Meet the GRL PWR Gang, a collective of girls set for world domination.
We interviewed Artist/Designer Elizabeth Ilsley, Photographer/Director Millicent Hailes and Marketing Consultant Jessica Riches; just three members of GRL PWR Gang, a collective of influential women who have joined forces to promote female empowerment and support other women working in creative industries.
Founded by Kirsti Hadley and Kylie Griffiths, the GRL PWR Gang works together to provide opportunities for like-minded women to come together for girl-chat, media networking, creative support, team projects and sharing of ideas.
Their objective is to encourage and inspire other young women to access the creative industries as a potential career path, and plan to pass on their collective knowledge to the next generation of young girls via digital engagement and live events. They will soon host talks and mentor young girls on body image, beauty, feminism, social media and how to access that dream job!
DTL: Our research revealed that 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative effect on their career. What are your thoughts on this, based on your experiences?
- Jessica: It’s true. But if you’re prepared for that, you can be aware of it. Call it out when you see it, know your rights, educate yourself and join any organisations or unions available to you for extra support.
- Millicent: It’s really sad. There have been shoots in the past where I have been mistaken for the assistant, and my male assistant is assumed to be the photographer, just because he’s an older guy. This has happened before we’ve even set up or spoken to anyone, so it really is based purely on gender, and who is perceived to be the most ‘capable’ or ‘powerful’. It frustrates me, but ignorance isn’t going to keep me from furthering my career.
DTL: Did you ever experience bullying? If so can you tell us what happened and how you dealt with it?
- Elizabeth: Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I experienced bullying throughout primary and secondary school. I had ginger hair and have a prominent mole next to my mouth, so kids used to tease me constantly about my appearance. I was in such turmoil during that time; I tried to cut my mole off with a razor when I was in Year 8, after a group of boys wouldn’t stop calling me ‘moley’! But my god, I am so glad I never had it removed – having a noticeable mole on my face makes me unique, and it has become one of my favourite features now!
- Millicent: One of the many times I was suspended at school, was for not intervening in a situation when I was aware that a girl was being bullied. Maybe the teachers thought that, because I was outspoken and confident, I should have stepped in and helped the girl. My mum always tells that story to my little brother and sister who are just starting secondary school – the tale of when their older sister was a coward. I still feel really awful about it now.
- Jessica: All you have to do is go online to see the disgusting abuse directed at people – particularly women, LGBT+ people and ethnic minorities. I work with a number of bloggers, journalists and celebrities on their personal profiles online, and it makes them want to give up their platform. All you can do is tell them to focus on the people who are positively impacted by their words; they far outweigh the cowardly, unhappy few.
DTL: What advice would you give to someone who may be experiencing bullying right now?
- Millicent: Tell somebody right away – a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t isolate yourself, situations seem worse when you feel alone, there are people out there who are going through the same thing as you. More than you think.
- Jessica: You are not alone. If you can’t get a support network in real life it will definitely exist online – Ditch the Label is a great example of this. You can visit their website and access support at the click of a button if you need to.
DTL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?
- Elizabeth: You are not ugly. You are as funny and important as everyone else at school. There is no one else like you and life will get really, really fun as soon as you turn 18. Also, stop worrying about the colour of your hair and the socks that you wear.
- Millicent: Embrace who you are. Wear weird clothes, watch weird movies. You’re great and don’t give a s*&% if someone says otherwise.
DTL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?
- Jessica: Being taken seriously as a young woman in business is hard. So many people have said to me ‘you’ve done so much for a girl so young’. They’d never say anything like that if I was a man.
DTL: What is it like to be a woman in 2016 and what needs to change?
- Jessica: I have a very specific experience of being a woman in 2016, as a straight, white, cis-gendered woman with a degree and a middle-class background. I deal with sexist comments disguised as compliments, and have probably lost out on some income as a result of this – but I’m one of the lucky ones. There are lots of mainstream movements to make life better for women in 2016, but the majority of movements still need to broaden, listen to, and represent the needs of all women, not just those like me.
- Millicent: Even in 2016 it’s important to remember how far we’ve come together, and how far we still have to go for gender equality and women’s rights.
- Elizabeth: I want to keep this positive so, to be a woman in 2016 is…fun! Not in every aspect, of course, but in the main, it is incredibly fun! We are free to express ourselves, and there are opportunities out there for us – you just gotta find them.
DTL: Is there anything you would like to add?
- Millicent: I’m always available to speak to anybody that needs my help or advice. I might not be as good as Ditch The Label, but I’m still here!
- Elizabeth: Enjoy being a woman – it’s a blessing, but don’t hate on men. Men are a blessing too!
Learn more about GRL PWR Gang here: Girls Girls Girls
Read our full Gender Report here: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/gender-report-2016/
Whether you are being bullied, or you are aware of someone who is, Ditch the Label is here to help: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/get-help/