Creating A World For Wonder-Women
This is the age of sharing information, creating and consuming content, and most of the internet is dependent on this cycle. We open our phones and just soak in whatever comes on our feed. This puts a lot of pressure on our content creators. They need traffic, they need money, so they give us what we ‘educated’ people really want to read. Which according to Google stats (for India), is mostly about who’s in a relationship, some celebrity’s infant, some cricket league, a retired adult performer and some pictures of women in beachwear. Why? Well, knowledge is power.
All content creators aren’t like that. The person this story is about isn’t like that.
“The Wonder Women World completed its first year this May,” says Charmaine Timothy, the force behind an online community that is dedicated to all the wonder women around us.
“I was born in a culturally diverse family and I married into a traditionally rich one. My mother and father are my biggest influences; subconsciously, I observed, and learned from them.” Her childhood was influenced by people around her and the lessons she learned then, made her the person she is today.
“I realized early in life that everyone is who they are because of certain circumstances and what they chose to make of it. I witnessed some who were very successful after dealing with a lot of hardship in life and some who could not take the pressure and ended up feeling lost.”
Here’s the first lesson you learn from this wonder woman, “I picked up a lesson from each person I engaged with – some more significant than others.”
Even though she focused her time and energy on developing a community organically, the numbers on her pages might tell a different story.
“My life before The Wonder Women World was just as fulfilling and meaningful as it is now. My elder daughter was 4.5 years old and I had just given birth to my younger one. It was a phase of learning, un-learning, re-learning and tested my multi-tasking skills to the limit.”
Charmaine had already established herself in the world of finance, “Somewhere in all of that organized chaos was an inner voice that kept getting louder and louder until I could not ignore it anymore. It was pushing me to do something with a greater purpose.”
“After much thought and deliberation I decided that the most meaningful way, I can make a difference, was to establish a network for my tribe! Hence The Wonder Women World was born.”
But that’s not the only reason why she chose to create a community dedicated to women. “I chose women as I feel strongly for them. I instantly connect with them and can whip up an easy conversation.”
Her venture, which is now followed by more than fifty thousand people, started as a collection of inspiring stories of women around us, “I admire them for their strength and resilience and have a deep-rooted respect for how they go through each phase of life. Telling their stories, shining the light on their accomplishments is my way of paying tribute to my mother, my sister, my mother in law, my close friends and all the strong feminine influences that have played a part in my life and continue to do so.”
But her plans for the future aren’t just limited to women, “I have equal respect for men and have been very determined never to publish content that pitches one gender against the other or compares and shows one in a more superior light than the other. That is not the intention of The Wonder Women World.”
A mother with a full-time job and her own venture on the side, she thinks practically and understands how exhausting her lifestyle can be. As she adds, “Some days are exceptionally busy and other days I get so much help from loved ones. The reason I have been able to cope successfully with juggling multiple jobs and roles is that I am flexible and resilient.”
We are now living in an era where just one skill or job doesn’t make a difference. People need more, they want to experience more. Though this new passion for juggling does have some pros for the future, it has some stressful cons too. To this, Charmaine says, “I find we tend to be too hard on ourselves and that puts unnecessary pressure and leads to stress which in turn affects your physical, mental and emotional well-being.”
She adds, “A reminder every day that you cannot give a 100% to each role you play is important. Some days you are the best parent and your work may take a backseat, other days you are making an impressive presentation but get home after the kids are asleep. It happens – and it is okay.”
Those of you who are still waiting to find out how she does it, pay attention now. “I make to-do lists at the beginning of my day or the previous night. I have a work one, a wonder women one and a personal one.” She prioritizes the lists and, “if I am able to get the important ones done, I feel a sense of accomplishment.” Like a fun, constructive game.
“And If I can’t then I juggle up my list for the next day. Keeping it practical, fluid and flexible is what makes me stay on top of the game.”
She has written hundreds of stories on women. She runs a community of women that is followed by thousands. So what does she think about the women of the 21st century?
We are progressing, there’s no denying that. Women are leading several organisations, they have been breaking barriers for quite some time and making a huge difference in the world. There are a lot of inspiring women in India too. Now, let’s compare the numbers in a country of a billion people.
“The statistics, percentages, data will seem alarming when you start to analyse them. It is great to keep those numbers handy as a reality check and as a way to measure progress. But I don’t believe in getting overwhelmed by them.”
