How Does Workplace Diversity Impact Mental Health?

Our first international guest post from Dr. Arturo Osorio. Dr. Arturo Osorio is a licensed physician practicing in Nicaragua. Dr. Osorio went to Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (León), where he got Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery Degree. He has been practicing medicine in public hospital and private clinics since 2018.

Workplace diversity is generally understood to mean having a workforce that has a wide mix of employees of different races, religious faiths, sexual orientations, and genders. But true diversity also has to include perspectives, viewpoints, and cultural backgrounds. Creating and managing a diverse workforce can be challenging, but the pursuit of diversity balanced by merit can pay great dividends to an organization’s productivity and the mental health of its employees.

Benefits of Having a Diverse Workforce

Indeed for Employers lists many benefits of having a diverse workforce. According to one study by social scientist Adam Galinsky, employees who have a close friendship with someone from another country tend to score higher on creativity tests. Because diverse employees bring different experiences and backgrounds to the table, they make better decisions.

Indeed indicates that 55 percent of people looking for work believe that diversity and inclusion at a company are extremely important. Companies that value gender diversity is 15% more productive than those that don’t and 17% percent of people who are looking for a job report these qualities are factors that create feelings of connection during the interviewing process. All in all, we can assure:

  • Diversity in the workplace enhances employee loyalty and retention, cutting down on turnover because of enhanced employee engagement.
  • Diversity and inclusion in the workplace enhance a company’s reputation. 

Diversity in the Workplace and Mental Health

The Harvard Business Review highlights diversity, inclusion, and mental health in the workplace. Workplaces that promote diversity and inclusion have noted a decrease in stress and employee burnout. Overall, though, studies have noted an increase in employee attrition, especially among younger employees. Members of racially unrepresented groups as well as LGBT people are more likely to report mental health issues. Left untreated, mental health disorders can result in substance use disorder or other adverse effects. 

Cultureplus consulting suggests that a diverse, inclusive workplace enhances the well-being of employees, especially those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Employees in a diverse, inclusive workplace are twice as likely to have career development opportunities and ten times as likely to perform effectively than those in workplaces that do not value such qualities.

Creating A Culturally Diverse Workplace

Some people think of workplace diversity as creating several slots and looking for people of appropriate identities to fill them. But a hiring manager has to overcome inherent and often unrecognized biases in making hiring decisions that balance diversity and merit. A recent article in Commonwealth suggests many techniques, including reading resumes that have names and other identifying information blacked out and performing a written interview rather than an in-person verbal one. The article also suggests expanding a candidate search beyond one’s usual networks to places like culturally-based professional groups and traditionally black universities. These tactics all ensure a wider net is cast and candidates who may traditionally not be considered have an equal chance at the job.

Managing a Diverse Workforce

One of the most important parts of managing a diverse workforce is accommodating a variety of needs. A manager will have to consider the norms of other cultures when making decisions. Small Business Chronicle presents some examples of some of those problems.

Muslims may need halal options, and Orthodox Jewish may require kosher alternatives in cafeteria menus. And employees from certain cultures may find it normal to arrive late to work or decline to shake hands at meetings. Being aware of cultural norms makes it easier to accommodate the needs of your employees.

But before you accommodate an employee, you have to learn about them. Don’t stereotype people based on their country of origin or religion. Some may define themselves as Jewish, but not keep kosher. Instead, ask them questions about their needs and go from there.

The next step is to accept feedback from employees after you’ve made a change. If you aren’t open to criticism, you’ll continue to make faux pas that could alienate your diverse team. One of the purposes of having a diverse workforce is to bring in a wide variety of perspectives. But those perspectives won’t benefit you if you don’t listen to them. 

Regard for reducing workplace stress, and in turn, also decreases stereotyping and prejudice among employees. Workplace stress can lead to a loss of self-esteem, which leads to bias as a defense mechanism. Thus, not only does diversity and inclusion decrease workplace stress, but decreasing workplace stress promotes diversity and inclusion, in effect, a virtuous circle.

The key to promoting mental health in the workplace is a culture of inclusiveness and communication. When employees perceive that management cares about their well-being, no matter what their cultural background happens to be, they tend to be more productive and less likely to suffer from stress and burnout. Diversity, inclusion, and attention to employees’ mental health turn out to be a win/win all around.

Sources – Workforce Diversity: A Key to Improve Productivity – 5 Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace – “Going Out” of the Box: Close Intercultural Friendships and Romantic Relationships Spark Creativity, Workplace Innovation, and Entrepreneurship – It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work – Non-Faith-Based Addiction Rehab – How Does Employee Well-Being Link to Diversity and Inclusion – Building a True Meritocracy: The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion – How to Manage Diversity in a Workplace


VIEWS: CEO of CBM Australia on disability inclusion in the pandemic recovery

One of the wonderful things about my role as CEO at CBM Australia is that every day is different! I focus on raising awareness of the needs and rights of people with disabilities in the poorest communities, who are amongst the most marginalised in our world. Engaging CBM supporters, the wider community, parliamentarians, government, and business in the fight to end the cycle of poverty and disability means sharing the powerful stories of real people and the positive change that is possible when we work together.

I also love providing leadership that unlocks potential and seek to enable our staff and volunteers who are so committed to our mission.

Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our work at CBM Australia. People with disabilities are often invisible and as a result, routinely excluded from health, education, livelihood opportunities and the chance to fully participate in their communities.  Poverty and disability go hand in hand, creating a cycle of inequality, isolation and exclusion that leads to the most extreme forms of poverty.

CBM’s disability advocacy approach amplifies the voices of those we seek to serve. It brings the voices of people with disabilities to strengthen the systems that support them. This means that people with disabilities and their organisations inform our work about their own needs and the best ways to enable access to education, health or jobs.  CBM builds the skills of people with disabilities to bring their perspectives when advocating for change. Inclusion in community organisations and government is strengthened by changing attitudes, advising on inclusive practises and policies and ensuring that disability champions are supported.

My experience as a young, female journalist in the 1980s was one of proving I was able to do the job as well as male colleagues. While there were many times in the initial months in my first job I thought about resigning, I stayed focused on telling the story of others and learning my craft which enabled me to grasp a great opportunity 18 months later. That early experience laid the foundation for the feminist leadership approach I bring.

Across the globe, around 93 million to 150 million children live with a disability. These children are less likely to go to school, and are more likely to face stigma and discrimination, but it does not have to be that way.  Working toward full social inclusion means we are all enriched and benefit  benefit from the immense skills, value and potential that these young people hold. 

My message to any youth with disabilities or facing any form of discrimination is to treasure the enormous capacity you have, and to not ever let anyone underestimate you. I’ve seen young people who have defied the most incredible odds in remote parts of places like Ethiopia and the Philippines to be recognised as role models in their communities.    

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If you would like to contribute to our efforts to build a more inclusive world or find out more about what we do – please visit 

Together, we can build a society where all are included.

About the diversity champion:

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VIEW: The Rise and Importance of Ethical Fashion

The below is a guest post from Niccii Kugler, founder of ethical and sustainable online marketplace Nash + Banks.

In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Over 1000 were killed in the destruction, even though workers had been voicing their concerns over the building’s safety for weeks. 

In the years following the Rana Plaza disaster, conditions did improve with the introduction of The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Despite these changes, however, inequality remains rife, with the European Parliament using the term “slave labour” to describe the current working conditions of garment workers in Asia. 

