Supporting the journey of motherhood, in style
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Beyond The Cupcakes: THE INARRA Celebrates Female Founders Who Truly Inspire Us This IWD

Forget the cupcakes and virtue signalling. This IWD, we’re spotlighting the female leaders who inspire us 365 days a year.

Whatever your stance on International Women’s Day, I think we can all agree that one day in the calendar isn’t going to magically solve the myriad of challenges and inequalities women still face in 2024.

But this day is still important. It’s a day to regroup and reflect. To look at how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go — from normalising men taking parental leave to businesses better-supporting women returning to the workforce after having children. And hopefully, one day in the not-too-distant future, we won’t even need a day dedicated to pointing out the differences women face.

Just last week, those differences were highlighted with confronting data released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency revealing which private companies in Australia with over 100 employees have the most significant pay gaps. While this transparency is a progressive step forward and means that future potential female employees can cross-check businesses against others to see how they compare, it also illuminates the extent of the gap.

Some of the most notable gender gaps include the CBA with a 29.8% gender pay gap on base salary, AGL with a 30% gender pay gap on base salary, and investment bank Morgan Stanley with a gender pay gap of 25% on base salary. According to the report, the median female worker in Australia is pocketing $18,461 less annually than her male counterpart. And with Australia’s total remuneration average gender pay gap at 21.7%, the need to level up the pay packets of men and women has never been more urgent.

This year’s official theme released by the United Nations for IWD is ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress’. So, with that in mind, we sat down with six female founders who embody progress and acceleration within their organisations and charities.

Like single mother, Kate Warhurst, who founded the not-for-profit organisation It’s From Elsie, after losing her beautiful daughter Elsie in 2022 at just seven days old. The charity offers support to families stuck in the living nightmare of NICU and facing the prospect of going home without a baby. They allow parents to read to their babies on the days when they can’t hold them. As well as Elsie’s Book Club they are working towards funding parking costs for bereaved families and long-stay NICU families.

Or U-Fhern Chang, mother of four and the founder of Elan House of Wellness, which offers bespoke care to women during one of the most vulnerable yet beautiful periods of their lives — the fourth trimester. Using Chinese postpartum nourishment, women are guided through the early stages of motherhood with confidence and care. U-Fhern’s vision focuses on a return to a community-based model of care while integrating the sacred Chinese tradition of ‘sitting the month,’ where new mothers rest and recuperate at home for the first month following birth.

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Kate Warhurst, It’s from Elsie

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Alexandra Pigott and Chantelle Lewis, Sia baby

 

Kate Warhurst, founder of It’s from Elsie

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Dedicating a day shows how far we have come, but also means we have a long way to go. It’s about highlighting the unique and special ways women worldwide have impacted our lives. It’s a day to showcase women supporting women, the fabric of female friendship, our unknown strength, grit, and emotional intelligence, and a day where we circle together.

You created It’s From Elsie after losing your beautiful daughter, Elsie, when she was just seven days old. How has your grief shaped your ambition and drive, and how has the legacy of Elsie informed the decisions you make about your life?

Elsie’s death made me find a greater sense of meaning, purpose, and connection in life. The grief and trauma permeated and changed every cell in my body, every relationship and interaction, how my brain processes things, and even how I walk around Woolworths. Elsie is the bravest person I know (which sends an electrifying force through me to do good) and if I can’t be with her, then I will live for her every day.

Tell us about the concept of It’s From Elsie and your proudest achievement.

It’s from Elsie is a registered charity that delivers picture books to parents in neonatal intensive care units across Australia so that they can read to their babies in lieu of cuddling and kissing them. You may not be able to hold your baby, but you can reach them with your voice. My proudest achievement is saying, “This is from my daughter, Elsie. I am her mum.”

What’s next for the charity?

Our vision is to change the landscape for the exhausted and scared parents spending long days in the NICU and for the mums who are leaving the hospital with empty arms. Our charity has just started funding the cost of car parking for mums who are cared for by the Perinatal Loss Team at Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane. Our long-term goal is to have Elsie’s House, a space for bereaved mothers in their fourth trimester.

