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Change is Needed

IWD is a chance to celebrate how far women have come to gain equal rights to men and acknowledge how far we still have to go. While across the world we have seen advances, there is still no country that has achieved gender equality.

Fifty years ago, we landed on the moon; in the last decade, we discovered new human ancestors and recently people saw what a black hole looks like. In the meantime, for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 63 cents, only a third of Australian parliamentarians are women, and one in three women experience gender-based violence.

Women tend to earn less, have fewer savings, are more likely to be burdened with unpaid care and domestic work, and they make up the majority of single parent households. Sadly, the economic impact of COVID has impacted women harder then men and now threatens to widen the existing economic gap between men and women – Covid has seen women more likely than men to lose their jobs, more likely to do a lot more unpaid work, and less likely to get government support.

Dramatic change and gender equality can only occur through female empowerment, and this starts with enabling women to have equal and fair access to leadership.

  • A woman has never led the United Nations or the World Bank. No woman has ever held the office of President of the USA, France, Nigeria, Mexico or Japan.
  • Women account for less than a quarter of all management positions, globally.
  • Out of the 234 companies that own 2000 of the world’s most popular brands, only 14 have a female CEO and 9 of them have no female representation on their board at all.
The effects are real

Due to an underrepresentation of women leaders in Engineering, the crash-test dummies that are used to inform the design of vehicle safety features are man sized and man shaped. As a result, the equipment meant to protect works less well for women and we are 17 per cent more likely to die in an automobile accident.

Due to the underrepresentation of women leaders in Science and Business, pharmaceutical trials do not include equal testing on women to men. The reason given for this is money – because it is more expensive to control hormonal variations associated with the menstrual cycle.

Women in leadership are underrepresented in education. Yes, teaching has traditionally attracted more women to the field and 68% of teachers in Secondary schools are women, yet women only occupy just over 40% of all leadership roles. In the university sector, only 27% of university professors are women.

Scarcity of women in leadership positions is not our fault, but it is our problem

Every single one of us here is a leader; for our families, our community, our students; we are role models for future generations. So what can we do? Here are 3 ways that we can affect change.

1. Commit to educating ourselves and our community about gender stereotypes and gender bias. All behaviour is simply human behaviour, yet society has attributed qualities to women and others to men. This perpetuates a stereotype where women are expected to conform and uphold particular behaviours – women are expected to be accommodating, polite, and nurturing, whereas men are expected to be aggressive, strong or bold. These behaviours prevent women from speaking up, prevent us from putting ourselves first before others and prevent us taking risks. They also ensure that women are judged more harshly in their job when they do not conform to them.

We need to stop perpetuating gender stereotypes in our curriculum, too. There is more variance in a group of boys then there is between girls and boys. When we choose activities or texts just because our students are boys, we are perpetuating the stereotype.

2. We need to speak up and challenge where we see inequity. Like all complex problems, we need to talk openly about it as the first step to resolution. We need to point out negative stereotypes when we are aware of them – with other staff, with students, when we see it in the media, where we see it in our own school. Let’s speak up where we see male dominated teams and areas of the school. Let’s challenge the male leaders here at ATC to mentor women, too.

3. Let’s commit to women supporting women. If we want more women in leadership, then we need to be each other’s allies and advocates. We are particularly challenged in our work context, working in a male dominated space with a majority of male leaders. Let’s commit to mentoring and supporting each other and celebrating each other’s success.

We need to commit to supporting women in leadership roles both at school and in other areas, too. When women don’t conform to the expectation of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’, she is often labelled as difficult. We need to stop holding each other accountable to society’s expectation of women and instead champion each other.

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.

So let’s all #ChooseToChallenge

Lara Morgan, Dean of Learning