On a regular basis, I am interviewing inspiring, strong and entrepreneurial women. This week, I’ve met with Deborah Robinson: Founder and Editor of the famous blog: Australian Women Online, The hub of homegrown inspirational women.
Can you give us a little background on your career to date?
Because I had my first child at 18 I really didn’t become focused on building a career until my mid-thirties when my two sons were teenagers. Up until then, I had a series of odd jobs that I took just to pay the bills and to put myself through university. I worked as a clerical officer in the NSW Public Service for most of that time but I also did stints as an assistant in nursing, a courier, and a factory worker.
I also worked in retail behind the check-out at Kmart and a Woolworths Petrol station. I don’t mind admitting that I hated most of these jobs, but as a single mum, you do whatever you have to so your kids can have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food in their bellies.
Tell us about how your blog came to be
I was 15 when I told my mother I was going to be a writer. Initially, I wanted to write fiction and I even sold a poem to a literary magazine when I was at university. But then I was bitten by the journalism bug at a time when blogging and citizen journalism were just beginning to take off.
I knew I wanted to blog but I didn’t want to write about myself because quite frankly, my life is about as exciting as watching the grass grow. So I decided to write about the lives of others. I was new to journalism and nobody had ever heard of Australian Women Online in 2007, so initially, I only wrote about women in business because they were the only people willing to talk to me.
My first big interview was with Diana Williams, founder of Fernwood Women’s Fitness Centres and it’s a piece I’m very proud of. The Diana Williams piece still gets a lot of hits on the website and a few years ago an academic publisher asked for my permission to publish it in a textbook for business students. Although the website now covers a wide range of topics of interest to women, I still enjoy writing a business success story. I find these so inspiring and so do the readers of Australian Women Online.
Why did you aim your blog at women?
Although I can appreciate the occasional piece of tabloid journalism and celebrity gossip as much as the next person, it has always bugged me how women have been portrayed in the media. Although my blog also informs, it was created to inspire and we are most inspired by those who are like us, so the site is filled with stories about other women.
I found a quote on the Gender News Wire a few years ago that explains best why I do what I do: “Half the world’s population, but not with half the share of wealth, wellbeing and opportunity. And certainly, women do not get half of media attention, or an equal voice in expression – only 22 per cent of the voices you hear and read in the news today are women’s.”
Have you met any technology problems when you were creating your business?
No. I am a self-taught techie. I built my first website in 2002 and this was back in the days before blogging platforms such as WordPress existed and it took a lot of time and effort to build and maintain a website using only HTML. In 2011 I did some consulting work for the ANZ Bank Small Business Hub when they were re-designing their website. So I am pretty confident that I’d be able to resolve any technical issues relating to running an online business.
Would you call yourself a techno-savvy woman? and why?
In addition to working on the ANZ Bank Small Business Hub website, I created a Facebook page with apps for a Drambui Signature Serve promo. Working with my son Aaron who is a digital artist, I built a couple of websites and Facebook pages including ‘Granny Rescue’. It was a nice little side business but it got to the stage where the demands on my time as a website designer were taking me away from my primary business, Australian Women Online, so I decided to stop accepting assignments.
Australian Women Online is and always has been, my first priority. I started using computers as a 17-year-old clerical trainee in early 1987 when most offices were still using electronic typewriters. Although Gen Y is considered to be the first tech-savvy generation, Gen Xers like me were there when the technology we take for granted today was still in its infancy and I think that’s pretty cool! The dawning of the information age was an exciting time to be alive and those of us who were young at the time embraced it wholeheartedly.
Name 3 apps that you can’t live without.
1. Internet Banking
2. Google Maps (sure beats the old printed street directory)
3. Kobo Reader
How do you think technology is going to change women’s lives?
That’s a difficult question to answer. What makes technology so exciting is that it provides us with a sense of wonderment: “What will they come up with next?” That said, I think we are becoming over-dependent on apps. Do we really need an app to ask our friends for their opinions about every aspect of our daily lives? This app obsession is getting out of hand people!
Thank you Deborah for taking the time to answer Women Love Tech questions.
For more information, view the Australian Women Online website.