International Women's Day 2020

| 12 Mar 2020

The PVCESE, UNSW Gender Champion, EF academics and the EF team get together to discuss what gender equity and the 2020 IWD theme means for them

 

“While important gains have been made since International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1911, too many women and girls continue to face gender-based discrimination in their private and public lives. International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the progress that has been made, but it is also an important reminder of how far we have yet to travel before gender parity becomes a reality”.

 

-Professor Rorden Wilkinson, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education and Student Experience)

 

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Diversity, intersectionality and gender equity are always high on our agenda, regardless of what day it is. But in light of International Women’s Day, we decided to hold ourselves to account and sat down with the team to talk about what this year’s theme Each for Equal means for each of us.

Conversations about gender equity have been going on for some time now. In that context, what does this year’s theme #EachforEqual mean for you?

Associate Professor Louise Lutze-Mann, Director -  This year’s theme puzzled me at first and then I realised that it says it all – everyone of us is responsible for change, and when we accept that and enact it, change will happen.

Collins Fleischner, Project Manager - I’m not sure about how grammatically sound #EachforEqual is, but I think the theme is trying to encourage us all to consider how we might support equality for women. This is timely, because for too long the labour of theorising, educating and advocating for equality for women has primarily rested with women, and this shouldn’t be the case. Equality should be a concern for all, not only because it is a fundamental human right and a worthy goal on that basis, but also because it makes the world we live in a fairer and kinder place.

Tuhina Pandey, Senior Communications Officer - As a woman of colour and an immigrant, I am intimately aware of the challenges of diversity. When it comes to addressing the gender imbalance, as much as it’s important to talk, it’s even more important to make sure we’re really listening to each other. #EachforEqual essentially boils down to "What action can I take to help forge a more gender equal world?" To me, a gender equal workplace is a workplace without barriers, which elevates and celebrates minority voices, and explores the importance of diversity of styles in leadership.

Dr Joshua Swift, Project Officer - Traditionally, the conversation on gender equity has been focused on ambitious senior leadership targets, including Westpac's failed mandate to have 50% of leadership roles being occupied by women and the Australian Institute of Company Director's successful initiative to have women represent 30% of all ASX200 board members. While these targets do work towards achieving gender equity, they alone are not sufficient to achieve this equity. 

Indeed, recent research has identified that despite these advances, women remained underrepresented at every level of organisations and that the biggest obstacle that women face is much earlier in the pipeline than these leadership roles (the often talked about 'glass ceiling'). This year's theme - Each for Equal - reminds us all that we need to transition our focus to the individual, ensuring that at each level of our great University, we not only allow for but also encourage the success of all staff and students - irrespective of gender - and put in place programs to help each individual succeed with respect to what success means to them.

Jamie-Lee Burgess, Project Officer - For me, #EachforEqual is about living in equality through your thoughts, actions and contributions to everyday tasks. Whether it be at your workplace, in your family home, or at a local sports event, making a great impact towards equality starts with the individual. #EachforEqual is a reminder to reflect on how your actions, which may at times seem very small, have a ripple effect into the wider community.

Dr Iwan Kelaiah, Education Developer - At first, the theme sounds like a broken programming construct; what about forEach((element) => {//be nice here}) instead? Here's my 2 cents; be nice and respectful to others; words and attitudes. Change should begin with the person in the mirror; your neighbour might have a mote in their eye, have you got a beam in yours? 

 

How can we put ‘Each for Equal’ and gender equity into practice?

Associate Professor Louise Lutze-Mann, Director - I wish that we could be ‘gender-blind’ so that the gender of a person is irrelevant. I hate when people say: “Oh, that’s typical of a woman (or a man)”. We are all individuals and nothing about any of is typical, except our uniqueness.

Collins Fleischner, Project Manager - To me, equity is the process of removing the barriers to, and putting in place the support for, achieving equality. So, in our everyday lives, I think it is worth reflecting on the structures (social, economic, political, racial) that prevent equality for girls and women. Once we have a better understanding of these structures, we can consider how we are either contributing to those structures or how we can actively work against them. For example, having worked in the classroom with students as young as four years old, I have seen how our systems (in subtle and overt ways) teach girls to behave a certain way (often – to be quieter, to be more considerate of boys, to take up less space). As an educator, I tried to work against that in my language, and the way I planned my lessons and activities. As an uncle, I make sure that I don’t fall into that norm in our culture of praising my niece’s appearance, but rather, talking with her about her ideas, her achievements, and her aspirations for the future (although she does really enjoy wearing lovely dresses and that’s cool too).

