I’m lucky enough to be the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) here at Orange Sky.  I am incredibly passionate about supporting women in their careers and navigating the obstacles that will inevitably be thrown their ways – ranging from gender bias through to Mums returning to the workplace and learning how to balance family and work; all experiences I’ve had in my career.

We are moving to a very exciting time in history where the world now ‘expects’ equity, diversity and inclusion. The world notices its absence and celebrates its presence.

It’s Inclusion Month here at Orange Sky, which encompasses many things; diversity of race, gender, ethnicity, religion and ability. This week, in line with International Women’s Day (IWD), we’re focusing specifically on gender. The the theme for IWD 2021 is #ChoosetoChallenge, which is about creating a more inclusive world by celebrating women’s achievements and calling out gender inequality.

As a society, we’ve got a long way to go to in addressing inequality on a number of levels. Here in Australia:

– There’s a gender pay gap of 13.4%;
– Of the 25 CEOs who were appointed to ASX200 companies in 2020, only one was a woman; and
– 90% of all board members are of Anglo Saxon descent.

There’s a strong case for change, and a big part of creating this wave of change is through sharing knowledge, celebrating success and lifting others up.

As part of our #IWD2021 event at Orange Sky HQ, we were lucky enough to hear from four amazing women who are doing incredible things in their own different ways. It was an empowering conversation covering how they’ve chosen to challenge gender norms in their work and personal lives, career obstacles and the role of both female and male mentors in their lives.

We asked each of them why it’s important to celebrate women, and here’s what they had to say…

Lyndi Hawkings-Guy | Senior Lawyer, Legal Aid QLD

“When I thought about this question, I always go straight to the gender equality timeline and all the amazing achievements like voting rights and reproductive freedom – there’s just so much in there. And I thought, that’s why we have to celebrate, because men still have such immense power and social capital in our society that we have to claw back all of those rights that men take for granted. That’s why I think it’s so important to celebrate every year what we’ve achieved.”

Kym Rae | Associate Professor & Mater Foundation Researcher

“As part of our research work, we had a donor come to us a few years back. She said ‘I really want to understand what happens between women when they get into motherhood; do they stop learning or do they choose engage back in learning again? I’d really like to understand this for Indigenous women who often have families earlier in life or are living in remote Indigenous communities. Is there a point in a woman’s life where they can pick up education again?’

We did this work in a number of communities across NSW, and it was absolutely incredible to listen to these beautiful Indigenous women of all ages, from 16 right through to Elders in the community, and hear the deep tragedies that their communities had suffered over the years. To hear kids in high school say ‘well there are no Aboriginal role models. In my town, there’s nobody who has a job that I would want or is a boss. Why would would I go to university? It’s not going to change anything. I still want to stay or come back on country, and there’s no jobs here for someone like me.’

These women had no career aspirations, because they had never seen it in their communities. And so I think for us as women, we need to be celebrating women every single day – one, for the privilege that we have had to be educated, but also to be role models for the women who haven’t had that privilege.”

Peta Irvine | CEO, Local Government Managers Australia

“We are all so busy. We’re doing a million things, and we don’t actually stop and say ‘hey wow, I’ve just moved on from whatever this is’ – it might be a task, it might be a job, it might be a life stage – and say, ‘I’ve done this, congratulations, and pat myself on the back.’ We just move on to the next thing, and I think women are probably more guilty of this than men. So that celebration is a reflection point and a gratitude point, and a pat on the back for yourself that we actually sometimes need.”

Chenoa Master | Diamond Spirit and Inclusion Lead at Netball QLD

“It comes down to the belief that, ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women feel that they have to choose between having culture at home on country, or going out alone to chase a career. Similarly, women in the workplace feel a pull between having a family and pursuing their careers. We shouldn’t have to choose; we should be championing womens’ successes to build them up.

My manager and I spoke recently about the late Sir Ken Robinson and a video that came out to honour him; it speaks about your ‘what if’.

What if the world was perfect?

What if we lived in a world that was free from bias and we all felt like we belonged?

Imagine if we celebrated women, how many more women would we have in careers, workplaces and positions of influence to share knowledge – what would our society look like?”

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