On the 8th of March, women everywhere will be celebrating International Women’s Day. Spanning from everyday heroes to those that are leading countries (did anyone say, Jacinda Ardern?), the day marks the success and achievements of women and the progress we’ve made.
This year’s theme is “Choose to Challenge” and is one of action; to challenge the status quo for a better future and perfectly sums up a woman that inspires us everyday. Whether rising up against human trafficking or guiding her children, in honour of International Women’s Day, Melody Towns, Founding Director of the Be Hers Foundation, offers some insights into how to ignite and bring about lasting change as she talks about leadership, empowering women up, her corporate style, and more with our CEO, Talita White.
Talita: I’ve known you for almost a decade now, in the early days of both the Be Hers Foundation and Esther & Co. You’ve always been an inspiration and the work that you do through the Be Hers Foundation is life-changing. But, for those who don’t know you, can you share a little about yourself?
Melody: I’m the Founding Director of the Be Hers Foundation which is an anti-trafficking organisation. It all started when I attended a conference over 10 years ago and had my daughter, who was only one years old at the time, sitting on my lap. I was listening to the stories of women and children who had been sold into sexual slavery and it broke my heart. I remember sitting there with my little girl thinking of all the hopes and dreams I had for her which contrasted dramatically from the stories being told at the conference of little girls who were on missing posters across the world, never to be seen again. They were being trafficked and sold every day and used for sex up to forty times a day. Only one percent of them ever made it out and were rescued. I remember thinking at the time that I can’t do everything, but I can do something.. So, I went home and set up a small fundraising event with my girlfriends in hopes of raising awareness and donations, but mainly just to share what I had heard and empower others to join me in the fight against sexual slavery. Since then, Be Hers has grown significantly and we have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars towards the cause. We have educated thousands upon thousands of women, held events locally and nationally, and we have continued to help victims to have a better future by employing and empowering them.
Talita: Such an amazing story but also a testament of what can happen when you choose to challenge and take the lead. True leadership to me is about being strong in your convictions and ideas, but at the same time remaining humble and supportive of others. What does leadership mean to you?
Melody: Leadership to me is simple. We are all leaders in our own right and our spheres of influence. Whether we realise it or not, we are leading somebody, somewhere. It’s an honour to lead the Be Hers movement, but I do feel that my biggest leadership role is at home with my own family. My three young children inspire me to constantly reflect on how I lead because one day they will grow up and their possibilities will be endless. It’s how I lead them now that will help shape them for their future. I look at my role at home and how I lead my lift daily and ask myself if it’s authentic, heartfelt, and if I’m truly listening to those around me. Children are like sponges and they are observing everything we do and learn from us. These principles are how I also lead in the business world. Leadership to me is not dictated. I will never be one to say “you must listen to me” or “you must do what I say”. Instead, I want people to watch and feel inspired to follow. I guess the key marker for me is to look back and ask are my kids following my lead, not necessarily by my words but by my actions. One of the most inspiring things for me is to watch my daughter get passionate about creating change and choosing to challenge in her own way. Watching her as a ten-year-old start a movement to raise awareness and funds for climate change has been incredible because I haven’t told her to do that. Instead, she has just followed my example. I hope I can continue to grow and be humble in my leadership because I have so much to learn but I find it a real privilege to lead both my family and people in the Be Hers movement to try and make the world a better place.
Talita: How do you motivate yourself to keep challenging for progressive change?
Melody: Motivation for me is driven by passion and purpose. I am a huge visionary and I love dreaming dreams that are far bigger than what seems achievable. From there, I start to map how to get there, usually, the smaller steps help make a big difference. My motivation comes not only from working towards an end-goal but by actually envisioning the women and children that we are trying to help along the way. I have always been passionate, purposeful, and motivated when I have been able to grasp a perspective that is bigger than my own. I think last year was a real game-changer for many, including myself. It was, and still is, hard to see a clear path to the future but just being able to have a vision to work towards that is fuelled with purpose and is bigger than I have been is so instrumental in my growth. This has assisted in my continued motivation to run the Be Hers movement for the last 10 years. How about you?