How the fashion industry is interfering with human rights

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is a problematic one. And, although there have been many positive changes throughout the years, environmental issues and human rights abuses are still prevalent. The fact is that the majority of fashion retailers don’t own their manufacturing facilities. Subcontracting is incredibly common, making fashion supply chains a murky and complex labyrinth. Every twist and turn takes these brands further from accountability, and human rights violations are easily hidden from the public’s sight. Did you know:

  • The International Labour Organisation states that of the 260 million children in employment worldwide, 170 million are engaged in child labour, and at least 6 million are in forced labour.
  • In India and Bangladesh, the Fair Wear Foundation reports that at least 60% of garment factory workers experience harassment at work. However, this figure is likely to be underreported because of fear of retaliation.
  • An estimated 27 million people working in the fashion industry suffer work-related diseases or illnesses each year.

The rise of ethical fashion

The advent of COVID-19 forced many of us to reconsider our priorities and think about what mattered most to us, and investing in ethical and sustainable fashion is something that many consumers are embracing.

However, the fact is that the operating practices of clothing manufacturers are shrouded in mystery. If consumers want to find out where their clothing comes from, how it’s made, and the social and environmental impacts of production, we need to spend hours digging into reports and data, poring through statistics and lengthy essays. 

Luckily, there are resources that have done all the hard work for us – researching supply chains and certifications.  With easy access to a plethora of information on the environmental and social implications of fashion, we’re seeing a global cultural shift when it comes to purchasing decisions as millennials and Gen Zs grow their stake of spending power. Ethical, sustainable, minimal waste and slow fashion are gaining momentum, and brands are starting to take note. 

Riding the wave of change

These changes are starting to spill over into the mainstream with The Ethical Trading Initiative’s “Corporate Leadership on Modern Slavery” Report (which polled 61 global sourcing executives with a combined buying power of $100 billion) finding that 82% of companies believe that addressing human rights within their core business model is the most significant strategic indicator of corporate leadership on modern slavery. Meanwhile,  93% of companies highlighted that they have a responsibility not only to do everything in their power to address it but also to ensure that workers most affected are protected from further harm and compensated appropriately.

The fashion and textiles industry has, thus far, been slow to adapt and make the necessary changes to the status quo. But this all changed with the pandemic, which accelerated and magnified problems that already existed in the supply chain. With the advent of COVID-19, supply and demand levels were radically altered, while temporary trade restrictions and shortages highlighted weaknesses in production strategies. Multiple national lockdowns slowed and temporarily halted the flow of raw materials and finished goods. And, of course, numerous organisations suffered staff shortages and losses, which further impacted their operability. 

As global supply chains abruptly and drastically changed in 2020, this mass disruption has accelerated the need for a genuinely systemic transformation towards a more sustainable model. Intentional or not, our existing reality has changed, and it’s paved the path for a new way of doing things. 

About the expert

After the birth of her second child, Niccii Kugler found her awareness of the increasing cost  of overconsumption became really heightened. Frustrated by a sense of helplessness, she  started searching for brands that offered alternatives and discovered an inspiring community  of change-makers, innovators and artisans all dedicated to rewriting our future.  

However, the process of researching and vetting products and brands is time-consuming and when Niccii couldn’t find one  lifestyle platform that offered her what she was looking for she decided to build it herself. 

Curated online marketplace Nash + Banks was officially launched in 2018, providing conscious consumers with an easy way to discover and shop for brands and products that are committed to having a positive impact on people and the planet.

Image description: Niccii Kugler, founder of ethical and sustainable online marketplace Nash + Banks at home in Avalon Beach. Niccii is sitting on a wooden chair at her desk in front of a laptop. She is turning around and looking to the side. She has short, blonde hair and is wearing a sleeveless black outfit. There are photos and framed images on her walls, and a pot plant and guitar on either side of her desk.

VIEW: Merely Being compliant is not a point of difference to be proud of in the disability sector

As the disability sector is facing a range of headline-making issues, including a new NDIS Minister and pushback from the industry to proposed changes to the NDIS, this interview outlines experiences and insights from River Night, CEO and founder of Australian Communities, about how he is using his passions, lived experience of disability, and skills to drive change in the disability sector.

  • What currently drives you in your work?

After 24 years working in the disability sector, I’ve seen so many changes and so much worry, innovation, skepticism, new ideas, unclear agency directions but also, great feedback and solutions from people purchasing services and service providers. I go to work each day because I see a chance and opportunity to provide leadership and a platform for people to be heard and to be the voice of the sector for people who don’t have one.

I want to support and create ways to shape how Australia can get things right for its disability community. I am driven because I can see the opportunity to bring together thousands of service providers, people living with disability and diversity from all over the country. Creating a way for us all to establish events and have think tanks that can power out multiple solutions to what people see as problems and challenges in our sector.

I also get to do this from the position of a service provider, a person with lived experience of disability myself, a carer of family members with disability and diversity, an advocate and a professional. Therefore, if we can get things right, it affects me directly as well.

If I can facilitate events where, as a sector, we pick 10 key worries and problems direct from the people it affects from each event and produce multiple solutions to take straight back to the Agencies involved then that is a huge benefit to everyone involved and is the main thing that gets me up and out of bed every day.

  • What standards in the disability sector are you working on changing? Why?

I have developed a focus on raising the bar and delivering a more principles-based approach to quality standards. I have found you can have all the standards in the world but unless you are actually committed to them and are doing things for the right reasons, then it just doesn’t hit the mark. Without this we continue to see abuse, neglect and breaches of human rights. The key principles I try to focus on and have turned into a practice framework are Transparency, Commitment, Authenticity, Customer Centered Work, Contemporary Practice and Safety. Regardless of how you go about things I strongly believe if you, your staff and the stakeholders involved bring things back to good common principles, people will make the right decisions based on good foundations.

While privatisation has its pros and cons, I believe we need to treat the people that are accessing services as respected and valued customers with the priority to be to deliver a good service. To do this we need to invest more in professional development and raise standards.

A major standard I would like to focus on is service providers excelling and delivering a good product beyond basics. I have seen for too many years a sector where the point of difference between service providers is that they are compliant with legislation and standards as opposed to their competitor that is not. Being compliant with basic legislation or regulated standards is not a point of difference to be proud of. Compliance is a basic, expected first step. That is why I want to focus on raising the bar to deliver a disability community services sector we can all be proud of by really professionalising the sector and the way we work.

  • What are the impacts on our society as a whole when standards in the disability sector are improved?

I am a strong believer that people provide a lot of insight into themselves based on how a community or individual respond to diversity and the treatment of people that need support.

If a person is insecure, uncomfortable, judgmental, and lacking in respect for themselves and others, then their treatment of other people will be very much impacted. The treatment and value of people and the way we deliver support to them through the disability sector tells us a lot about ourselves. I have had no surprises from the horrific stories heard through the Royal Commission as I know these things happen and they continue to happen. Just like many people often have not had contact or understanding of the realities of Aged Care until a loved one goes through it, we often avoid recognising and talking about diversity openly and comfortably. It is harder for abuse and neglect to occur and continue when practices are transparent and there is real accountability along with frequent checks. As a culture it is essential for us to value and put focus on how we respond to disability.

  • What are your views on how the NDIS is currently designed?

There appears to be a disconnect from how it is designed and how it appears to be designed. At a broad level, individualised allocation of funding has been great for many people being able to have some choice and control over who they purchase services from.

After many years, I see many operational matters that could easily be fixed to help providers streamline common things like payment claims and portal features. Simple things that if in a private company, would simply be fixed by way of an IT team. Sadly, being a Government Agency, change is slow.

