Amelia Dixon has always had a love for projects “that help to change the world”.
From supporting people with disabilities, experiencing homelessness or otherwise vulnerable situations, to environmental and climate action, the work she is most passionate about and proud of has a common theme – helping people live fulfilling, rewarding lives and leaving the world in a better condition than she found it.
One of her strongest passions has been accelerating change towards gender equality.
One year ago, on International Women’s Day 2018, Amelia and a group of like-minded people turned this mission into something concrete – and A Seat At The Table (SEATT – www.seatt.co) was born.
“I would like to say the motivation for me was born from a big, pragmatic world view – but as with many things that drive passion it came from my gut,” Amelia explains
“I was born in 1980 into a world and a family that made it seem as if the war around gender had been fought and won – a lucky world to live in. As my career and life progressed, I moved into leadership roles and through different life stages, I realised the world I lived in had been a little utopia and sadly sat outside the mainstream.
“Over the past 10 years I have watched my peers – incredibly talented women – step out of their career trajectories as they take on primary caring roles, and incredibly compassionate men getting wedged into narrow boxes, bearing the weight of breadwinning. This lock up that we live with in Australia – that women care and men earn – is jutting up against what we truly believe – that men and women are equal and should be due equal opportunities in life.”
Balancing passion with resources to achieve a goal of equality
The SEATT team carefully analysed the situation at hand in order to determine the best path forward. And the answer came not in directly changing workplace conditions for women, but in increasing freedom and flexibility for men to have greater involvement in the traditional ‘women’s work’ of family life and caregiving.
“It became clear there was an area that needed a spotlight, one that could drive change for all – which is we need to widen the role we afford men to take in our families and communities.
“By giving them equal opportunities to take on parenting and caring roles, we give women the capacity to stay in the pipeline for higher paying jobs and roles in leadership, and men the opportunity to enjoy the full gamut of family life.”
The experience and expertise of the SEATT board is one of its greatest assets, but also poses a challenge in managing what can be realistically expected of and achieved by a group that is volunteering its time.
“Starting a business is one thing, but starting an NGO with people who lead in their fields is another things all together. The truth is that our board are all incredibly accomplished, which has enabled us to think and move quick. The flipside of that however is both finding the time between us to get things done and for each of us, being OK with not giving this 110% as we would like to.”
For SEATT, securing funding is the crucial next step to scaling up its work, which includes partnering with employers to collaboratively increase the rates of men taking primary parental leave.
In the meanwhile, Amelia says that the valuable work and achievements they’ve made so far continue to inspire and motivate her and the rest of the SEATT board every day.
“I hear stories of our impact every day. Only earlier this week I was talking to a SEATT volunteer about how she and her partner have started talking about the roles they will play when they have children; they are being creative, they are challenging norms and they are thinking about what is best for their family into the future – that inspires me.”
Celebrating success & diversity of perspectives
Given the nature of SEATT’s work, Amelia says she finds it “hard to separate the two” factors of being an entrepreneur and being a woman in business. This has been both an advantage and a disadvantage – but this in itself has provided perspective that informs her work.
“I founded my business The Think Partnership eight years ago, and while I am sure at times my gender has been an asset to my business, I know at times it has not been. I know of an occasion where my business suffered the loss of a contract because of discrimination towards me based on my gender, and this moved me from being inspired to be part of a positive change to taking action.
Her advice to others looking to start a business or entrepreneurial project – regardless of gender – is to be mindful of your achievements and learn how to measure and recognise them.
“Celebrate all of your successes, big and small. For those of us who have built careers working for others with big resources, the start-up phase can be hard to feel a sense of achievement.
“It is important to be mindful of how you are assessing whether or not your your big idea is going to work – consider, what can I do to test traction? What could give me insight that we are going in the right direction? When you have a success, pause, take note and celebrate.
“Not every success will be exciting to the world, I would say though the most important ones in the beginning will never be news-worthy, but your ability to celebrate and notice them will keep the momentum going to drive towards your bigger goals.”
Amelia Dixon is the CEO and founder of The Think Partnership, consulting firm with a focus on marketing and customer strategy based in Melbourne, Australia. She has a background in working as a brand strategist and in management consulting. Amelia currently holds a Directorship with St Mary’s House of Welcome, an organisation that supports people experiencing homelessness and a Directorship with gender equality accelerator start-up Seat At The Table (SEATT).