Three years ago today Adelle lost her life; brutally murdered by an estranged partner who had been stalking her online and in person in the lead-up to the tragic event. Mother of two she was ordinary and exceptional in equal measure. She was also for some time my Personal Assistant and then an administrator in a quite remarkably creative and uplifting workplace before I left to pursue other opportunities. In such a happy place where imagination reigned supreme her light shone brightly.
Today I announce that while it has taken me three years to do something meaningful I am in the process of establishing a social enterprise for women who have suffered domestic, family and intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault. It is a business designed to provide empowerment back to the lives of those who have been made to feel weak and disempowered through the action of physical, mental and sexual violence – most often by those they know intimately.
Like any social enterprise it will start slowly and in a small way – the scale is important to allow those who participate in it to flourish as they determine it, best fitting their needs and the needs of their customers. It doesn’t need an overly strong hand on the tiller but we will be around to mentor and provide advice and guidance to give it the best possible chance of success.
So what is it? It is a cleaning company owned, managed and run by women for whom violence has been part of their reality. It is hoped that once it is up and running it can scale and offer opportunities for many who wish some financial independence and work in a business model free from ‘Weinstein worries’. ‘Ah women cleaning’ might be your reaction thinking that it reinforces some sort of misogynistic stereotype. We don’t think so and here’s why. Cleaning offers the opportunity of flexibility for its workforce. For us, we don’t particularly care when the work is done, just that the place is clean. Those delivering the service can tailor when they do the job to fit around parenting responsibilities, appointments with their lawyer and court appearances as required etc.
There is a lot of work to be done to get it underway. Policies, procedures, selection, training, social media and other marketing to get lined up. Books need to be in place and all the other hard work that is standard before an enterprise hits the streets. We are there to lend a hand and I’m hoping other businesses will lend a hand too. Very shortly we will be starting to crowd source some of the capital costs of getting this venture off the ground. We hope you can help there too. Every small donation will have a huge multiplier effect.
So what has this got to do with business? Well quite a lot I think. Leadership in the realm of business cannot be solely isolated to the confines of business operating hours. I’ve blogged about this before; particularly given the distrust the public has in our institutions. Sometimes you need to give back in a way where others get to bask in the glory and benefit from the fruits of their own hard work. It was reassuring to read an article in the Australian Financial Review this week (6th of February) lamenting the decline of the public’s trust in organisations but noting that CEO’s have risen up the trust scale. The role taken by Alan Joyce of Qantas over the marriage equality issue was a shining example they pointed to. If Joycey can do it so can others and many do!
Taking on a social enterprise in a workplace that might otherwise be commercially focused can be highly affirming and demonstrate that when we pull together we can achieve remarkable things. Lessons learned and achievements in one area easily permeate to other business areas making the workforce more motivated and focused -two essential elements in managing an enterprise. In fact longstanding and respected CEO Andrew Formica commenting on the recent calamitous foray of Wesfarmers into the UK DIY market is quoted as saying that Wesfarmers failed management 101 by not engaging with their workforce. What better engagement than getting your teams to work on a common cause for good.
Sometimes there are issues that as business people – particularly male champions of change – we cannot ignore. With one woman dying each week from domestic violence in Australia and a hospitalisation every three hours it is right and proper that we make a stand in the workplace.
Wouldn’t it be great to see women invigorated, in control and feeling whole again, as if touched by the ‘magic’ that Adelle generated around the office seemingly without effort. You too can help make this happen. If you want to know how to help, email me though my LinkedIn page www.linkedin.com/in/phil-diver-a052575/