The plan review process is inconsistent with new delegates causing many issues. If a participant gets a good delegate, the process is simple. If they get a different one, even after many, many reports and supporting evidence, delegates seem to make decisions that just don’t fit and we have to go through the time and wasted resources of immediate reviews. A good system and approach would make some of these processes very simple. For example, a person with a significant lifelong physical disability diagnosed since birth, should not be asked to provide evidence that they still have a disability every review period and argue that they still need staff support. A simple review based on the recommendations of their own professionals that know them well is appropriate.

The introduction of independent assessors also adds to an already worrying design creating more inconsistency. It takes time, close professional relationships and case knowledge to assess and make recommendations for an individual. When a person has an Occupational Therapist, Psychiatrist, Speech Therapist and Guardians appointed, amounting to years of case history, it makes no sense introducing a third party without case history or any previous rapport or relationship to over-ride or replace significant professional input and recommendations. On the other hand, for a person that has no professionals or assessments already, an NDIS assessor would potentially be very helpful. This is the logical and individualised approach that the NDIS needs to demonstrate more of.

  • If you were head of NDIS for a day, what’s one thing you would change? Why?

The many systemic issues and problems of the NDIS and related Agencies cannot be fixed in a day but a good culture and some concrete action to demonstrate good faith could be done tomorrow. I would start by stating clearly that the NDIS recognises the challenges and systemic issues that exist, list them and show vulnerability in leadership through open and transparent language. There are huge benefits and opportunities through a National Scheme but also massive difficulties. It is not rocket science and people know that it is hard to ever get things perfect, so establish some regular flows of communication with the sector that are authentic, including talking about mistakes to ensure that people living with Disability are leading this Agency, sitting in the portfolio and making decisions.

I would mandate on my day of leading the agency, that the outcomes and recommendations would then only be considered once they have been reviewed and endorsed by each state and made up of approval bodies consisting only of people living with disability in Australia. This process would also need to be widely advertised and communicated to the community, so it is seen to be done as well as being done. I would mandate that only when each state can come to an agreement by these groups should policy, process and legislation be drafted. This may overstep the boundaries of the head of Agency but it could be a good start and I am not used to limiting my work to fit in a neat box.

About the expert

River Night is the CEO and founder of Australian Communities. With more than 22 years in Disability, Mental Health, Education, Child Safety, Youth Justice, Quality Systems and Forensic Settings in Government and Non-Government Sectors, as well as lived experience of disability, River Night is an expert in raising the bar and helping 24/7 NDIS Funded Participants.

River has spent two decades supporting participants living with disability, mental illness and complex behaviour, and working with participants who require coordination of a variety of stakeholders including Statutory Agencies.

By applying his own experience in disability, mental health, education, youth detention and child safety, River helps others to set and maintain better standards for the disability sector. He also brings expertise in licensing, forensic disability support, government and non-government roles to his position as a consultant and disability services industry leader.

River’s upcoming events:

Image description: Headshot of River from the waist up. River wears a black, collared shirt.

VIEW: If this is our last chance, who is our best hope?

This is a guest post from Teigan Margetts, Co-Founder of Ethicool Books. 

With Sydney engulfed in the worst floods in more than a century, not even 18 months out from when the entire state was suffocated by generation-defining bushfires, it’s not hard to start to draw conclusions. Just as scientists predicted, the effects of climate change are beginning to show. Weather events like we’ve seen are set to become even more common, with storms, floods and droughts plaguing us on a more consistent basis. 

Just how much more can we withstand, and should we have to? 

While an intellectual debate still rages on the causes of climate change, so too does debate ensue on the solution. But one thing is for sure: we’re running out of time. So in what – or more importantly- in whom – should we invest to ensure a better future? 

Time is of the essence 

As popularised in David Attenborough’s game-changing documentary, A Life on Our Planet, the world is, indeed, running out of time to address climate change. As the documentary highlights, life on our planet will become extremely more challenging if we don’t do two things, and fast: reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and find ways to draw down more carbon from our atmosphere. Doing these two things won’t solve climate change, as it has already happened, but it will mitigate its most disastrous effects. 

Fortunately, we do have a solution: many in fact. As the incredible documentary 2040: The Regeneration showed, there are many (currently available) solutions to help the world reach our climate change goals. They may not all be easy to execute, sure, but should we be willing, they’re readily available. 

The ‘should we be willing’ is the part that is the most troublesome. Fighting climate change involves, firstly, believing in it, and secondly, making holistic changes to the way we live, which may involve changing our attitudes on a whole bunch of topics. As famous scientist Gus Speth once said: 

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change.”

“The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation.”

Who will make real and lasting change? 

There’s no doubt that making the changes required to limit the impacts of climate change will be difficult, and we’re running out of time to do just that. So if not us, then who? 

The answer is right in front of us: our children. While it may be difficult for many in our generation to change, if we educate our children on the issues at hand and help them grow up imagining the world differently, then it will be much easier for them to create it in their favour. 

Between the ages of 3 months and 6 years old, children learn the majority of values that they will hold dear to them for the rest of their lives. Values such as caring for the planet, valuing equality and understanding their impact can – and should – be taught from a young age so the next generation can have the best chance of creating a better world.  

About the expert 

Teigan Margetts is the Co-Founder of Ethicool Books. Ethicool creates beautiful children’s books on topics that matter, including climate change, sustainability, equality, mental health, and many more. All of Ethicool’s books are printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink to minimize their environmental impact. 

Teigan founded Ethicool after the 2020 Australian bushfires. She was terrified that burning summers and flooded winters would become the ‘norm’ for her two young sons, and wanted to start important conversations early about the positive impact we can all make to our planet’s future. 

Image description: Headshot of Teigan smiling at the camera. She has long brown hair, wears a light blue top and is in front of a green blurred background.

VIEW: Why Australian Pharma Needs to #ChooseToChallenge this International Women’s Day

The following is a guest post from Elaine Phillips, Business Unit Director – Oncology at BMS Australia.

I’m a girl who was born in the 70s to a very traditional ‘housewife’ family, with a brother who experienced different expectations to myself. Over the course of my 20 year career, my confidence and self-belief has certainly grown. Through finding the right mentors, networking and being open to feedback, my mindset has changed.

While society has certainly progressed and there are more and more opportunities for women each day, I’m adamant there is more to do.

I recently read an article that none of us will see gender parity in our lifetime, and that it’s highly unlikely our children will either1. This statistic really stayed with me.  

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge, and I’m calling on the Australian pharma industry to challenge ourselves through conversation and action.  

We need to strive for more diverse and inclusive working environments that ultimately reflect our diverse customer base, the stakeholders we interact with and our patients.

Stereotypes and barriers are still an obstacle

Ask any woman and I can assure you she will have at least one story of how gender has affected situations in the workplace. 

I remember just four months into my maternity leave, I had a check-in call that left me incredibly overwhelmed at how much had changed already since I’d left. The thought of returning to work and how little I would know made me weak at the knees – my confidence had taken a big hit!

And I’m not alone – The Diversity Council of Australia recently released a report titled ‘In 2020, do we still really need workplace gender equalitywhich highlights that women with children experience a ‘motherhood penalty’. A combination of years not working due to interruptions, part-time employment and unpaid care and work account for 39% of the gender pay gap.2

Women also face significant barriers in trying to enter the STEMM workforce. Despite female academics and researchers making up 43% of the jobs in the science sector, only one fifth of them have senior positions.3 Women are also less likely than men to enter STEMM careers due to stereotypes, non-inclusive workplace cultures and a lack of access to flexible work plans and childcare.

