Shine theory: Championing other women’s successes rather than feeling threatened and competing for recognition. Anna Friedman, who coined the concept of shine theory, simply puts it – ‘I don’t shine if you don’t shine.’ Last weekend, I met up with Evangeline, creator of the Winning Women Conference, and Anya, the creative director of the conference this year. We talked women in the workplace, the merits of a fry up versus a chai bowl, and taking issue with the word ‘Millennial’.
How did the winning women conference begin?
Evangeline: The idea came to me in my first year when I attended some recruitment events. A major corporation, which claimed to be an equal opportunities employer, hosted it and yet out of the seven people representing the company, not one of them was a woman. I always saw that disconnect in terms of finding female role models in the working environment. There was a unanimous vote to create the conference when I spoke to the Lumsden girls, and so we began doing our little bit towards fixing the issue.
Has it been easier to organise as the conference has become more established?
E: For sure. In our first year we reached out to everyone we could think of for sponsorship and even hosted a bake sale. Now we’re covering all of our costs with sponsors which makes a massive difference.
A: I’ve got a team of ten girls who are so enthusiastic and happy to be a part of building this platform, joining St Andrews students with leading women.
Having been to these conferences myself the past three years, I know how valuable the conference is to young women here. What has the feedback been like from speakers?
E: Feedback from speakers is so humbling. They always say one of the major things is that it’s so empowering for them to see young women wanting to excel and having such strong aspirations. It’s an incredibly fulfilling thing to be able to help us in the early stages of our careers.
A: It’s great because as inspired as we are by them, they’re just as inspired by us. Which is crazy.
What do you feel the greatest challenge our generation faces in the working world?
E: I’m going into investment banking. This summer I was interning and post five o’clock I was the only girl there. It was just me because the PAs (all women) had left. There was never anyone in the bathroom though! I’d go in and think ‘this is my kingdom’. (laughing)
I’d say for me, where I’m working after I’ve graduated does have a women’s network and it’s something that I want to join and build upon because it is quite new. I think the world is definitely moving forward in terms of promoting equality and making sure women are treated equally to men – equal pay, all that stuff. We’re just definitely not there yet.
I’ll bet that in ten years, you’ll be invited back to the Winning Women Conference as a speaker!
A: We’ve made a pact! The first one to make it big comes back to speak.
One of the things I love about ‘Winning Women’ is that it’s in plural form. Women winning as a collective.
A: Yes, it is very much about not just believing that you’re a winning woman but that those around you are also winning women and that you can share in that.
What do you think the impact of social media has been on young women?
A: I spent my high school years in San Francisco, and social media there is, well if you don’t have Facebook when you’re 12, it’s like – what are you doing? It’s been the best way to stay connected to family and friends from all over the world. But there’s always that negative under current –the trap of social media judgement. If you’ve got good people to you surround yourself with it’s easier to pull yourself out of that social media funk though.
E: Personally, this past year I’ve decided to detach myself quite a bit from my social media accounts. It makes you so much happier if you focus on what you’re doing rather than what everyone else is doing every moment.
A: That being said, I do love Instagram! I get a lot of inspiration from it. I follow accounts such as He for She and Girls at Library, which is a blog where they feature famous women and what books they’re reading. It’s like cool nerdy, and I’m all about that.
Could you name a woman who you admire who has received recognition?
E: For me it’s Christine Lagarde. I’ve been obsessed with her since I discovered her existence when I was twelve. She’s so badass and you just know that she doesn’t take shit from anyone. She was also the youngest in her law firm to ever make partner, as well as running IMF, so she really knows what she’s doing.
A: I’ve been obsessed with Emily Weiss, the CEO of Glossier and Into the Gloss, since her blog started up. She’s built this empire and completely revolutionised how people talk about beauty and the beauty industry. She was on the Forbes 30 under 30. She actually told me to come to St Andrews!
Name a woman who you would like to ‘shine’ a light on.
E: For me, I wouldn’t say it’s one person. I’d say it’s your everyday woman. Women who have two jobs, are single mums, or have small business in their towns, contributing to their local economy. They might not be CEOs of major corporations but what they’re doing is equally as impressive and needed for the world to function.
A: I would agree with that. But I would also add young women who are going out and speaking out about inequality, and fighting for it, entering fields that have been male dominated or making waves in sectors that have been quite traditional. Those women can be quite demonised by the media as merely ‘millennials’.
TB: Publications are pretty patronising about ‘millennials’. There’s this baggage that comes with that term, like we’re lazy and live behind our computers.
A: It makes me think of an estranged dog.
E: “We don’t want to work. We only want to work if it’s empowering us.” All that.
TB: Somehow, I highly doubt that publications will continue to paint our generation as one dimensional millennials” if women as eloquent, enlightened and impassioned as Evangeline and Anya are heading out into the world. Keep shining ladies!