'Collective individualism is what it comes down to', says Celebrate Her's Anna Sebastian

Anna Sebastian

Anna Sebastian

06 March 2020

The Artesian bar manager's new initiative, Celebrate Her, is launching on 2020's International Women's Day this Sunday 8 March. So we asked her to write a blog for us, explaining her motivations for setting it up and what more we can all do

For some it is just another day; for others it is a day for women to get together and complain about men; for the more astute, however, it is an opportunity to start a conversation and make a difference.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual, focusing on how important gender equality, inclusion and diversity are to a successful business. 

There are lots of activities happening – wonderful lunches and breakfast panels – where we have discussed our positive experiences in the industry, our success stories, how we have overcome ‘imposter syndrome’ and how we have created support networks.

Outside the glamorous world of awards, brand trips and so on, that there are places of work where the staff are not looked after

These things are powerful in themselves, but it is also about how we continue the conversation, bringing it off Instagram and into real life. 

For me, setting up Celebrate Her (@celebrate___her) is a chance to do better and to make sure men and women understand why gender equality is important, not only to our society, but to our industry and the businesses we own and run.

Context is everything

A good friend of mine always told me that for people to really understand something, they need context.

In 2008, as a witness in a court case, I was asked in detail what I was wearing at the time of the incident. My over-confident 21-year-old self replied: ‘Are you going to ask all the men in the courtroom that?’ The silence that fell upon the courtroom was comparable to those during the times I had stood in the head master’s office at school, waiting for an impending bollocking.

These conversations may be uncomfortable, but they are important in breeding mutual understanding

I was stubborn and fearless and thought I could change the world, but my inexperience of how the world worked meant I didn’t know what I was doing. It wasn’t until years later when I lost a friend to suicide – she was vilified by the sensationalistic world of journalism in a way that no man would ever have to endure – that I did.

Her story was the motivation and driving force for me to try and give women the same platform and opportunity as men. It became less about me and more about the people who didn’t have a voice or felt that they couldn’t speak out. 

Time for action

We forget sometimes that outside the glamorous world of awards, brand trips and so on, that there are places of work where the staff are not looked after, where there are no HR teams and where ‘locker room banter’ is just part of day-to-day life.

There are places of work that insist that females wear low-cut tops and high heels to make sure that the ‘men have a great time’ and there are people who still do not understand that ‘no’ really does mean ‘no’.

So what can we do?

We can educate men and women on the laws around what people’s rights are, from pregnancy to time off and everything in between, resulting in us becoming savvy business operators and people.

We can talk about the definitions of sexual harassment and circumstance. These conversations may be uncomfortable, but they are important in breeding mutual understanding as well as a respectful and safe culture.  

Collective individualism is what it comes down to

We can create a non-toxic and secure working environment, put things in place to ensure that people get home safely, and make sure that the ‘open door policy’ that gets spoken about so much is really there. 

We can make sure people feel that they can bring their problems, however small or big, to the table and that they will be dealt with discretely.

We can support and help each other, give feedback, show empathy and listen.

Stronger together

Collective individualism is what it comes down to. Our small, carefully thought-out actions can all make a difference: our words, comments, Instagram posts could be the things that inspire the next person to do good, to help or to educate someone else.

Celebrate Her will continue to grow and develop, and be a platform for women and men within the hospitality industry. The aim is to support other platforms that have a voice, as well as educate, inspire and mentor people in the industry to be the best version of themselves.

Right now, I truly believe that as a woman there is no better time to be part of the industry. 

Celebrate Her is officially launching this Sunday 8 March – join the celebrations

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