If we want to make wins for our patients, we need diversity

Gender equality in the pharmaceutical industry isn’t just important in driving business performance – it’s integral to the work we output, the medicines we produce and to the patients we care for. From ensuring there is accurate representation in clinical trials to the delivery of new treatments, if we want to make wins for our patients, we need diversity.

So how can Australian pharmaceutical companies rise to the challenge and strive harder for diversity in the workplace? We are all learning and we will make mistakes but having open dialogue is key to making sure that everyone can bring their unique selves to work every day.

In my time at BMS Australia, I can certainly see that diversity and inclusion is a key driver of success.

I have recently taken on a role as an Executive Sponsor of the Bristol Myers Squibb Network of Women (B-NOW), a group which aims to embrace gender diversity in the workplace, celebrate the achievements of BMS women and provide meaningful development opportunities through a range of programs and activities.

One of the standout initiatives we’ve implemented is the Back2Work Buddy Program. This program helps returning parents make the journey back into the workplace by pairing them with an experienced buddy that can share tips, acknowledge challenges and provide reassurance that they are not alone. The BMS Managing My Career course is another tool in the belt of our people – a practical course with hints and tips, supporting women to take a proactive approach to their career development.

I can confidently speak of the powerful impact of these programs, because I know how valuable they would have been as I sat on my four month maternity leave catch-up feeling overwhelmed. By making meaningful contributions to our colleagues on a personal level, we can move towards gender parity and advocate for the advancement of all women in their careers.

Let’s rise to the challenge

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect and to keep the topic of gender diversity and inclusion alive. It is also a time for us to encourage others to focus on creating gender diverse and inclusive working environments that reflect the diverse patients and stakeholders we interact with.

If we want to achieve our goal of gender parity we need to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to move towards each other and have those difficult conversations.

What are you going to #ChooseToChallenge this International Women’s Day?  


  1. Diversity Council Australia, 2020, In 2020 Do We Still Need Workplace Gender Equality?
  2. Global Gender Gap Report  – 2020 –
  3. Higher Education Research Data, 2016. Accessed from:

About the expert

Elaine Phillips studied a BSc (Hons) in Molecular Biology at Glasgow Caledonian University and has more than 20 years’ experience working in STEMM. She is currently the Oncology Business Unit Director for Bristol Myers Squibb Australia and New Zealand, a global biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines for patients with serious diseases. 

Image description: Headshot of Elaine in front of a grey marble background. Her arms are crossed in front of her, she has short blonde hair, and she wears a blue blazer over a black blouse.

VIEW: Inequalities for men create inequalities for women

The following is a guest post from Deborah O’Ferry, an Australian women’s fiction author and copy writer.

International Women’s Day is an important day internationally.  It looks at the steps still to be taken for equality. But I feel that in Australia, International Women’s Day is too often celebrated with a cup of tea after a free yoga class. It’s the day that the sought-after public microphone is handed over to talk about the gaps that still exist for gender equality, and we shouldn’t be wasting that opportunity to hand out tea.

I’m incredibly proud to live in a country that has come so far in supporting women, but we can do better. Intersectional feminism looks at the overlapping factors that create an individual’s experience of feminism. But one of the many gaps I feel passionate about, and needs propping up, is actually the male experience, and looking at inequalities for men. In particular, inequalities for fathers.

As women make progress, complementary changes are needed to support men as well, to complete the circle.

I never knew the gaps between genders more than when I became a parent. When my role became so domesticated. When people would ask me how the kids were, and my husband how he was going at work.  My self and my career became unseen, and I’d often be told how lucky I was to be able to be at home. Which I was. But for me to be at home, my husband’s role as a father appeared to be seen as financial. And to make those finances, my husband had to not be at home.  Our roles became polarised.

Within partnerships, the beauty and ugly truths of parenthood can often be experienced solo for women. Yet, socially, women are offered a world of Motherhood which is quite different to Fatherhood. There are networks, courses, Mothers Groups, social media pages; filled with professionals and other mums, cheering each other on and offering wisdoms, information, empathy and friendship.

But from day one, a different tone is set for Fatherhood, and they are often on the back foot.

When my husband and I welcomed our daughter into the world, over tears (that only one of us is usually welcome to shed), we fell in love. We had our family, and we could have watched her all night. But, at 8pm, we farewelled each other in the maternity ward, where I was left to work out that first nappy alone and he was sent away from his family.

Day three, he was at work —business as usual. With no permissions to fall apart.

Those early days are the foundations that can set our families up for the years ahead, but they can also set us up to fail— as a family, as a partnership, and as an attitude on roles and expectations.

There are so many fights to be fought for equality, and our position in Australia is exceptionally strong, but change needs to support men as well. There needs more movement in policies and culture socially, medically (family health care) and within workplaces, to catch up to women’s progress, to allow men to support the women in their lives and feel connected to their own families. Looking at feminism with a parental lens, mums of Australia can’t be CEO’s, be financially independent or go out and join a soccer team, if they are not supported and given the room to make those choices. But men, as parents, can’t support women if they are not given the empathy, flexibility or the information to, either.

I believe, that for girls to grow up to be anything, we need to better acknowledge that inequalities for men, create inequalities for women.

About the expert

Deborah O’Ferry is an Australian women’s fiction author and copy writer based on the outskirts of Sydney. She has also worked in the community development sector for many years and is a passionate advocate for women, parents, and mental health. Her writing has been featured on various websites including Kidspot and Babyology. Deborah’s first women’s fiction novel, 500 Miles, has received exceptional reader reviews over its first year of release, and she is working on her second novel.

You can follow Deborah O’Ferry on  Facebook or Instagram.

Image description: Headshot of Deborah from the waist up smiling and looking straight at teh camera. She wears a multi-coloured wrap blouse with short sleeves and has long, curly hair.

VIEW: How QR codes are having a ‘renaissance’ and improving accessibility to health information

Medicines Australia received a letter from a woman who was discharged from hospital with a number of medicines and was confused about what they were for and how to take them. In sharing her story, her request was simple: encourage pharmaceutical companies to create easier access to Consumer Medicines Information (CMI). In this interview, Alida Rossi, Customer Excellence Director for AbbVie Australia and New Zealand, explains how the company is using QR codes to increase accessibility to essential health information.

  • How have QR codes historically been used in the medical field? 

I think the value of QR codes had largely been missed by the health and medical industries in the past. Prior to COVID-19 check-ins, the use of QR codes in medicine was almost unheard of. In the past, other sponsors had utilised QR codes to limited effect. I think part of the reason why the health industry may have previously missed the value of QR codes is because people have a tendency to jump straight from the problem phase to the solution phase. If we don’t take time to understand why a roadblock exists, then we are going to consistently struggle to design services that actually meet the needs of patients.

  • What is the value of QR code technology in medicine today?

In the past, the health system has often struggled to put patients first when it comes to the way systems or services are designed. QR codes have really given health services an opportunity to build new services from the ground up that really focus in on what patients need.

For AbbVie, this technology has also opened up another channel of communication we hadn’t previously explored. It’s a simple method that a large proportion of Australians are now very familiar with and regularly use, meaning we can potentially reach more patients and doctors than ever before. The QR code process also reduces barriers to googling something and the potential for error in typing in the wrong website – now we can rapidly link people to the right information at a time that suits the patient.

  • How are you leveraging QR code technology and other similar technologies today in your work? 

