I have been told many a time how apologetic I am, particularly when asking questions or approaching someone new. Mentioning this to our initial group of 7 prompted a slew of similar experiences from women in the circle, see some below:

- As soon as women become assertive, they are quickly referred to as "Bossy" or "Feisty". This directive manner is not celebrated in women, it's not very "ladylike".

- Women, when asked about a commendable achievement, tend to credit their "luck" rather than any hard work they have put into it

- This attitude can stem from as early as childhood; boys are told to be daring and not be afraid, whereas girls are encouraged to be perfect. Boys buy trainers as school shoes; girls buy pretty, shiny sensible shoes. Girls who are sporty and daring get labelled as "tomboys", which immediately adds a masculine connotation.

- Masculine language for how women should be - more "ballsy" if we are timid. They may as well be saying "man up".

- Adding caveats before we even start our question: "This might be a really stupid question, but..."

I was thrilled to see that, by this point, a huge circle had gathered. A total of 27 women and 10 wonderful men joined in our conversation; it was heartening to see so many people recognize and start discussions to combat this issue.

- Analyzing the Stage 100: Women are 5x more likely to be included in conjunction with a man's name (an add on). Overall, there is a fair distribution of men/women, but women, on their own, are hugely skewed towards the bottom.

- Approx 24% of the higher up organisations are run by women.

- As you go higher up the NPO funding list, the less women appear as leadership roles (are they not trusted to manage these big budgets?)

- Women make themselves smaller in order to not seem conceited.

- Women tend to be discounted quicker in interview/competitive situations, even if there are women on the panel. There is an unconscious bias, its easier for women not to meet expectations?

- Men's emails tend to be much shorter and more direct than women's (as we are skirting around the questions and instructions as to seem "polite").

- Not to discredit the incredible male Artistic Directors there are working in the industry today, but there is a shocking amount of Male Artistic Director to a Female Executive Director relationships in theatre organisations. Why are women predominantly on the administrative side, when this industry is generally dominated by female creatives?

COPING MECHANISMS: We gathered a collection of tips and resources that some of the women in the group use as guides in an attempt to combat these preconceptions.

- Stop saying "just" in emails: "I was just wondering if you could...". We are apologizing before we even ask the question.
- Terminology such as "I feel like I am...", "I think I can...", "I helped to..". Take notice of this lack of self-confidence in our abilities.
- BOOKS: "Not Just Lucky" by Jamila Rizvi. "All Change Please" by Lucy Kerbel.
- When selling yourself, think: How would an American alpha-male business man with my CV sell himself?
- Power poses: five minutes in the mirror before an interview (particularly the Matilda pose). TED TALK: Body Language by Amy Cuddy.
- Call your fellow women out, they WILL appreciate it. "This might be a stupid question" / "I'm so sorry to disturb/bother you" (Note to self: you are not disturbing them if they are standing by themselves...)
- FACEBOOK GROUPS: Bossy. Awesome Women.
- PODCASTS: The Guilty Feminist. Hoodrats to Headwraps.
- WORKSHOPS: Big Speeches (hosted by the team from Guilty Feminist)
- Easy read: Maxmising the number of words you can use per sentence in an email. Encourages you to be more direct
- Imagine you are your own agent.

The Principles of "Awesome Women" (FB group) - I couldn't write fast enough to get them all, but they are on the Facebook group.
1. Amplification - work together to amplify female voices and ensure they are heard
2. Name checking other women in spheres of influence
3. Break the cycle of men hired on POTENTIAL and women hired on EXPERIENCE.
4. Engage your allies
5. Regular contact
6. We are Family.

Rightly said by a male member of our group, books on the topic of gender issues are not tailored towards that gender. Everyone should be reading them; they are universal issues, and require the help of those across gender identities to combat them.

What Can Be Done?

For a job with a list of requirements, statistics show that women don't apply unless they fit 90% or more of these requirements; men, however, tend to apply if they fit as low as 25% of the description. Can we complain about the lack of female representation in leadership roles if women aren't applying in the first place?

The opportunities aren't necessarily not there; it tends to be that women don't feel like they are worthy of grabbing these opportunities.

Be mentored and mentor.

Are application formats more suited to men? Can we put the above statistic at the bottom of applications to encourage more women to throw their hat in the ring?

Just Ask.