International Women's Day: Sarah's Nile expedition

walking to meeting

International Women's Day is on March 8, and this year we are celebrating with a campaign to put some remarkable women we partner with in the spotlight.

We speak to Sarah Davis from North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, who shares the incredible details of paddling the Nile and some key takeaways from her expedition.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club?

Like so many things, it’s the people. Joining North Bondi SLSC made me feel part of the local community and gave me that sense of belonging. It is where most of my friends here in Australia are from (I was born in the UK and moved to Australia in 2003).

In addition, it is the skills I’ve developed and sports I got involved with that really have changed my life. From learning to teach, to gaining qualifications beyond the entry level bronze medallion, taking on leadership roles within the club through to becoming a board member. Many of these skills have been readily transferable to my working life and helped build confidence.  

In sport, I tried sports that I didn’t even know existed before moving to Australia – like board paddling and surf skis. It is the latter that really was life changing. If I hadn’t tried surf skis, I would not have undertaken my Nile expedition.  

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

For me it is a chance to recognise the women out there doing amazing work to support, help and promote equality and women’s rights. To highlight what has been achieved and what we still need to do and how we can all be a part of it. 

How have you overcome any challenges you may have faced? In your career and also when paddling the Nile?

There are many but one of the biggest challenges that has been hard to overcome is self-doubt and realising that sometimes we need to be brave and take the big leap. We have to learn to trust ourselves and our capabilities and let our wings unfold as we leap. But at the same time, to not be afraid of things not working out. 

Heading to Africa to start the expedition down the Nile I was full of self-doubt and was way out of my comfort zone, having never done anything like this. I had to come back to the preparation done, trusting my capabilities and ability to adapt and put my focus elsewhere to ignore the nagging doubt.

It has been similar at work, though there I have generally needed more of a push to take those big leaps. When I have, it has always worked out.

In both work and the Nile, the payoff has been huge because the growth is greater, and the confidence gained is massive. The comfort zone expands, my world becomes a bigger place and challenges that previously may have seemed impossible become achievable. 

If you were speaking with your younger self, what advice would you give her to thrive in the workplace?

 Here are my top five:

  1. Find one or two good mentors, ideally women. They will be an incredibly valuable sounding board for you as you grow your career and give guidance on workplace issues and challenges.
  2. Ask for feedback. Not only will it help you progress and learn what you can do better, the positive feedback will give confidence. Ask for the feedback even before doing something or at a higher level, about your role. This way, you make sure you really understand what is expected of you which can be less than the expectations you place on yourself. For too long I had imposter syndrome and I think by getting the feedback and being clear on what was expected I wouldn’t have felt like that as much. 
  3. Say yes to opportunities that interest you but you’re not sure you’re ready for. You are more capable than you realise and will be able to work it out. Too often women wait until they are overqualified before taking the next step up.
  4. Learn to say no and to delegate. You do not have to do everything, and you will be respected for it. It doesn’t send a message that you are not capable. The ‘no’ can be accompanied by suggestions of who else or how else a task can be done. Delegating is a great leadership skill and will stop you from overloading yourself. 
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Asking for clarity will save you from making mistakes whilst  removing the second guessing and worry. And if you need help with something, that’s ok. People naturally want to help, and you’ll likely end up with a better result.    

What’s the best advice another woman has given you?

One that stands out was at a women’s career resilience course - it was a simple one – to stop apologising. Yes, take responsibility when needed, but too often as women we say sorry when we do not need to, for things out of our control and frequently and/or add a plethora of reasons or unnecessary explanations. We disempower ourselves when we do it. And this isn’t just in the workplace.

What are your top three tips to achieving your goals?

  1. Break it down into small achievable actions so that reaching goal doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
  2. Don’t be put off by setbacks or obstacles. It just means you haven’t found the right way yet. Don’t beat yourself up, instead learn from it and find a way to get you back on the path.
  3. Celebrate successes and milestones on the way. When you’re focused on a big goal that still seems a long way away, recording those success and looking back at what has been achieved helps you see how far you have come and can help motivate you when needed.

Find out more about Sarah's adventure here.