Consumer Medicines Information is an important guide that helps Australians understand how to safely use their medicine. However, patients don’t always receive the document when their medication is dispensed, leaving them to search for this information online, or worse, leaving them without access to crucial health information.

To come up with a solution, we hosted workshops with representation from the TGA, Medicines Australia, industry partners, patient organisations and other experts to identify potential solutions that would help patients safely use our medicines.

We’ve added QR codes to our medicine packages, so that our patients can have fast access to accurate information from the moment they are dispensed by their pharmacist. When someone scans the QR code they can access essential health information, such as CMI, and other educational resources, like how-to videos and enrolment for patient support programs.

We are also now exploring codes on any other items we provide to patients and healthcare professionals to ensure prompt delivery of medical information, links to websites and videos.

  • Why is this technology important? 

This technology is hugely important. According to Australia’s National statement on health literacy, “only about 40 per cent of adults have the level of individual health literacy needed to meet the complex demands of everyday life.” QR codes are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to increasing access to health information and helping us improve our national rates of health literacy.

Access to online materials can also help reduce some barriers for CALD communities and differently-abled Australians. Whether that’s through access to captioned videos, translation services or screen-reading tools, online resources really can offer improved accessibility over complex printed materials.

For us, it also means we can update information quickly and in a cost efficient way any time there are changes to our medicines. That way our patients and healthcare professionals are always getting the most up to date information.

  • How do you anticipate the development and use of this technology to evolve over the next 5 years?

I think QR codes are really having a renaissance – soon they’ll be on everything!  I think one day we might start seeing them on personal items so if you lose them people can scan the QR code and know who to contact. We might also see them appear on all appliances so that you don’t have to search online for the manual, the product code that always hides in the most inaccessible spots or to find what spare parts you need.  I could also see it being linked to things like warranties and receipts so we don’t have to file or store that information elsewhere.  Even on food items, so I can look at more information on the product or have recipes on what you might be able to cook that night. The possibilities are endless!

About the expert

After graduating from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Science (Hons), Alida began her career as Head coordinator at a Research Laboratory. Although rewarding, a career in the commercial application of her science background was where she has been able to truly apply her knowledge and skill. In 2012, Alida was appointed into the role of Head of Organisational Strategy and Innovation and became the key change agent and driver for the development of the Innovation culture at Abbvie. Alida was appointed as the Customer Excellence Director for AbbVie Australia and New Zealand in 2013 and continues to drive the organisation’s innovation culture and venture into Customer Experience.

Image description: Alida is standing in an office space in front of a bright green and large plant, She is smiling, wearing a navy/black dress and wears glasses.

VIEW: What does International Women’s Day mean to me?

The below is a guest post from Dr Diaswati (Asti) Mardiasmo, Chief Economist of PRD Real Estate.

International Women’s Day has always had a special place in my heart, I am always filled with pride and a sense of peace and calm when I see the many events and initiatives celebrating a multitude of women from all different walks of life.

Personally, when I think of International Women’s Day three key words come to mind: strength, resilience, and unity.

2020 was a difficult year for me, as I went through the process of divorce. And yet it was my girlfriends who came to pray with me the day prior to my divorce hearing, and it was with their strength that I faced court. When I lost my unborn son in 2015, it was my girlfriends’ endless support that kept me going. They rotated to ensure that I had fresh meals and company each day.

When I look at myself, and the journey of my 35 years on earth, as well as all the other women around me – regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, relationship status, kids/no kids, health and family issues, and a myriad of other things that differentiate us as human beings; I consistently see STRENGTH.

I see an immense amount of strength through their laughter, joy, tears, worries, and even silent anger. I see their strength to always choose love and be there for the people that matter to her (partner, husband, children, family, etc); sometimes at the expense of herself. I see strength as she battles her own demons, her insecurities, her self-worth; to make sure she shows up and becomes her best self for the people she loves.

I look around at the women who have graciously allowed me to become part of their life and I see such amazing high RESILIENCE. The tenacity and determination to keep on going, keep on creating, keep on standing up, keep on pushing, keep on hustling, keep on growing – so much so that it takes my breath away. I see their resilience when they are told, “No, we cannot give you this opportunity as it would be more suited to someone who is not planning on having a family”, or when they become disadvantaged because of their gender.

I see their resilience as COVID-19 hit and suddenly their world is turned upside down. Whether it is transitioning to work from home, having to suddenly home-school children, not being able to see family, loss of income / employment, and many others. Yet through this, I see my female friends fighting through, to keep all balls juggled in the air.

Through it all, the good bad and ugly, I see UNITY. I see female friends banding together to create specific businesses. To make meals for each other and cry together over cake. To take turns in having playdates so that our children are entertained, and we give each other a break. To laugh together at virtual girls’ nights in our homes, with wine in our tea mugs.

International Women’s Day allows us to celebrate each other and remind ourselves that we are not alone. International Women’s Day reminds us that it is okay for us to reach out and lean on each other, and that we are united in our want to continue being strong and resilient.

International Women’s Day is also about saying thank you. Every day I draw inspiration from the myriad of challenges that they overcome, the joy that they share. THANK YOU to each woman on this earth for being you. Because without you, I would not be the woman that I am today. 

About the expert

Dr Diaswati (Asti) Mardiasmo is Chief Economist of PRD Real Estate. She monitors a wide variety of macro and microeconomic trends, both within and external to Australia, that directly and indirectly impact the Australian residential real estate (housing) market. She is a member of the Residential Committee 2021-2022 for the Property Council of Australia, a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia Liaison Program, and an industry partner within the Australian Federal Government Cooperative Research Centre for Longevity.

Asti leads a team which supports over 75 PRD franchises, providing them with market-leading local real estate knowledge. She initiates and contributes to property asset related research for a variety of governmental, academic, organisational and private stakeholders; as well as offering customised research services to a variety of clients which has previously included developers, planners, not-for-profits, private companies, individuals, and more.

Image description: Dr Asti is standing with her long black hair tied back, wearing a vertically striped collared shirt. She is smiling and standing inside an office building, with her hands folded in front of her.

VIEW: Gender empowerment needs to go beyond just the empowerment of women

The General Sir John Monash Foundation recently announced the recipients of its 2021 scholarships, Australia’s most prestigious postgraduate overseas study program. Among the recipients was emergency nurse of 15 years, Emily Ragus, who intends to complete a PhD in utilisation of gender empowerment theory within disasters promoting equality as a health diplomacy tool for Australia.

In this interview, Emily outlines why she is passionate about this field and why gender empowerment theory within disasters is an important issue for all Australians to reflect upon this year.

  • With the John Monash Scholarship, you’re planning to complete a PhD in gender empowerment theory within disasters. Why have you chosen this topic? 

Having worked in many male dominated areas of health, I have seen the subtle forms of discrimination that still occur. These subtle aspects tend to culminate to create a large societal problem that is often not recognized. I found that for myself, as a woman in leadership positions, I would still experience this, and I felt really disempowered. This disempowerment is a horrible feeling, and it is through self-reflection I decided systemic change needed to happen. This pushed me to focus my research into ways that this can be improved, particularly in relation to women in disasters.

Disaster management has progressed dramatically with gender equality, however we continue to fall short with regards to gender inclusion. What that means to both myself and the research that I am hoping to do, is to ensure that women continue to have a voice, but that voice is actively heard. As to mobilize the full breadth of the problem-solving capacity of a community, we need the whole community to be involved. By only listening to one side of a community during disasters, we are only understanding one side of the problem.

  • What have we learnt about gender empowerment or disempowerment from the coronavirus pandemic? 