Before you lost Elsie, you were working as a teacher. Will you return to teaching, or is It’s From Elsie now your full-time job?

Elsie’s death rearranged the way I see the world and how I fit in it. It’s like being a square peg in a round hole, but one of the few places I feel I still belong is in the classroom. I love teaching, and I love helping children learn. Five-year-olds year olds are pure joy. I will continue teaching as well as running the charity.

You are also raising a gorgeous little boy, five-month-old Louie, as a single parent. What would you like to teach your son about what it means to be a woman?

My darling Louie, a miracle sent from your big sister – I think it is complex, but there’s never been a greater time to be a woman. It means being strong-willed, finding our voice to have a choice in every decision that comes our way, supporting fellow women, being unique, and above all, being unapologetic for who we are.

Who is your biggest female inspiration?

My mum Jules. She raised me with such fierce love and care. She also has a wicked sense of humour. Everything I am is because of her. I love her so much. Jules is Elsie’s middle name.

And Emma from the Perinatal Loss Team at Mater Mothers’ Hospital. I was soaked to my bones in grief. The inner scream, the heartache… I wanted to be put down like an injured animal at the vet. She walked into my hospital room and has walked beside me since with her continuity of excellent care and support. Emma saved my life.

To find out more about It’s From Elsie, check out their website and Instagram

 

Alexandra Pigott and Chantelle Lewis, co-founders of Sia baby

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Being a mother to girls, this day symbolises hope for our daughter’s future — to grow up in a world where they know they can have equal opportunity and respect and achieve anything they put their minds to.

Will you be doing anything to mark the day?

We get how expensive it can be to start and raise a family, so we wanted to do something special and give back to the motherhood community. Head over to our socials as we share our next big announcement.

You two are besties turned business partners. What’s it like working with your best mate?

It’s added another dimension to our relationship of nearly 20 years, and we’ve loved every second of it! It has never felt like work; we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

Tell us about your business and your proudest achievement to date.

Sia baby is a brand built from the passion and understanding of our customers – ultimately, we are our customers. Our baby carriers fuse fashion and function together to give parents a home away from home for their babies. Since launch, we have continued to sell out of our signature prints. Gingham has been featured in Vogue, and we recently won an award at the One Fine Baby Expo.

What would you like to teach your children about what it means to be a woman?

We rise by lifting up others as we climb.

Who is your biggest female inspiration?

Our mothers. It is incredible how much your perspective and appreciation change when you become a mother.

To find out more about Sia baby, check out their website and Instagram

U-Fhern Chang, founder of Elan House of Wellness

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women and recognises the disparity women are still experiencing in today’s world. While we may have come a long way, we still have a long way to go from pay to opportunity to rights as women.

As a woman and mother of Chinese descent living in Australia, I’d like my background, heritage, and identity to be celebrated and transpired through our work at Elan House of Wellness rather than seen as a disadvantage.

Will you be doing anything to mark the day?

My days are so full with the juggling of my four little ones, their schooling, and extracurricular activities that I don’t think I’ll be doing anything particular to mark the day.

However, I do appreciate the inspiring stories that are shared as part of IWD and the initiatives that aim to raise awareness around the inequalities women still face around the world. If any woman feels like she’s fighting a battle, you’ll feel less alone hearing the experiences of others and feel more inspired learning from them.

Tell us about your business and your proudest achievement.

I am the founder of Elan House of Wellness. We aim to provide mothers with ease and convenience as they navigate their early stages of motherhood. We draw on the ancient Traditional Chinese practice of ‘sitting the month’ (坐月子 – zuò yuè zi) to nourish and restore a mother postpartum.

We provide a modern interpretation of this beautiful practice while empowering families with knowledge and wisdom. Our retail offering includes nourishing food, educational resources, self-care tools, and thoughtful gifts. Having practiced cross-cultural healing traditions, I have learned the many benefits of restoring, nourishing, and supporting oneself post-birth.

