Like-minded women are building communities for change in Mildura

6:30pm, Friday 24 August 2018
UpStart, Mildura
Full house

Conversation flows like prosecco at UpStart, Mildura.

You’d think people are acquainted, but most are not. Twenty-one women - and a man – are gathered to hear Jeanette Cheah, Melbourne ambassador for Like-Minded Bitches Drinking Wine, speak. It’s a diverse bunch: there’s a B&B owner, teacher, opera singer, jeweller and graphic designer.

A sense of anticipation powers the room, as does a fusion of perfumes. Rebecca Crossling, Senior Engagement Coordinator at La Trobe University welcomes the crowd, before Jeanette stands and speaks.

 “Welcome to the first regional Australia meet up for Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine!” she exclaims!

Everyone grins.

Traditionally, women have struggled with a reputation for being nasty to each other. Particularly when it comes to work. Be a little bit successful and people love you. Become wildly so and something shifts.

All of a sudden, you’re a bitch.

This is a perception that Gen George (One Shift, Skilld, tamme) and Jane Lu (Show Po) are determined to bust. Three years ago, the duo found themselves at a tech conference, the only women in a 300-person room. Frustrated, the entrepreneurs decided to catch up for a glass of wine - and develop a plan of attack.

Three years on, their meeting has ballooned into an international movement. LMBDW is a network of over 80,000 women – across Australia and the world. There is an active Facebook group plus a regular series of meet ups. The community is popular and it is expanding into regional Australia.

Members are called bitches, or B’s, for short. It sounds offensive, but it’s not. If anything, it’s liberating.

Like Minded Bitches is a great, safe place,” Jeanette shares. “I like it because I can ask the most ridiculous questions of business, and no one will judge me”.

The speaker and tech entrepreneur built a career in product marketing and UX (user experience) before co-founding The Hacker Exchange. It’s a tertiary accredited program that connects Australian students with global innovation networks like Silicon Valley. The Hacker Exchange is growing, but Jeanette says her strategy is simple.

1.      Always be kind

The business and tech community are small and you never know who knows who. Always treat others with respect.

2.      Just get started

Conversation is important, but there is a point when talk becomes the enemy. It’s scary, but you’ve got to take the leap.

3.      Perfection is fallacy

The path to success is not linear. Test your idea and ask for feedback. If you’re off the mark, the drawing board is there. Plus, a group of bitches have your back.

As Jeanette’s talk wraps, there is a swing of the room to discover who is there. Yes, the women are here to network, but it’s deeper than that. It’s about real friendship, learning and growth. LMBDW is a community that goes beyond ‘supporting’ women and ‘lifting’ them up. It’s a fun and educational space to meet good people. PLUS explore the new world of work.