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This International Women’s Day, aware_ sat down with founder of the For Women Only Network, Nicole Adler, to learn what being a woman means to her, and her motivation behind starting the platform.  

Throughout her younger years as a journalist writing for fashion publications and daily newspapers, Austrian-born Nicole Adler sensed that something didn’t feel quite right. Whilst interviewing the British designer and activist Vivienne Westwood, Adler’s earliest inspiration, she saw the strength and voice of a woman defying the problematic structures of society. In other conversations, Adler would feel patronised, objectified, dismissed. With age, Adler began to explore these problematic discrepancies engrained within our “supposedly progressive” culture. After gaining a wealth of experience, both as a woman in the wider creative industry and in the upper echelons of Viennese society, Adler vowed to make a change.

Her solution? Founding the For Women Only Network over ten years ago. The movement began as a city guide for women and has since grown to become a safe space of discourse for women of all generations, from all different fields, to share their life experiences. Adler hosts talks, workshops and exhibitions in her beautiful Viennese apartment, facilitating interdisciplinary discussions to empower women of all disciplines.

International Women's Day
Photography by Paul Pibernig

aware_: This International Women’s Day, what gets you up in the morning?

Adler: Many things – but first my morning meditation and coffee! Aside from the obvious, I still have so many things I want to implement and initiate and change and also still learn. It seems to me that only now, at this age, I’m really in my full power. Next to this, I want to further expand my For Women Only network, work on cooperations in the field of female leadership, mentoring, young art, but also violence against women and and and…

 

aware_: What was your motivation behind establishing the platform?

Adler: Ten years ago I realised that the world operates under a completely patriarchal system. I realised that both in my private and professional spheres, in which often financial deals would be discussed and concluded, the men were always leading the conversation. I found that only women who were either very political or spoke in a very fact-oriented way would be taken seriously. More often than not the women would be sent to sit in the corner, Chanel bag in hand, to sip on coffee whilst the men talk. 

What was most “disturbing” was that this wasn’t just happening amongst the older generation but also amongst the younger generations. That’s when I realised I had to make a change when these blatant acts of sexism weren’t just happening between the old white men. 

My practical solution to solve these deeply problematic issues was to found this platform, For Women Only Network, to put women on a level playing field. 

International Women's Day
Image courtesy of the For Women Only Network

aware_: In light of International Women’s Day, what does it mean to you to be a woman?

Adler: I think being a woman is different at every stage of your life. It’s interesting, the older I become the more I think about what it means to be a woman, I am becoming truly aware of what it symbolises. As a young woman I allowed myself to be exploited so many times, I lost the meaning of what it meant to be female, now I don’t allow myself to be used, but it took a long time for me to understand that. Being a woman now is very different to when I was young, although I had a very feminist mother, the times were different back then. A valuable lesson I learned, particularly through having my daughter, is that each woman has to learn what it means to be female in their own time, I think that’s a very powerful thing. 

 

aware_: Tell us about some of the creatives and artists you have featured on the For Women Only Network who particularly resonated with you… why did their work impress you so much?

Adler: Artist Sofia Süßmilch made a lasting impression on me, with her work and also her activism. Sofia currently lives in Berlin, we had Salon with her in 2019!

Anouk Lamm Anouk is also fascinating to me in terms of her work. She describes herself as no age, no gender, she has positioned herself as a really interesting artist.

The harpist Elisabeth Plank who elicits incredible sounds from her harp is a fascinating soloist.

The photographer Masha Stanic, alias Mafiamashi, you should definitely check it out! She has photographed Lars Eidinger, amongst others. 

Such a rich variety of talent with a lot of potential to celebrate this International Women’s Day.

International Women's Day
Image Courtesy of the For Women Only Network

aware_: What are your dreams for the future of International Women’s Day, and every other day in the year…

Adler: World domination, now that would be a typically male answer! First and foremen I want to be a strong voice and yes, the patriarchy is a thorn in my side and outdated, that’s why there is still so much to do. Whether it comes in the form of creativity, activism or discourse, let’s get started.

 

Check out what the For Women Only Network are doing this International Women’s Day via their Instagram.

– By Eliza Edwards