I began expanding my knowledge around postpartum care, and combined with my lived experiences and cultural heritage, I aim to support women on their motherhood journey by tapping into the wisdom of traditional care.

Apart from being able to support mothers at one of the most vulnerable and magical moments of their lives, my proudest achievement from having my business is showing my girls what it means to be a mother and be of service to others while pursuing something I’m deeply passionate about.

What would you like to teach your children about what it means to be a woman?

To be a woman is to live in flow. We are cyclical and sensitive beings and can be guided by heart and instincts. Even in a world that might tell us it’s “not the right way,” women are fierce and strong. We can bring life into the world, yet we possess the softness to hold and care for those around us.

Who is your biggest female inspiration?

My biggest female inspiration would be my mother and mother-in-law. Both are strong women who sacrificed for their families and had incredible foresight to better their lives and their children. Their dedication and devotion are something I look up to and something I often reflect upon.

To find out more about Elan House of Wellness, check out their website and Instagram

Sara Crampton, founder of theUNDONE

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Each year, on March 8, the world pauses and celebrates women. It’s a really special day. However, it also highlights the immense gaps and hurdles women face. Since becoming a mother, a fire has been lit inside of me from the the frustration of the inequality that women face, which compounds even more when they become parents. This year’s IWD message ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate progress’ is a great focus to lean into.

Unfortunately, I feel that women continue to carry the load, advocating for other women and genuinely spreading and acting on these messages. Real change will only come once systemic, deep-rooted views change, which must come from education and policy changes. We need women in positions of power to get these through.

Will you be doing anything to mark the day?

I’m actually very fortunate to share my birthday with IWD. There is usually such a lovely vibe in the air. Although I don’t do anything specific on the day, as I like to tell my staff and the women in my life how much I appreciate them daily, it’s a good reminder to check-in.

Tell us about your business and your proudest achievement.

I run theUNDONE, a multi-brand e-commerce store that focuses on style that lasts. Working in fashion over the last 15 plus years, the fast-paced, cyclical nature of the industry, the oversupply, and the consumerism to constantly buy ‘new’ has taken its toll, and with my growing understanding of the ethical and environmental impacts our clothes have, I’ve landed in the position that we all need to buy less and wear our clothes more.

My proudest achievement is knowing that we’re doing things differently and helping people become more considered shoppers who hold more value in the pieces they decide to add to their wardrobes.

What would you like to teach your son and daughters about what it means to be a woman?

To my son — to treat women as your equal because they are. Or better yet, respect them more.

To my daughters — don’t let any man make you feel less than.

Who is your biggest female inspiration?

I’m not sure if it’s anyone in particular. However, there are so many incredible women doing incredible things. I’m inspired by women and people who identify as women who speak their truth and don’t hold back. Who don’t censor themselves, who put it all on the table, and stand up for what’s right.

To find out more about theUNDONE, check out their website and Instagram

 

Paloma Garcia, owner and director at PALOMA Salon

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It means a day of recognising the strength, achievements, and sacrifices that come in many shapes and forms from all women around the world.

Will you be doing anything to mark the day?

Well, funny enough, it’s my birthday. My partner and children have something planned for the morning, and I have organised a beautiful evening with my nearest and dearest friends at my favourite restaurant.

Tell us about your business and your proudest achievement.

I’m proud first and for most of the incredible world-class hair we create, the way we make our guests feel, the incredibly beautiful and authentic team members I am lucky enough to have, our efforts and continual work in the community and hairdressing industry around sustainability, climate change, social injustice and gender diversity and trans education.

The PALOMA brand is so much more than just good hair. We constantly get feedback on how amazing the energy is in the salon, which, for me, is everything.

What would you like to teach your children about what it means to be a woman?

My biggest focus is to raise my boys to treat and respect women beautifully in all forms of relationships, from friends and work colleagues to intimate relationships and family members.

Who is your biggest female inspiration?

My girlfriends and my close friends. They inspire me daily.

To find out more about PALOMA Salon, check out their website and Instagram

 

Words by Bella Brennan & Courtney McIntosh

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