This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #choosetochallenge. From the moment I first heard this, I started to think about the ways I could challenge the bias we as women have faced for centuries.
I thought maybe I should start a movement? Maybe help volunteer more or celebrate my friend’s achievements as women to celebrate what’s right in front of me. I then realised that I’d moved to Australia from Canada and although I’d been involved in charity organisations to help understand women in Canada, I’d never educated myself on what it was women here in Australia struggled with. I quickly signed up to volunteer with the UN Women Australia for IWD. My intention was to understand how women choose to challenge the bias faced in a different country. I had no idea that the lesson I’d learn would completely change how I thought each woman could help move the needle for the rest.
On the day of volunteering, I knew I’d be listening to Grace Tame – a woman who was rightfully recognised for making her voice heard regarding sexual abuse from her teacher as a teenager. I thought I’d hear Grace speak on her experience and listen to how she was changing the legal system in Tasmania which had silenced her from speaking up about her traumatic experience. On one hand, I got exactly what I expected but on the other hand, Grace’s speech taught me our stories as women are the building bricks we lay to pave the path for the women who come after us.
I realised that when women speak our truth and use our experiences to teach others, we are choosing to challenge the bias and every unjust box we’ve been placed in. We open the floor for more women to be at the table negotiating for the changes we need to progress so that we have more than 14.1% of women on the board of companies or 30.4% of women in government bodies. Every voice that speaks is a small drop in a large ocean that collectively feeds a wealth of talent and knowledge our community needs to break ideas of what women can and cannot do.
I left the event of 1200 people with one simple lesson: Your voice is the movement! It’s our narrative to tell, to challenge, and to celebrate. You don’t necessarily need a movement to feel the effects of change – listening with open ears to our women and giving them the tools they need to continue building can be just as powerful. I strongly believe this isn’t a job just for women. I think our stories paint the picture but the men who are a part of lives play a role in helping create an inclusive environment.
The workplace is a starting point for this inclusivity and women should be represented in all aspects of the business. It’s understandable if not all workplaces are at the level of inclusion we hope for but that in itself shows us how promotions, education and encouragement are all needed to get to where we want to.
I personally feel empowered to continue growing in my career but the key to my success has always been voicing my opinion, a team who cared enough to listen and the continuous mentoring I receive from both men and women. I know we have a long way to go but if we continue to vocalise with the support of our community, we will all be so much closer to closing the gap between gender inequality.