices (though more work is needed here), to receive equal pay for equal work (still very much a work in progress), to love who we want and to speak out in protection of our rights and freedoms.

However, this is not the case for all women of the world. Millions of girls and women on our planet still do not have access to basic education and health care. Many girls are still forced into child marriages, slavery and are mutilated in pursuit of a warped sense of chastity.  

What women all over the world are either enjoying, embracing or fighting for is CHOICE.  Choice in terms of how we live our lives, what work we do (if any), whether we wish to have a family or not and having control over our own futures. Due to the recent politics of fear and division sweeping our planet, women all over the world are now coming together in unity, realising that our power comes from when we once again lift each other up and help fan each other’s flames so that our fires can burn brightly.

It’s an exciting time to be a woman, but true equality will take vigilance, commitment and perseverance. This is a goal that, for many of us, is worth pursuing and fighting for.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

I would tell my 18-year-old self not to waste time and energy worrying about or fearing what others, even those close to you, might say or think about your life choices. I would tell 18-year-old Rabia to fully embrace her uniqueness, her skills and talents, and to not be afraid of marching to her own drum and pursuing her dreams and passions on her own. I would remind her that there is a big world out there waiting for her to explore, to experience and to impact. I would remind her that she has the capacity to create ripples of change in her life and in the lives of others around her if she remains true to her values and commits to living an aligned life. Finally, I would be honest with her and tell her she will have heartache, she will experience set backs and she will suffer loss. But that all of these things also bring the gifts of greater wisdom, resilience and compassion.


 Jessica Sepel

Jessica Sepel is a Sydney based clinical nutritionist who has built up a massive social following thanks to her refreshing, holistic and down-to-earth balanced approach to food and self love.

Jessica, or ‘JSHealth’ as per her Instagram handle (with 171K followers and growing) has written two best selling books (The Health Life and Living the Healthy Life) and has launched an increasingly popular 8 week program.  

Above all,  Jessica practises what she preaches, having had an unhealthy relationship not just with food, but with herself, in the past- a journey she is incredibly open about.

Why we admire Jessica:

As a society constantly fighting our own demons with food and body image, it’s refreshing to see someone telling you to stop dieting, to throw the scale away and to embrace who you are- warts and all. Jessica tells you to embrace food, to use food as the medicine and to not run from it.

Jessica is also one of the nicest people on social media who really cares about her followers, what they think and constantly shares snaps from her followers embracing, as she calls it, ‘The Healthy Life’.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

To be a woman means being free to do what I love, which fulfills me everyday.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?  

I would say to my 18-year-old self- perfect doesn’t make you happier.


Nayran Tabiei

Nayran Tabiei International Women's Day PhotoNayran Tabiei is dedicated: to her family, to her work, and to cooking. Starting her life in Damascus, Syria, Nayran left her home country at age 22 to help her family members across the globe. Once she returned, Nayran thought she’d spend the rest of her life there. But things were not so simple – in 2006, Nayran was forced out of her home country because of the Syrian Crisis.  

After stints in Lebanon, Qatar, and Dubai, Nayran and her family tried to settle in Indonesia. They were not accepted. Faced with seemingly no other options, the family put their trust in a smuggler to bring them to Australia.

Now settled in the Melbourne community, Nayran dedicates herself to teaching cooking classes at Free to Feed.  

Why we admire Nayran:

Nayran knows what’s important to her and allows her life to be guided by her values. Having been displaced so often, we admire Nayran’s strength and resilience to always make the best out of what she has. And now that she’s found a place to call home, she’s giving back to her community. Her cooking is also unbelievably tasty.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

To be a woman today means being able to bring together people from different walks of life as a family. It means being a constant source of inspiration to those around you, and to have the strength to do what you need to do to provide for the ones you love.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

Be happy and don’t worry about your future. Your hands are the certificate that shows the world your passion. Also, you need to know that you are as valuable as a diamond.


Sue Papadoulis

Sue Papadoulis International Women's Day PhotoSue is an ex-news editor and founder of Profile Media. While Profile Media is, on the surface, a PR agency, they’re a different kind of PR agency; all of Sue’s employees have journalism backgrounds.

Because of that, they understand the power of good writing, and how to use words efficiently to get the best results for their clients.

Why we admire Sue:

Sue strikes us as someone who is innately aware of her contribution to the world, which, to a large extent, spurred her to create Profile Media. She’s also a working mum, and an entrepreneur, which means she has a lot to juggle in her daily life.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

Opportunity and choice – but with that comes the burden of busy-ness and potential for overwhelm.  

