An International Women's Day Event Amongst The Brown Community Hits Differently

Brown Boss Babes returns with two IWD events in Sydney and Melbourne.

Image Source: Supplied/Brown Boss Babes

How often have you attended an International Women's Day event where there is none or merely one woman of colour on a panel? Years ago at one of my former workplaces, my shoulders tensed up as I sunk into my chair while listening to an all-white panel of women. These were all incredibly talented women in their own right, but as they spoke about their career highlights, corporate challenges and experiences in the media and tech world, their words barely resonated with me. Yes, there were some relatable moments, but their impact on me was minimised by a thin veil of white feminism.

The following year, I was asked to speak for IWD. My advocacy for cultural diversity and representation, particularly through my journalism, had captured the attention of those organising this lunchtime office session. It was just a fireside chat between myself and another editor – a huge opportunity for me to educate the wider business on the value of elevating diverse female voices.

But in the last couple of years, I've thankfully found a community – albeit outside of work – where I don't feel as though I need to do so much of the explaining, educating and heavy lifting on my own. Cue Brown Boss Babes (BBB). Founded by Vithyaa Thavapalan and Sukanya Balachandran five years ago, this organisation has been created to foster community amongst brown women in Australia, particularly South Asian women. When women come together at BBB events, we have a shared understanding of the intersectional challenges we may face in the workplace, and the culturally specific scenarios that pop up in our daily lives.

Brown Boss Babes will once again be hosting two IWD events, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. Both will feature inspiring speakers from different South Asian backgrounds (I'm lucky enough to be moderating the Sydney panel), as well as an in-person 'BBB Bazaar'. This is a South Asian market which will feature product-based businesses owned and operated by South Asian women. And, for the first time, men are invited to attend, with the organisers saying "this is how we ourselves can bridge the gender divide".

I asked Thavapalan and Balachandran what to expect from each of the events. They said there will be "conversations that spark change and empower connection amongst our south Asian community.

"We have curated a speaker list that dive into relevant topics that we know will empower and educate everyone that attends. We look forward to seeing how this year’s conversations spark inspiration and change in our attendees."

Brown Boss Babes founders Sukanya Balachandran and Vithyaa Thavapalan

Brown Boss Babes founders Sukanya Balachandran and Vithyaa Thavapalan

Which brings us to the question... who are the speakers? In Sydney, the speakers include Ashani Dante (thought leader and founder of The Flourish Journey, formerly Flourish Girl), Dr Prasanthi (general practitioner and cosmetic doctor), Renuga Inpakumar (Eelam Tamil activist), and Anjana Chandran (choreographer, dancer and content creator).

In Melbourne, the speakers include Devni Wimalasena (activist, speaker and content creator), Sandy Jawanda (oral health therapist and former Married At First Sight star), Shilpa Bhim (founder of GlowReel), and Dr Suji Sanjeevan (medically trained clinical researcher and founder of Light & Glo).

"Each speaker was picked after careful consideration of their current positive impact within the Australian South Asian community," say Thavapalan and Balachandran.

"They are trailblazers that we know will leave our attendees feeling connected, educated and empowered by the topics they come across this weekend."

There are still some tickets left for both events which you can purchase for Sydney here, and Melbourne here.

Yes, many of us may still be attending more mainstream or corporate IWD events for work or otherwise this year. And as more companies become conscious of the need for diversity, the more culturally safe these spaces are starting to feel for us. But of course, there will always be something exhilarating, empowering and utterly unique about being at an event filled with other brown women... other brown boss babes.