Alright! Let’s ignore the statistics for now and think about our beliefs. Even in 2018, our young population is sticking to the old rules or traditions. Traditions that came from popular romantic stories like boy’s parents meet girl’s parents, boy marries the girl, the boy then wins some bread and the girl cooks that bread. Believe it or not this shallow mentality still exists even in the educated folk. Why does this still happen now?
Charmaine explains, “A lot has to do with what we were taught as young girls. I’ll give you an example, I distinctly remember being told by a teacher, ‘Girls need to be seen, not heard’ and the textbooks were filled with men playing the bread-winner and the women taking care of the home and children.”
She also explains how such beliefs are set in young children, “Even boys grow up with the immense pressure of being the sole provider of their families – which is also not fair.”
Even she’s no stranger to certain gender stereotypes. She even came across some in a city like Bangalore, “All universal gender stereotypes – men make better drivers, women are better cooks, men do well in the police force, women do well as teachers….the list is endless.”
But not all families or parents stick to these notions, “I am lucky that my broad-minded parents pushed me into giving priority to education and career before marriage, but that is not the same for scores of girls and boys who are moulded and influenced to think and act a certain way.” So, what are we doing to solve this problem?
“We are making great headway in the right direction. We must tweak what is being taught in schools, promote a change in mindset when we engage with children, colleagues and family.” she says, “It is good to promote positive messages and systematic campaigns via all platforms of media that reaches the young, the old, and all those in between.”
Also, “If we can do something about the shocking storylines of our soap operas and movies – I have no doubt that will immensely help as well.”
She goes on to add that changing the mindset of one person requires a lot of effort, “so imagine how long it is going to take to uproot regressive thinking and give way to forward-looking and futuristic ideas.”
But, “If everyone does their tiny bit, it will have a ripple effect and before you know it those statistics will start showing up in happier figures.”
According to her, everyone can contribute in their own way, some do it by leading by example and some are vocal/ active crusaders. “I choose to do it in my home as a wife, mother, and daughter and via The Wonder Women World.”
There are cases where both women and men ignored these beliefs and the internet has celebrated such women. We have magazines dedicated to women empowerment, social change, we have campaigns to spread awareness about equal rights… basically, we do celebrate successful women who are changing the world. But why aren’t we sharing the stories of men who supported these women?
On the topic of supportive men, Charmaine says, “I get asked by my male friends and family often, ‘Charmaine, when are you starting The Wonder Men World?’ I respond with a smile but I don’t dismiss the fact that there are stories of men who are just as fabulous out there.”
“Take my dad and my husband for example – they are amazing human beings and sometimes their role is not given due credit. Like I said, I try to invite participation from men and have plans to increase that going forward. One of the mini-series I have in the pipeline has the theme – the men behind the wonder women!”
Social media is another factor that plays a huge role for both Charmaine and The Wonder Women World. It’s a medium that lets people share their inspiring stories, pictures, relationship status updates, location, and some other stuff. Just like everything else in life, social media also has a good/bad debate going on.
“All media of communication can come with pros and cons. But undoubtedly, they have the power to influence – positively and negatively.”
Since we are on the subject of influence, let’s ponder over the numerous social media campaigns that flooded our timelines. There have been campaigns that focussed on issues like gender inequality. These were shared, liked and commented on by millions. But did they make any difference in the real world?
Charmaine answers, “Yes, I believe campaigns about social change and gender equality make a difference in the real world. It is bound to subconsciously play on one’s mind.”
She shares stories of women she came across, “I know of a mother who was adamant about not letting her husband pull her daughter out of school because she saw a woman on TV share how she completed her education, despite opposition from her parents and now proudly earns a respectable income.”
“I know of another woman who read a story on The Wonder Women World and decided to start her very own home business and ease the financial pressure off her husband. So likes, comments, social media engagement is of no use. But, I know for a fact that the reach is massive and the readers take away some learning or the other which will surely influence their decision-making and the way their raise their children.”
There was another campaign that went viral last year. Even though it showed the world how widespread sexual harassment is and made an example out of the men responsible for such lewd acts, one can argue that the victims didn’t really get all the help they needed. Remember, talking about the incident is just one step of therapy.
Us Facebook addicts may find it hard to believe, but retweets, likes and comments aren’t enough to help the real victims.
“I too noticed how big #metoo got. And although I did not post one myself, I admired the effect it had. One, it opened our eyes to the fact that sexual harassment did not spare the young, the old, the rich, the famous or the poor” says Charmaine, “I saw men and women who never use social media come forward willingly to share their experience, opinions and perspectives. It promoted a sense of oneness and unity across cultures, race, and religion. It was not positioned as a campaign to solve the problem, it served more as an eye opener.”
