March 8th marked International Women’s day - an event that celebrates the achievements of women, while calling for gender equality. Here in London I'm very fortunate, I'm a woman in tech and I'm surrounded by family and friends who accept me as an individual.
Of course, that doesn't mean I escape gender inequality, it's everywhere. I've always been subtly aware of its presence, like having an overbearing but essentially dumb troll stomping along behind me. It’s hard to escape the great power it wields nor can it be reasoned with, after all this troll is an expert in assumptions. It assumes my capabilities instead of finding them out, it assumes who I am based on what I look like and it assumes I should conform to its definition of a woman. It seeks to control me by questioning the things I do and stripping away my confidence.
Now, imagine battling that troll every day and its ignorant cousin, who are both following you around wherever you go! Well, women with a visual impairment must deal with gender bias as well as the many common misconceptions about their disability. I was fortunate enough to meet up with Georgina Bullen, GB Goalball Paralympian, this week with an aim to gaining a deeper understanding about the white cane. I wanted to know how it helps her navigate the streets of London, what downsides does it have - to figuratively walk in her shoes (as best as I could for a fully sighted person). During our walk, I learnt a lot of valuable information about the white cane but I also discovered how amazing and inspirational Georgie is as a person.
Over coffee we chatted about her experiences and she revealed some of the ways that people unleash their inner troll. How in rush hour people are in such a hurry they kick the white cane away, or the time she was called a liar because her eyes look too ‘normal’ to be blind. One thing I was particularly keen to understand was how she copes with crossing an uncontrolled road (a road without a pelican crossing) and the answer surprised me, 'I use my ears and when I think it's clear enough I just walk out into the road,' which is something I’m not sure I would have the courage to do. While it saddened me to hear Georgie's stories and how many risks she encounters just walking down the street, I found her attitude inspiring.
Georgie takes her life in her hands every single day because the alternative is to sit at home and give up. I think there's a lesson in there for us all, women and men alike - free yourself from the trolls and take control of your own life.
Director & Founder of Team Insight Ltd | GB Paralympian | Speaker | Consultant
Georgie founded and successfully runs her own award winning business delivering unique Corporate Team Building events using the thrilling Paralympic sport of Goalball, as well as other innovative blindfolded activities. As a Goalball Paralympian, Georgie was on the winning team at the 2009 European Championships, joined the GB Goalball team on the starting line-up at the 2012 Paralympics in London and despite having no funding gained the position of 'official reserves', at the 2016 Paralympics. The GB Goalball team are now in the process of qualifying for Tokyo 2020. In between her business and goalball practice, Georgie is also a Young Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and a member of the Accessibility Advisory Panel for Great Northern Rail. It’s no surprise that Georgie’s inspiring approach to life has so far gained her three honours:
Rising Star Award - Entrepreneur
Georgina Bullen was named as a winner of a We Are the City 'Rising Star Awards' in the 'Entrepreneur' category.
The Prince’s Trust ‘Celebrates Success’ Enterprise Awared (East of England)
Georgina Bullen was awarded the Prince's Trust East of England Enterprise Award for overcoming the barriers that my disability causes and managing to start a successful business.
Red Magazine and Clinique’s ‘Smart Woman of the Year’ 2015.