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There’s no doubt 2017 hasn’t been for the faint-hearted and yet, it’s likely to be a year women look back on fondly for sparking real change. More than 3.3 million women joined the Women’s March in January across 500 U.S. cities, the #metoo movement erupted following sexual harassment allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein and “feminism” was crowned Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.

It’s been an epic year and we’re only scratching the surface with so many women contributing to the cause on a wider scale. Women who are on the frontline, perhaps not making news headlines daily but who are definitely creating a domino effect with the work they do on a day-to-day basis. Women like business coach and podcaster, Sonya Stattmann, whose recent Tedx talk in Melbourne, Australia delivers a bold message to women: “the best way to continue the fight for women’s empowerment in the world, is to empower ourselves first.”

“I believe we have gone about women’s empowerment in the wrong way. We try to help others, ‘empower’ them and make everyone feel good, but this is ineffective in truly empowering more women,” says Sonya.

“Empowerment is a choice – you choose it in a moment when you feel disempowered. You decide that you are worthy, that you are valuable and that you will choose yourself. True empowerment is the hard road. It is facing our vulnerabilities and our fear and recognising our courage.

“Feeling good is not enough to produce empowerment, we have to do it in a moment when it is hard. The process of empowering ourselves can feel painful, but freedom is on the other side.”

 

We’ve all heard the horror business coaching stories…

 

Especially here in Australia where the industry is relatively new (or maybe some of us just haven’t been paying attention until we started running our own businesses). Sonya says she has a knack for seeing possibilities that her clients can’t see because they’re so close to their business.

“I have lived my life out of the box, always looking at the best solutions to solve a problem without limitations like industry norms, cultural norms or personal limitations.

“I do way more than coaching. I look at business as part of who we are and have a more holistic perspective of what it takes to navigate the business world. You can’t separate business from personal, not for women, so we have to address the person and not just the business.”

 

Thinking back, Sonya recalls always having a passion for helping women to empower themselves.

 

Although she says she was aware of gender inequality early on as a young woman, it wasn’t until she entered the business world that the sexism and inequality became more palpable.

“I started off my career in an advertising agency and that was a real wake up call. Within a year, I had four years’ worth of work, a few awards under my belt and I was still not appreciated or treated properly. I quit that job and started my own advertising agency.”

She recalls how sexism in advertising was and still is a real issue and how she set out to educate male-dominated industries as to how they can market to women effectively and without degrading them.

“This began my love for business and my insight into the power of women in the business world.

“I had that agency for five years, and during that time, I realised how much I loved working with women business owners, so I pivoted and became a full-time business coach. I am more than a coach though, because I also teach and mentor women in how to more effectively navigate the business world.”

Fast forward to 2017 and in addition to running her business, Sonya is a podcaster, hosting The Liberation Lab for Women in Business with her co-host and good friend, Laura Shook Guzman. Having moved from Austin, Texas to Australia to be with her Aussie husband, Sonya shares her insights as to the progression of feminism Down Under compared with the US.

“America has an underlying sense of independence, and I find that this independence influences and progresses the feminist and women’s movement.

 

“I have found there is a strong sense of conformity, of not standing out or rocking the boat in Australia…

 

I believe this makes progress harder in Australia, because to really shift the systems in the world that are disempowering women, we have to disrupt and completely tip over the boat.”

We asked Sonya for her guidance and advice for anyone out there pondering how to choose an ideal business coach for their needs. She says:

1. Have some clarity around what you need and what you are struggling with – you want to find a coach that handles that specific issue.

2. Find someone who specialises in either product or service businesses depending on what you have.

3. Look for a coach or mentor who has run their own business for a minimum of 5 years. It takes at least that long to understand the ups and downs everyone faces in business and someone who is still going after 5 years has some wisdom to share as to how to do it.

4. Find someone who is a few steps ahead of where you want to be. They will understand what you face as a woman and also keep you from falling into the pitfalls they had to go through themselves.

5. Most importantly, don’t fall for marketing promises and hype. There are no overnight successes.

As for Sonya’s favourite quote, we think it’s a winner and it’s one of our favourites too:

“If you’re not in the arena getting your butt kicked too, I’m not interested in your feedback.” – Brené Brown 

So if you’re a woman in business reading this right now, dissatisfied with where you’re at in 2017 and where you’re heading in 2018, Sonya suggests engaging in “deep, personal work.”

“Think about what you really want, what you really want to feel in 5 years and always trust your gut.”

Sarah Cannata

Founding editor at This Woman Can
Sarah Cannata is the founding editor of This Woman Can and is the author of the picture book, Willow Willpower. She's a self-confessed introvert who believes quality storytelling can change the world.
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