She also adds, “Having said that, there are people and certain groups that use social media to create buzz, get some engagement and 10 seconds of fame. If we want to solve any problem it has to be a combination of methods.”
Her suggestion to solve the problems, “first step, accept there is a problem, two – raise awareness, three – explore ways to solve it and four, actually act on it.”
Most of you will agree with her suggestions; But, “As a generation, we are very good with points one and two and our interest and energy levels fade when it comes to three and four.”
And since we are talking about us Facebook addicts, “Many of us love to write thought-provoking posts from behind the screen but if called to be part of a task force to solve it – I think we shy away from it. I am no one to judge these people. We all have at some point made our priorities and choices clear.”
When the idea of social networking was first written on a whiteboard, it was supposed to improve how we communicate with each other. Marky Mark’s congressional hearings are one proof that communication hasn’t improved. In fact, it has deteriorated even the basic forms of human conversations.
“It has to a large extent. We seek acceptance, validation, approvals from people on social media. Some even get upset if their post was not liked enough on Facebook or Instagram.” Trust her, she knows what she’s talking about.
“Birthday wishes are no longer via phone or face to face, it is on Facebook or WhatsApp. There are some who prefer to scroll endlessly through their newsfeed rather than chat with the person sitting across at home.”
She shares that she’s also a part of this online sham, “I am not untouched by this alarming trend. Conversations are getting shorter, more to the point more superficial. If this continues we are all going to forget how bond and connect and relationships will take a toll”
By now, most of her loyal followers (and some people who are actually reading this story) know Charmaine as the founder and editor at The Wonder Women World. But there’s another part of her life that requires a lot of time and effort.
“I am an Associate Director in a financial services firm and have been working with this excellent company for the last 14 years.”
So… what does she do there?
Her answer, “I get to work with very experienced partners and directors across the globe on strategic initiatives with a firm-wide impact. My role has evolved over the years and I was lucky to have been given the freedom to test my skills across exciting assignments and projects. The culture is so inclusive, diverse and people first.”
“My current role is very exciting where I wear a dual hat. It is so dynamic and there is never a dull moment – one day I am collaborating and brainstorming on our business strategy that will double our revenue and headcount and the next day I get the opportunity to travel overseas to manage a high-profile forum for all our priority clients.”
All that and managing a home, raising two kids and running a magazine on the side.
Like every other entrepreneur, she too has a vision for her venture. Maybe interview someone famous. “I don’t have a wish list of famous women to interview. My intention is to promote everyday women and help them get their moment in the sun. Women who don’t have massive PR companies behind them to promote what they do. ”
But wait! “That does not mean I will pass up the chance of interviewing women who have gained fame and success. They are excellent role models and I’d love to share their journeys and would love it even more if they put their force behind the women of The Wonder Women World.”
She has done over two hundred interviews till now (Jun 2018) and this is how her work impacts her life, “One, it forces me to be creative and stay clear of monotony in both writing and themes I select. Two, as I interview and write, I am exposed to fresh perspectives and a myriad of opinions – some of which I don’t agree with but love how enriching it is. And three, each story has either taught me something new or has made me feel reassured that there are so many more like me, dealing with the same dilemmas, challenges and doing a swell job of managing it.
If you still aren’t clear about what her website is about, “The Wonder Women World is a place that shares stories of everyday women who display strength and those seeking it, of women who have found success and those who are striving for it. At the end of the day, I want this to be a platform for women to share their experiences, thoughts and life lessons. While keeping it real and meaningful.”
She adds, “Some may be inspired or find a spark to kindle an idea. Some may find a positive affirmation or a getaway from the monotony. Others may stop by for just a nice read. Whatever the outcome, I am confident that I am doing my bit to showcase and promote the rest of my kind! The Wonder Women World has started to invite perspectives from the opposite sex making it more inclusive. The focus will always be women, but we love having broad-minded men on board as well.”
That was the story of Charmaine Timothy. If this post inspired you, click on the links given in the story and read about more women just like her. In case you love what she’s doing with her website, there’s another online magazine that you will definitely love. It’s called Uncontrolled. Follow it, like it, love it, share it… but most importantly, if you know someone who is as amazing as Charmaine, hit that contact page right now!
*All the pictures used in this post belong to The Wonder Women World.