What we have learnt is that gender empowerment needs to go beyond just the empowerment of women, it also needs to include how we can break down negative gender roles that put pressure on both men and women, to ensure we have healthier, happier communities.

Disasters indivertibly put emphasis on those groups within society that can experience vulnerabilities. COVID-19 as a public health disaster has done just that. It has been predicted that COVID-19 could globally reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights. Globally we need to implement programs and processes that work towards mitigating this gender equality decline. Because ultimately the equality that our Grandmothers fought for, needs to be extended to our children.

  • Why is equality a health diplomacy tool? What does this mean in tangible terms for everyday Australians? 

Australia plays a significant role within our geographical region. We are currently serving on the United Nations Human Rights Council, aiming to advance human rights internationally. However, there remains significant inequalities for women both domestically and within our region that we need to combat. A way to do that is through health education and empowerment through our humanitarian efforts in neighboring countries. This soft diplomatic maneuver can have a transformative change on people, but we need to use a framework to be as effective as possible in creating change around equality. My PhD will work towards establishing a workable and sustainable solution to a global problem.

  • What gives you hope that Australia is becoming more equitable? 

The #MeToo movement along with surging rates in domestic violence throughout this pandemic, have really highlighted the need within Australia to focus on the rights of women. I truly believe that as a country, we are pushing forward into a time of significant social change.

The next generation (both men and women) are not complacent to the inequalities that are still facing women in Australia, and they are also more educated as to what these inequalities are. I believe that collectively as a country we are passionate about changing the social landscape of Australia for a more equitable future.

About the expert

Emily Ragus is a 2021 John Monash Scholar who has dedicated her career to work towards a more equitable future. She has a Bachelor of Nursing from Queensland University of Technology, an International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance from Fordham University in New York City and is currently completing a Masters of Global Development at Griffith University in Brisbane. Her professional background includes 15 years emergency nursing, as well as previously working as a remote area nurse, a helicopter trauma retrieval nurse and the coordinator for the Queensland Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT). Currently based in South East Asia with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Emily teaches first aid and pandemic control measures to vulnerable groups as a Pre-Hospital Health Delegate. With her John Monash Scholarship, Emily intends to complete a PhD in utilisation of gender empowerment theory within disasters promoting equality as a health diplomacy tool for Australia.

Image description: Emily has long, wavy brown hair, is smilling and wearing a white blouse under a beige jacket.

VIEW: Why Australia needs an online Code of Conduct

The below is a guest post from Sarah Liberty, CEO and Founder of JustSociale.

In 2012, the UNHCR declared that our online human rights are no different to our offline human rights. Yet, almost ten years on, many Australians are still unaware that they have online human rights. And, in the rapidly evolving realm of the Internet and social media, navigating our online human rights – and knowing how to protect them – can be especially challenging. 

I should know because I’ve experienced it.

When my email and social media accounts were hacked, and I was digitally surveilled by an abusive former partner – a breach of Australian law – I wasn’t sure what to do, or where to turn to for support. 

When I tried to file a complaint with my local police station, it took weeks of persistence to obtain an ADVO, and even when I was successful, the police didn’t alert me to the fact that what my partner had done was illegal.

My case is not the exception. As a 2018 poll among women aged 18-55 commissioned by Amnesty found, one third of respondents had encountered some form of online harassment or abuse.

Inspired by my personal experience, and after gaining academic and professional expertise as an NGO and Communications leader in London, New York, Paris, Jogjakarta and Sydney, I established JustSociale as Australia’s first federally ACNC-accredited NGO dedicated to promoting awareness of human rights online.

We are a defiantly optimistic collective of social entrepreneurs, creatives, civil society actors, technology platforms, media outlets, activists, private businesses and members of diverse communities who are passionate about making the Internet universally accessible and inclusive, so that we can all use it to connect with each other, and the global community – safely.

Ultimately, our aim is to foster a culture of trust, transparency and responsibility for everyone operating in the digital domain, and to promote good digital citizenship. Much of our day-to-day lives now happen online, and Australians are prolific users of the Internet and social media: 71 percent of the population has active social media accounts. A recent survey even found that in the morning, “more than half of the adult population wake up and check their social media feed as the very first activity of the day!” However, as the eSafety Commissioner notes, 67% of Australian adults have also had a negative experience online (in the 12 months to August 2019), ranging from repeated unwanted messages or online contact (such as pornography or violent content), to scams, viruses, hate speech, abuse and threats.

This is unacceptable to me. It is why JustSociale is developing Australia’s first Online Code of Conduct –  to provide collective solutions that are shaped by the Australian public, and agreed upon by digital stakeholders – not forced upon them top down by securitising the digital realm, as the government is attempting to do. Our Code provides a set of guidelines that signatories can voluntarily adopt to demonstrate to the public, clients or their beneficiaries that they take online human rights seriously. 

As the recent Tinder and Bumble exposes highlighted – whereby investigations found a pattern of sex offenders blocking their victims after a rape to delete any trace of their prior communication – the onus has far too long been on individuals rather than the platforms themselves to report and put a stop to negative or harmful online behaviour. However, rather than strong-arming or blaming tech platforms, and promoting a culture of fear or shooting the digital messenger, I believe now is the time to build long-term solutions and practices that ensure all actors take the route of responsibility, trust and transparency. JustSociale is here to work with tech platforms, the government and all stakeholders with an interest in Internet governance to educate Australians of their online rights and responsibilities as digital citizens in order to self empower people, and to foster societal change.  

Despite the Internet’s extensive penetration in Australia, digital and cultural exclusion remain significant challenges. 2.5 million people – or just over 10% of our population – are still not online – either because of cost, location or digital literacy. The voices of diverse communities are also censored by algorithms on social media.

JustSociale’s national Alliance and Online Code of Conduct, however, will change this. We stand with diverse communities so they can claim their online rights and access the Internet equally, safely and confidently. As a report from the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly best put it, access to the internet is a basic human right, integral to allowing individuals to “exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

For more about JustSociale, visit

About the expert

Sarah Liberty is the Founder and CEO of JustSociale. A social entrepreneur, public speaker, radio presenter, podcaster and human rights advocate.Her career has spanned executive roles in the media and in international NGOs in London, New York, Jogjakarta, Sydney and Paris. Sarah recently completed her Master of International Relations: Human Rights, at Sciences Po University, Paris, and hosts a weekly international #FeministFriday Podcast available on all major podcast platforms reaching 42 countries. Sarah is an Ambassador for UN Women’s #GenerationEquality campaign and is regularly approached by the media to comment on human rights, social entrepreneurship, international relations, technology and social media news.

Image description: Headshot of Sarah in a black collared shirt, with short reddish brown hair. There are pink flowers in the background.

VIEW: Australia is a country that will constantly struggle to decolonise

The below is a guest post from Dr Kirstie Close, an academic historian who has worked in universities in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

At the government level – because decolonisation requires Indigenous self-governance – the form of colonialism that took place in this country is one that is near impossible to dismantle. Settler colonialism, in the form of direct rule, has set in train acts of genocide – physical and cultural – in a multitude of ways. These acts have undermined the strength of the Indigenous communities throughout the country over hundreds of years. It is a testament to the resilience of Indigenous men and women to have survived all of that, and to push on with hope for the future.

Efforts have been made at restorative justice. However, while in some ways power has shifted over time – for example with the implementation of Native Title legislation – there is no cohesive, overarching Indigenous governance body currently operating in Australia and certainly not one that is expected to take the power from the current federal leadership.