Talita: Like you, I like to push myself by always looking to the future, and being prepared. I think setting goals is so important. Now, being the CEO of a women’s fashion business, I have to ask. What’s your workwear style and what have you got your eye on?
Melody: My work style is super casual! I laugh because I remember working in Pitt St Mall in my twenties and always looking glamorous but as a mum now, most days you’ll find me in loungewear or activewear if I can get away with it. I usually throw on something like the gorgeous Freedom Jumpers from Be Hers that are super comfy paired with some jeans and sneakers. But I also love to get dressed up in a beautiful feminine dress. In terms of what I’m thinking of adding into my wardrobe, I have my eye on the Posy Midi Dress. I love the floral print and the cute puff sleeves. It’s the perfect throw-on for afternoon cocktails with the girls but still chic enough to wear to work on a day that I want to get dressed up. I also love the Brandie Dress. I have my 40th birthday coming up for which my hubby is treating me to a few days away on the east coast of Tasmania and I can just imagine myself in it with a celebratory champagne in hand on the beautiful east coast. You have incredible style and I always admire how you pair pieces. Are there any pieces you think I should check out?
Talita: I love delicate details, so the white Sandbar Dress
is actually in the cart as we speak! The intricate lace details and the boho style make it so easy to dress up or down, for any occassion. But also, it would be perfect for your trip away; you should check it out! Speaking of women that we admire or draw from, do you have any female mentors? What is the best advice that they’ve given you?
Melody: Over the years, I have been blessed with some incredible female mentors who are just kicking huge goals in their areas of expertise and have such generous hearts. One would be you, Talita. I remember walking into your retail store years ago in Tassie asking if you could share some of your pamphlets to promote our first event and of course, you said yes. Over the years, that partnership has grown. You’ve been a great sponsor, ambassador and donor yourself, but also , you’ve been there for me as a friend to help me in my journey leading as Director of Be Hers.
Talita: I was going to say the same thing about you! Not only do I consider you a long-term friend, but your commitment to women and the betterment of the community has inspired me for years. How important is it to find purpose and give back?
Melody: I think giving back and finding purpose in whatever we do in life is the key to happiness. Having a purpose that is bigger than yourself is crucial. Over the years, I think of all the highs and lows that I have experienced and whenever I have felt the lowest, it has been the perspective of the women and children that I’ve helped that has pulled me out. It can be so easy to get caught up in your problems and I know we all have them, but when you are working to help another human being with something as simple as freedom, it just puts your own problems into perspective.
Talita: I couldn’t agree more! Giving back should be everyone’s life goal. It takes bravery, compassion, and humility. I love the quote ‘we are blessed to be a blessing.’ It’s a privilege to serve others and the greater good. This in mind, do you have any last pieces of advice to our Esther & Co, community who may want to hone their leadership skills?
Melody: Be humble. It is really easy to get to a place in leadership where you feel like you have it all. If I am really honest, it has happened to me in the past and I have been humbled so quickly because the reality is, we are all human and we all make mistakes. I think the best thing you can do on your leadership journey is to listen to the people around you, be humble enough to take their advice, quick to say you’re sorry, and don’t avoid conflict. I’m notorious for avoiding conflict in efforts to keep a happy environment but I’ve found that confronting the situation with love is so much more important than ignoring it. Do you have any last pieces of advice for me?
Talita: I’d say to listen, communicate a clear direction and motivate others around you with positivity. But also, to never stop learning. Research and read about the world’s most amazing leaders and see what you can adopt into your own personal leadership style.
The Be Hers Foundation commits 100% of their proceeds to fighting human trafficking across the globe. Join us in ending slavery and changing lives. By giving as little as $1, you are helping someone get their freedom. Donations go directly to the Be Hers Foundation which is a registered Australian charity.