I was raised to believe I could be and do anything I set my mind to and for me, that has meant a strong focus on my career.  When I became a mother 11 years ago, that desire to achieve career goals didn’t diminish. It’s wonderful to know you can achieve anything, but I don’t believe women can ‘do it all’.  There is always a juggle and a compromise somewhere.

In general terms, I think it’s in a woman’s DNA to be the self-sacrificing ones in a family situation, so I think as women our biggest challenge is learning how to not set ourselves up for defeat by trying to do it all.  Understanding the importance of time for ourselves to regenerate and re-invigorate is becoming more important. In a world of fast change, the ability to step back, reflect and listen to our inner guide is paramount.

I’ve always had a career and never felt that being a woman prevented me from achieving any goal I set my mind to.  Just like any woman I’ve been subject to preconceived ideas about what was possible in terms of roles at work, but I’ve never let that stop me. I run a successful national PR agency and have been in business for the last 10 years.

Prior to that, I worked in PR and communications roles in government and private enterprise. During that time there was a perception around being a ‘PR girl’ which annoyed me. However, I didn’t allow that to define me. If anything, it encouraged me to strive harder.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

Be kind to yourself.  As women, I feel we are often our own worst critics, and this can mean we don’t step up for fear of failing. My 18-year-old self was full of enthusiasm and excitement for the future with big goals, ambitions and a plan to never have children.

I have reached many of the goals I had back then, including finding a way to bring my passion for writing, entrepreneurship and travel together.

As it turns out, having a family was the catalyst for reaching my loftier business goals as I never would have taken the step to start a business if I didn’t have a baby and a desire to work from home. And funnily enough, I have four children, two of mine and two from a blended family.  

So, my advice would be to be kind, vulnerable and open to unexpected forks in the road of life.


Amma Marfo

Amma Marfo International Women's Day PhotoAmma has over a decade of experience working in higher education, where she guided and inspired students from Tallahassee to Boston.

Since she’s left higher education, Amma has authored three books (and hundreds of blog posts and articles) and has become a prolific public speaker, using her wit and humour to explore ways to cultivate creativity.

Why we admire Amma:

Amma is one of the most genuine people we’ve ever met. Having known her when she worked in higher education, Amma built real bonds with the students she advised and still carries those bonds today, as evidenced by her continued mentoring of Curated Content’s own Jesse Laier.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

Being a woman today has such a loaded meaning right now. We’re seeing the rise of a new brand of feminism, and are also living in the conflict and turbulence that comes with that.

Who do these new versions of feminism include? What do I do with movements that don’t include Black women or other women of colour? How can I, in turn, ensure that trans* women and disabled women and Native women and Latinx Asian women – as well as White women – are all included in the movements I support? What are they responsible for covering/addressing/fixing?

Ultimately, my best version of being a woman right now is using what voice I have to reassure women of their power, strength, and worthiness. I like to think that teaching them how to be creative, writing thoughtful and meaningful books and articles, and spending time to lift them up emotionally and refer them professionally, achieves that goal.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

18-year-old me needed to be told to calm down, haha!

At 18, I think I was worried about a lot- where will college take me? How do I make the most of this experience? Will people like me? What if they don’t?

Many years later (the number doesn’t matter), I’ve learned to take far more of that in stride. The things you’re supposed to be doing will reveal themselves; they won’t pass you, you won’t miss anything. Most importantly, the people who are supposed to surround you in that journey will reveal themselves too.

I marvel all the time at the accomplished, smart, and caring people I’ve managed to fill my social circle with. Increasingly, those circles have been populated with other women- for a ‘guy’s girl’ growing up, that’s been pretty remarkable. We take care of each other, we root for each other to do great things, we make sure the world is better for our being in it- and our being in it together.

18-year-old Amma, you’re going to find those people. Those people will push you to do great things. So, relax!


Elle Ferguson

Elle Ferguson International Women's Day PhotoIt’s likely you’ve seen Elle Ferguson’s face smiling at you.

Perhaps you’ve seen her face framed by a perfect halo of blond curls on the cover of Australian Cosmopolitan magazine, where she was recently crowned ‘Woman of the Year’.

Or maybe you’ve seen her in the latest Ouai campaign. Or in snaps from Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty launch. Or on the arm of ex-AFL player Joel Patfull. Or as half of ‘They All Hate Us’, arguably the most popular Australian fashion blog.

The point is, Elle is everywhere.  

Why we admire Elle:

We first started following Elle because of her fashion- no one else can pull off a uniform of denim shorts or ripped jeans and heels as well as she does. We want her entire wardrobe. But since we’ve been following her, it’s been amazing to watch her grow and reach for the stars.

