International Women’s Day marks the progress made, and the progress yet to be made. We sat down with our valued female partners to discuss what the day means to them.
International Women’s Day (IWD) this Sunday, March 8 calls for action to accelerate gender parity. It is also the day that globally celebrates the economic, political, social and cultural achievements of women.
It’s about unity, reflection, celebration, advocacy, and action. While the values that guide the IWD ethos may have evolved, they are still deeply rooted in the fight that began in the 1900s with the almighty Suffragette movement, and so they continue.
This year’s theme: An Equal World Is An Enabled World.
On the eve of IWD, The Big Smoke spoke to some of our female partners about the challenges, progress, their personal experiences in business and the workspace, and their contributions and considerations in supporting the values of IWD.
Josephine Otimi – Founder, Evolve MGMT Co
Josephine Otimi is a seasoned change specialist with executive and strategic experience in the creation and implementation of digital futures.
Her professional expertise lies in both long-range business planning and change management globally across multiple industries. So she knows a thing or two about evolution.
When we asked her whether striving for gender equality has affected men or women more, she was emphatic. “I don’t think it’s more or less; I think it’s different. I work in STEM, and gender equality is such a big topic, particularly as individuals develop in their career and job opportunities become less. We haven’t prepared men for the ramifications of dealing with gender equality. We’ve got a lot to overcome. Sexism is rampant in organisations everywhere and there’s a lot of work we still need to do.”
“Within the discipline that I work, organisational change” she goes on to say, “can often be dominated by women. Across my team, we have open and transparent discussions with everyone no matter what their role is and how they contribute to the organisation as a whole. Gender is not a factor.”
So how does Josephine feel about gender quotas? “Awful!” If quotas are imposed, then how will a candidate ever feel confident that they are the best person for the role? She goes on, “A quota needs to be met, let’s hire a woman.” Women don’t like being given a role to fill a quota, we like getting a role because we’re good at it!
Mellissa Larkin – Founder and MD, Peripheral Blue
Mellissa spent decades building a successful career in top-tier firms both in Australia and overseas before founding Peripheral Blue in 2016.
Her mission was to disrupt the legal and professional services industry by providing clients with access to top-tier service in a flexible and affordable way.
She believes that it’s vital that she champions and empowers all her team – especially women – by making their working environment as positive and flexible as it needs to be for them to get their jobs done, enabling them in turn, to give back to their clients and their industry. “If something isn’t working, women and of course, men too should be supported to make the changes necessary to create the life they want while still having a rewarding and impactful career,” she says.
The company offers a holistic legal and consulting solution, and diversity is a major consideration when hiring for her team. “Different perspectives fuel our collaborative work culture, enabling us to meet our goals,” she explains. “It’s EQ and not IQ that is what is needed in law,” she says, “and that vision marks the cornerstone of Peripheral Blue’s success. At the end of the day, it’s the human connection that makes the difference.”
Mellissa believes that gender equality has had an equal effect for both women and men in the workspace, but in a positive way. “The more diversity you have around the boardroom table the more opportunities you have to engage with varied perspectives and to find innovative solutions. It fosters a culture where staff and clients alike feel equally valued.”
Rose Fabro – Tax Partner, Vital Addition
Rose, a recent addition to the Vital Addition team, says she feels confident that her career progress has been a result of skills in the still fairly male-dominated finance industry.
Her workspace under the leadership of forward-thinking CEO, Lachlan Grant, is contemporary and equitable.
When asked if the gender equality movement had given her a platform to speak up and move up she states, “Not really. My progression has been based on ability and performance, not my gender. Having the right people around me, providing support and encouragement, has given me the confidence to speak up.”
While the support mechanisms are there, Rose believes that action speaks louder than words.
“There’s no denying that strategies and policies by employers to ensure women are valued equally mean very little unless they are implemented,” she goes on to say.
“Being a woman in business and a mother, I have found that flexibility in thinking, and support, have brought the greatest benefits, to both the business and for me personally.”
Romney Stanton – Director, Darlo Drama
Romney is a dynamic young leader; an actor, yoga teacher and Director at Darlo Drama. She believes that there are more important factors for hiring within their company than gender. “We hire based on meeting a potential staff member, gauging their personality, and assessing their skill set.”
While gender equality has not directly affected her movement through her career, she admits she’s seen inequality in action. “I still see and experience women being treated differently from how a man would, and it is certainly not on an equal playing field by any stretch. Some men still think and act like they have the upper hand at times.”
Discussions of a gender equality quota are unrealistic and fundamentally matter of fact to Romney, who maintains that “we shouldn’t need to have quotas in this day and age. Equality should just be a given. It’s frustrating to think that we live and work in a time where this is even a thing that needs to be put in place. Women should be recognised every single day.”
On International Women’s Day, she says that “a day to mark this is fantastic but, if you appreciate someone or value what they contribute then that should be celebrated all the time, not just on a single day marked in the diary.”
Nicky Cadry – Director, BuyEast
Nicky is half of the husband and wife Director team that founded BuyEast, and believes that gender equality is vital to the culture of their team and the success of their business.
“We have always known the importance of having a good balance of men and women on our team,” she says. ”We strive to have roughly an equal number of women and men.”
“In our industry, we are generally dealing with couples and find that having both men and women on the team can help with understanding our client’s situation and having better insights into family lives.”
Nicky held senior management positions in the marketing and business space before she and Mark founded BuyEast, so she’s well versed in the wider field of male-dominated businesses.
While she doesn’t advocate for quotas of women in workplaces, she does subscribe to the benefits of more women in business, especially in senior positions, declaring that “more companies would benefit from having more women on the boards and as directors.
Women bring a different point of view, a different way of working and considering we are 50% of the population, we are a huge market that should be considered.”
Reflecting on our conversations with the women we interviewed for this piece, it’s evident that there are very mixed reflections on gender equality in the workplace, no matter which industry you’re in. The common theme is that while things are improving, there is still much work to be done.
Mellissa Larkin summed up the importance of March 8, declaring that “It is a day to reflect on the progress we have made in becoming a more equal and inclusive society, while acknowledging and committing to the work that needs to be continued to support it.”
#eachforequal | #IWD2020