This is not to say there is no Indigenous leadership present. There have always been stand out Indigenous leaders who have spoken to the most powerful men and women who came to colonise. These encounters and interactions are well documented. The first Governor, Arthur Phillip, returned time and again to converse with Eora man, Bungaree. Despite acknowledging Bungaree’s leadership in the swiftly changing society, no formal effort was made to create and embed consultation process with communities into our legal system, as was done in other British colonies.

One which comes to mind is Fiji, where the Council of Chiefs was established at the time of British annexation. In Australia, Indigenous representation at government level has been attempted with bodies like the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), but these were short-lived.

While we may be frustrated with the limitations that stymie decolonisation at government level, there are many Australian institutions that are adopting smaller-scale processes that attempt something similar. Reconciliation plans have helped companies to articulate their plans and track progress towards more accommodating and inclusive governance practices.

It would not be quite accurate to suggest that decolonising would be the answer to the antagonism we continue to see around perceptions of race in our community.  The National Gallery of Australia invited First Nations women to critique its spaces in public panel discussions. Indigenous leaders who were involved in this forum stepped into the tradition of speaking out as an act of resistance against colonial power. Dr Crystal McKinnon said ‘decolonisation, and the repatriation of Indigenous land and Indigenous life – is not a medium for social justice… one of the first steps of decolonising is to peel back the colonial concrete veneer and to feel the footprints on Country.’ There is, perhaps, more that needs to be done, but the simplicity of some of the steps that can be taken towards justice should not be forgotten either.

Larger scale efforts draw people to the streets. Protests held in Australia throughout 2020 reminded people of the need to address Indigenous Deaths in Custody. Rallies were held in tandem with the American Black Lives Matter protests. Thalian Anthony, Annette Gainsford and Juanita Sherwood have argued that Indigenous deaths in custody may be prevented if the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services were not so readily stripped of government funds. Change is needed at a structural level, within institutions and in government. It is this multi-layered approach that will hopefully see the end of tokenistic efforts towards Indigenous representation in governance, and a more decisive effort at progressive reconciliation.

Many wait with baited breath to see if the government will establish a permanent, formal Indigenous voice to Parliament. In the meantime, the informal, community- and institutionally-based work will continue, and hopefully gain momentum. We can keep trying to promote racial literacy and cultural awareness in our own networks, be they personal or professional. And in those small ways, maybe we can promote change.

About the expert

Dr Kirstie Close is a mum of two beautiful boys, based in the west of Melbourne. She is an academic historian, having worked in universities in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji where she has also conducted extensive historical research. She continues to work as an academic through teaching and research. 

Kirstie’s books and articles focus on race relations. She has a strong focus on labour and leadership, particularly on the ways in which Christian missions encouraged Indigenous peoples to become a sort of agricultural class in regional and remote tropical areas, or part of an educated elite depending on the circumstances.  

A career highlight has been working on the Voices of War project, which saw Kirstie take part in a team project to uncover memories of WW2 in PNG, particularly around the Kokoda Track and New Ireland province. Aisoli’s Diary, which results from that project, is due for publication in 2021 and will be Kirstie’s third book. 

Image description: Dr Kirstie is smiling and standing next to a colourfully painted wall. She wears a colourful scarf, has long wavy hair, and is wearing a long-sleeved blacktop.

VIEW: Misconceptions About Women & Mental Health That Therapists Hear Often

The below is a guest post from Jennifer Okolo, who is a therapist and the founder of She Aspires.

According to the National Institute of Mental health and other evidence-based research, mental health disorders affect men and women disproportionately. There are mental health disorders that are more commonly diagnosed in women such as depression and anxiety. Within this umbrella, there are certain types of disorder that over the years have been more identifiable and unique to women. These include symptoms of mental health disorders during hormonal changes i.e perinatal depression. Abuse is also often a factor in women’s mental health problems and treatments need to be sensitive and reflect those gender differences. Since the pandemic this year following COVID-19, domestic abuse against women has unfortunately increased. It is important to point out that COVID-19 does not cause domestic violence, only abusers are responsible for their actions. Nevertheless, according to Women’s Aid, the pandemic has, however, escalated abuse and closed down routes to safety for women to escape and ultimately affects their mental health.

This emphasises various social factors that put women at great risk of mental health which include:

  • More women than men are the main carer for their children and they may care for other dependent relatives too – intensive caring can affect emotional health, physical health, social activities and finances
  • Women often juggle multiple roles – they may be mothers, partners and carers as well as doing paid work and running a household
  • Women are overrepresented in low income jobs – often part-time – and are more likely to live in poverty than men
  • Poverty, working mainly in the home on housework and concerns about personal safety can make women particularly isolated

One of the common misconceptions around women’s mental health is that all women have this innate readiness to talk about their feelings and seek out strong social networks to help protect their mental health. Additionally, there is also the era of Freud where the history of ‘hysterical’ women and great extreme pressures exists for women to be conducted a certain way. This perception is often derived from the notion as outlined above, that women have now started taking on more ‘male-dominated’ roles such as being the figurehead of the home; completely dismantling the nuclear family we all grew up to learn that was the ‘right’ way and also are juggling careers, businesses and family life simultaneously.

These misconceptions must be cleared up as it can help make a difference in how we can all contribute to combating these problems.

Here are 3 common misconceptions about women and mental health that therapists hear often.

  1. ‘Women are too sensitive’: A lot of the time when women are low in mood or anxious, they are likely to be dismissed as being too emotional or sensitive which is a myth that needs to be dispelled. Society tends to rank people based on certain characteristics, for example. More confident personality traits are perceived as ‘strong’ and those that are more sensitive are deemed ‘weaker’. This creates further stigma and shame and diminishes a person’s mental health symptoms, consequently leading to silent suffering. 
  2. There is a ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ emotional response: Women have a long history of taking care of everyone else but themselves. Even the idea of femininity, according to Psychology Today is often linked to vulnerability, although we are in the process of redefining what it means to be a woman in today’s world.
  3. It’s always a ‘chemical imbalance’: The theory of a chemical imbalance for women’s mental health is often at the first forefront of reference, but all this does is undermine the true complexities of the disorders that women face. It’s important to include societal implications and factors which can have an impact on how a person responds.

As a woman and therapist myself, I am working on dismantling these misconceptions by creating spaces where women are seen beyond bias. My work will continue in 2021 through my platform She Aspires, a career network which provides educational tools and career resources to support women to be more fulfilled and successful at work. Also, through my podcast She’s in a Pod, which I co-host with two other ladies, I hope to continue building a safe space for women to have unfiltered conversations about wellbeing, self-development and much more!

About the expert

Jennifer Okolo is a therapist and the founder of She Aspires – a brand centred around a digital platform that asks young females to write and interact on a series of real-world issues that affect them. Passionate about female empowerment, Jennifer has made it her mission to educate, encourage other women, as explored through social activism, podcasting as 1/3 of award-nominated ‘She’s In A Pod’, and numerous other public speaking engagements across Europe.

Image description: Jennifer is sitting with her legs crossed, smiling. She has long brown hair, dark brown eyes, and is wearing a grey collared shirt and jeans.

VIEW: Why 2021 will be the year for Australian tech

The below is a guest post from Sarah Neill, Founder of Mys Tyler, a fashion tech company solving the $1 trillion “fit” problem, by creating a more empowering and personalised shopping experience for all women.