Regardless of hard times – the passing of her mother for one – Elle has, at least outwardly, kept on moving upwards. It’s inspiring to watch someone chase their dreams.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

It means you can be exactly who you want to be…  nothing is out of reach. We can be anything!!! And that’s amazing.   

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

That none of the shit matters.


Candice Mama

To put Candice in a single box would be like making meringues with egg yolks- it doesn’t work.  

Candice is a public speaker, whose expertise in forgiveness, resilience and acceptance becomes all the more shocking when you find out her backstory. Candice’s father was brutally murdered by Eugene de Kock, former Vlakplass Commander (nicknamed Prime Evil), during one of the darkest periods of South Africa’s history.  

What’s more- Candice has publicly forgiven the man who robbed her of her father when she was just 8-months old.

Why we admire Candice:

It’s clear from one look at Candice’s website and social channels she is bursting with life, positivity and gratitude. Given everything that she has gone through, we think it takes a pretty spectacular person to not carry around immense baggage and resentment for someone like Eugene de Kock.

Couple that with all of Candice’s accomplishments in her field, Candice is one of the strongest people walking the planet.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

To be a woman today means to finally be able to take your place at the table, speak your truth and be whoever you want to be.

It means to choose your own path unencumbered by societal expectations and norms. We are no longer objects to be spoken over and instructed to be seen and not heard. We have broken the glass ceiling and will continue to do so until we no longer just have to hold conversation about equality but experience it as a lived reality.

Women today are standing on the shoulders of those who fought before us, we draw from their strength and have the courage to be powerful in a world that would rather we remain silent.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

I would tell her three things:

  1. Self-confidence is a super power. When you start to realise you are here to make a difference you don’t have time for insecurity. You need to put on your cape and deliver because that is your gift to the world. Brilliance cannot bloom in a mediocre sense of self
  2. You are responsible for the energy you bring into a room. You get to choose how people will feel after encountering you. It is the frequency you give out that you will inevitably get back. The world will test you because that’s how we grow. However, when you refuse to be controlled by the outside world everything around you will start to become magic
  3. Be fearlessly authentic. You are you and that is your power. NEVER try and be a knock off of somebody else. People can feel authenticity from a mile away and when you are fearlessly yourself you can live a life of conviction and no regret. Because when you get to a point when you are privileged enough to look back, you’ll realise that you lived every moment fully and without hesitation

To close it off the last thing I’ll say is love yourself defiantly and know you are worthy of every moment that will cross your path.


Kate Kennedy

Kate Kennedy International Women's Day PhotoKate is a New York-based Human Rights leader, a supply chain strategist in the fight to end global slavery.  Her most recent role is as Managing Director of one of the world’s leading anti-slavery organisations, The Freedom Fund. She is passionate about alleviating social disadvantage and human rights abuses. She has worked extensively within the anti-slavery movement, in supply chain reform and helped strengthen protections for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Kate has deep domain expertise in policy reform, the deployment of impact capital and facilitating cross-sectional collaboration.

Why we admire Kate:

Cath Pope has known her friend Kate Kennedy since she was 16. Driven by a strong sense of social justice, Kate has always wanted to help people, leading her to become a human rights leader and advocate to end global slavery.

She’s also a great mum, and a caring, always-on friend.

Kate’s success has been driven by her being decent, humble and graceful. She sees vulnerability as a strength and her quiet way of doing things yields extraordinary results on a global scale.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

I have been living in New York for the past few years where there is a passionate and renewed post-Trump women’s movement.  It is a reaction, of course, to this President’s abhorrent disregard for women. But it highlights for me that as a woman I am not yet equal. This bothers me most when I think about my 10-year-old daughter.

Whilst we have gained much for women’s equal pay, representation on boards and access to the workforce is still not something I can say we can give her. I cannot promise her the same equality her 12-year-old brother has, which seems absurd.

My hope for my daughter, who marched with me in the women’s marches in New York, is that she will laugh and think it was the ‘olden days’ when I tell her people used to think men and women were not equal.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

  1. Follow your passions. I have enjoyed such a rich and inspiring career doing what I love.
  2. You have time to take risks. It is okay to begin things and not think you can do it.
  3. Be kind and supportive of others and remember to support other women or you will go to a special place in hell.


Leoora Billings-Harris

LeoLenora, CSP, is an expert in diversity and inclusion. With over 25 years of experience as a consultant in the public and private sectors, Leonora is currently an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina- Greensboro. Leonora works with her clients to ensure they embrace and leverage diversity in order to encourage inclusion, employee engagement, customer satisfaction and bottom line results.