Tuhina Pandey, Senior Communication Officer – Gender equity benefits everyone. And putting it into practice can be as simple as calling out when you witness gender bias or ensuring that gender equity initiatives involve men as active and equal partners. Getting the framing right by treating gender equity as a business issue, not just a women’s issue. And going wide by making visible all key gender equality areas (i.e. paid work, power and decision-making, financial security, physical safety, invisible labour and community involvement).

To solve a problem, we must admit it exists. Similarly, to resolve inequity, we must acknowledge that gender inequalities are built into the systems and structures of our workplaces – formally through policies and decision-making practices, and informally through norms and customs.

Dr Joshua Swift, Project Officer - For me, putting 'Each for Equal' into practice includes a renewed focus on the individual, with managers being empowered to have discussions around gender equity as part of their myCareer conversations with their direct reports and taking an active role in achieving the outcomes of these. Further, all individuals should attend unconscious bias training programs to help prevent the measurable effects that these biases have in the workplace. Lastly, there is a need for us to focus on the recruitment and career progression processes to ensure that we can identify and address any issues which arise, no matter where in the pipeline they may occur.

Jamie-Lee Burgess, Project Officer - Speak up! Often gender inequality takes place on a small scale, sometimes isn’t intentional and often isn’t contested. If you notice it, start a conversation.

Dr Iwan Kelaiah, Education Developer - Do for others what you would want them to do for you.

 

EFs on IWD

This year, we also asked some of our EFs to share their thoughts on IWD 2020 and #EachforEqual. 

I became a Gender Champion at UNSW because I want to work in a place where everyone is included, has equal opportunity and yet their uniqueness is valued. Gender equity should be so much part of the fabric of everyday work life, that we don’t need special days, but statistics tell us otherwise. They show us that both locally and internationally there is still gender inequity.

 

As a Gender Champion, I look at what I can do in this space at UNSW, by bringing attention to the fact that there is still gender inequity and trying to create a cultural shift towards equity. There has been a great shift in the right direction at UNSW, but we are not quite there yet.

 

What I would love EVERYONE to do on IWD is think about what THEY can do in this space. It could be something simple like signing the IWD pledge (http://iwd.unsw.edu.au/) or calling out something where women are not included or represented, or sending a female colleague an idea, contact or opportunity that she may be interested in. It doesn’t have to be big, just something. That is what ‘Each for Equal’ into practice is really about.

 

- Associate Professor Adrienne Torda, UNSW Gender Champion (co-lead) and Associate Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Medicine

 

Everyone needs to play a role in fighting gender inequity. As a cis white man supporting International Women’s Day and feminist campaigns in general, I try to continually reflect on how I might draw attention to injustices when I see it. That might mean declining to be on an all-male panel at a conference or University symposium, ensuring student support or emotional service roles aren’t left to women, or in my Art Theory classes, ensuring that I am providing examples of brilliant women & non-binary artists and creatives.

There’s a long and rich history of activism and creative practice drawing attention to gender inequities across many aspects of society. These histories can inspire us to continue fighting for a better world in which women and girls don’t have to fear violence and prejudice. The stats and stories of women killed by violence in this country should make everyone pay attention and do what they can – we each have a role to play!

 

-Dr Scott East, Lecturer in the Faculty of Art & Design, underscores the importance of male allies

 

Celebrating the thought leadership of our EF women academics

This International Women's Day, we want to celebrate Associate Professor Leanne Piggott (WIL Central Academic Director and Centre for Social Impact Education Director) and Suzanna Mahinder (Lecturer in the Centre for Social Impact ) who were extensively quoted in an article that appeared in the Women in Education supplement in the Weekend Australian. 

 

Quote - Leanne Piggott

 

Scott East - IWD 2020 Sign
Scott East showing up for IWD and the Each for Equal message