Before launching her business in 1986, Lenora held management positions at two Fortune 100 companies, and managed executive development seminars for the Graduate School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Why we admire Leonora:

Take 5 minutes to watch to a video of Lenora speaking- you’ll understand that she is a woman of immense power. She’s outspoken and wise in a gripping way that leaves you both inspired and more knowledgeable about the subject. Lenora doesn’t just take her place at the table- she sits at the head and leads the discussion.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

This is a great time to be a woman for several reasons. In the USA, the #Metoo and #TimesUp movements are having real impact. Men are being held accountable for their behavior, and are learning and re-learning what is not acceptable. All types of organisations and educational institutions are educating their employees and students. No longer are we expecting common sense to be common, but rather women and men are stepping up and speaking out to create more inclusive and respectful environments.

Although there has been a great deal of research around the world that unveils gender pay inequity, many leaders have not understood why it exists. Now, there is neuroscience on bias that explains how often unconscious biases impact decisions about women, even when the man or woman thinks they are making rational decisions. My global clients are learning strategies to uncover bias and developing steps to mitigate gender bias.

Women are being hired and promoted to visibly high level positions in many fields of work. From manufacturing, to media and entertainment, to tech, women are showing the world they are phenomenal.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

If I were 18 in 2018, I would search for women role models in my fields of interest; I would read books about amazing women in all walks of life; I would speak up and speak out about what is important to me, and know that my voice will be heard. I would remember that advocates for women come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ages. Do not assume only women can help blaze your trail.


Kate Doak

Kate Doak International Women's Day Photo

Kate is a woman who wears many hats. Not only is she a media strategist, but she’s also a policy researcher, documentary producer, photographer, motivational speaker and copywriter. Oh, and she’s a social activist having produced documentaries on LGBTI issues, which are extremely important to us at Curated Content.

Why we admire Kate.

Cath Pope: ‘I’ve admired Kate from the moment I met her. Set her considerable media and journalistic accomplishments aside for a moment, I chose Kate as one of the women I am most inspired by because her journey has required the courage and heart of a lion. And at times, that has taken a great toll on her. But each setback has been greeted with dignity and hope. And ultimately, she developed an unshakable faith in herself to continue on her journey of blossoming womanhood. One of my favourite things about Kate is, that she is always inspired by the women around her – yet is so humble when it comes to conversation about the inspiration she is to others. Happy IWD Kate!’

What does it mean to be a woman today?

I think that the concept of what it means to be both a woman and female changes with each generation of humanity that comes along. As women have gradually become better educated and more experienced within their chosen fields, the more self-confident & personally empowered they’ve become. Consequentially, how we view womanhood and femininity now is different to how Drs Germaine Greer and Lyn Conway viewed it in the 1960’s, not to mention how Astronaut Sally Ride and The Afghan Girl viewed it in the 1980’s.

For me, femininity means an opportunity to explore, learn and grow as a person. Meanwhile, womanhood means the maturity and wisdom that comes with it.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

If I could tell my pre-18 self anything, it’d be to trust myself to grow as a person and realise that there will be a lot of people out there willing to support me as an individual going forward. The only limitations on what I can achieve as a person are the ones that I place upon myself, so by embracing the fact that I’m a woman with a transgender background, I can achieve things that most others, male or female, would think impossible. Being yourself isn’t only life saving, it’s life affirming.

The world is full of unhappy people, so why hate upon yourself or others for being happy?

Life as a lesbian is there to be lived, and to be lived with love.


Shannon Owens

Shannon Owens International Women's Day PhotoShannon is a force to be reckoned with in the digital marketing industry. Starting out working for the student activities programming board at Florida State University, Shannon cultivated her traditional (think posters and  sidewalk messages in chalk) and digital marketing skills promoting various events, from large turnout events like a Kendrick Lamar concert, to intimate gatherings for independent student groups. She now lives and works in the City of Angels, where she develops marketing campaigns for the stylish Monday Swimwear.

Why we admire Shannon:

Shannon is a digital marketing master; often when we need advice on a strategy we’ll reach out to Shannon for her opinion. She also has one of the most magnetic personalities we’ve ever encountered, always bringing levity and humour to situations that call for it. Her personality shines through in everything she does – when you meet her, when reading her posts on social media and even the content she produces for her campaigns.

What does it mean to be a woman today?

It means having the opportunity to explore different sides of yourself, whether that’s professionally, socially, or emotionally. It also means raising up other women to those same opportunities.

What would you tell your 18 year old self?

Be protective of your emotional energy. It’s finite and not everyone and everything should have the right to drain it from you.

Voices collected by Cath Pope, Aimee Bricker, Melissa Hull & Jesse H. Laier
Cover image by Julie Nguyen

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