We’ve always had a size disadvantage against the rest of the world with our meager 25 million population. Here in Australia, we’ve had to solve global problems, or mainstream local problems to turn a decent profit. However, in the US for example, with a population 13 times larger, even a niche solution can have a sizable and profitable market. And if you get traction there, growth can be FAST!

Having spent a decade in New York, I’ve seen first hand that bad ideas can have more success in the US than brilliant ideas born out of Australia. As the underdog, it’s tougher for us and we have to punch above our weight. As a result, a LOT of our top talent has migrated to places like Silicon Valley, to have more chance of success through tapping into the scale, but most importantly, tapping into the community. The US runs on referrals, and over there connecting people is a form of social currency.

But, a global pandemic later, and I think the tables are going to turn in 2021!

Top tech talent will return to Australia (if they haven’t already)

If you’re working remotely, and living in a big city in lockdown, there’s not much upside to paying expensive rents in the likes of New York or Silicon Valley. As US employers grapple with the idea of remote working until, at earliest, mid-next year, many employees have left the hubs, and returned to their hometowns, for family, and a lower cost of living (while picking up the same paycheck).

For Australians, this will also be true, and many have, and will choose to return to Australia (and work crazy hours to accommodate the time difference), or re-enter the Australian tech community!

Even those that continue working for the international companies will be back in the community, sharing thoughts, ideas and connections. I myself decided to return home to Sydney to start fashtech app Mys Tyler just as the pandemic was starting to hit.

Entrepreneurs will stop masquerading as Intrapreneurs

In the US, Australians have the good fortune of access to the E3 visa. This treaty visa makes it remarkably easy to work in the states and remain for years or even decades. We have more than we use, and employers aren’t required to prove that they could have hired an American (a huge hurdle for prospects from other nations). So, if you want to be amongst the heart of the Tech scene in Silicon Valley or New York, you can find a job, get a visa, and live happily on a great salary. Being an entrepreneur on the other hand is harder. The visa is more complicated, more expensive, and far riskier. Plus, living there is expensive. As a foreigner you don’t have family or friends you can mooch off, so the no/low salary of running your own business removes some of the allure of being there.

As a result, I know too many of the most brilliant entrepreneurs, picking up their paycheck, and gratefully renewing their E3 visa every two years. Not only will many move back given this new world. But I think many will see this as the chance to found their own companies, build their own dreams, without the shackles of a visa and high rent!

Zoom is leveling the playing field

Everywhere in the world has an element of “cliqueness”. It’s who you know, and who they know. People love referrals, and in the US in particular, connecting is a social currency.

But before, we couldn’t be in the same room to have a seat at the table, now, neither can they. We can attend the same events (virtually), meet investors/prospects/partners in the same way as the rest, and it’s going to level the playing field for us.

Exchange rate advantage

Compared to the EU and US, we’re discounted. And it’s a benefit. As our talent pool fills, I think we’ll see more investment coming in the form of higher headcount from global offices. In addition to this, there’s a lot of global uncertainty right now, leading investors to look at diversifying their investments outside of their home country.

With added thanks to Canva, AfterPay, Linktree who have shown the world that BIG ideas can come from Oz, along with the Aussie Expats who have been spreading the word on our work ethic, we’ll also see investment money flow in to the startup world.

Australia is still a great test market

Ideas that aren’t capitalising on the immediate demands created in response to the pandemic, can focus on building now, and selling later. They can test the waters locally, without waking any sleeping bears (potential competitors) and then go global with a bang in late 2021 when the world finds its new equilibrium.

I guess what I’m saying is that Australians are bred tough, and with an influx of returning talent (to add to the already amazing people here), a flow of foreign investment, and a leveling of the playing field, now is our time to pull up a chair to the tech table and start showing the world what we’re made of.

About the expert

Sarah Neill is a technology and startup powerhouse with more than 15 years driving marketing and innovation for major consumer technology brands across in-house and agency settings in the USA, UK and Australia. Over the course of her career, Sarah has held senior leadership roles at mobile disrupters Boost Mobile and Mint Mobile, led multi-million-dollar agency accounts for marquee companies Telstra, Vodafone and Samsung, and as a serial entrepreneur founded companies Doodad, A Relatively Unique Inc and Mys Tyler.

In 2013, Sarah launched DOODAD, a travel tech company which saw her raise more than $1 Million USD to disrupt the global roaming industry. She then joined the executive team of Ultra Mobile, the fastest growing private company in the US (ranked #1 on the Inc. 5000 in 2015). During this time, she led corporate development, launched the IoT department and ultimately held the post Chief of Staff.

Sarah left Ultra Mobile to return to Sydney and build Mys Tyler, a fashion tech company solving the $1 trillion “fit” problem, by creating a more empowering and personalised shopping experience for all women.

Image description: Sarah is sitting on a grey couch in front of some indoor plants with some office furniture blurred in the background. She has brown hair, is smiling and wears a beige top and black pants.

VIEW: Why Sally has an ‘Eye to the Future’ with Blind Citizens Australia

The below is a guest post from Sally Aurisch, General Manager of Projects and Engagement at Blind Citizens Australia.

‘Diversity’, ‘disability friendly’, ‘inclusive’ – these are all terms so freely thrown about these days, but what do they actually look like in reality? And how do they play out in practice?

My name is Sally Aurisch and I work for Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) who are a peak disability body, representing the needs and interests of people who are blind or vision impaired across Australia. People just like me.

We strive to meet these objectives, not just on paper but in every aspect of our operation every day.

The team of 17 is led by CEO Emma Bennison who is blind. Emma moved into the role over three years ago and since her arrival has focussed her efforts on strengthening the organisation’s team, leadership and profile. Of the staff, 75% of us identify as having a disability – a ratio that far outweighs many organisations. The ratio remains similar at both leadership and non-leadership levels.

The organisation is governed by a board of directors who all have lived experience of blindness and vision impairment, with experience in community services, accounting, HR and education.

Our strong disability-led organisation ensures that it strives for best practice in all that it does. From implementing remote working opportunities over two years ago to ensure staff were sourced based on suitability, not location to customising an accessible phone system that can be used by staff anywhere and building a customised membership database that ensures all staff have access to a system that is accessible and functional. That was a large project that I had the pleasure of working on, in conjunction with some wonderful champions at KPMG, and you’d be surprised at how inaccessible so many out of the box CRM’s are!

Our organisation recognises that there is a strong need to increase the employment opportunities available to people who are blind or vision impaired. While Disability Employment Services go some of the way to addressing this need, there are still strong misconceptions and perceptions that result in people who are blind or vision impaired having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

It is for this reason that we created the ‘Eye to the Future’ project, funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency’s Information, Linkages and Capacity Building grants program.

I head up this project, along with a fabulous team, and we have sought to change those misconceptions about the ability of people who are blind or vision impaired to undertake sustainable, meaningful employment of all types.

We have filmed four ‘day in the work life’ videos showcasing the careers of four people who are blind or vision impaired and providing an insight into their daily lives, particularly how accessible technology allows the completion of so many of their tasks.

We also created a series of paid internships, where candidates who are blind or vision impaired were matched with employers to undertake a 6-month internship program.

The project will soon culminate in a series of ‘you can’t ask that’ style workshops where HR business partners, diversity and inclusion managers and anyone else with the ability to influence hiring decisions will be invited to come along to a webinar, meet the stars of the ‘day in the working life’ video’s, as well as staff from BCA and discuss the topic of people who are blind or vision impaired in the workforce; no question or topic will be off limits during these sessions.

You can learn more about this project, and watch the videos via a site specifically created for this project,

About the expert

Sally Aurisch is the General Manager of Projects and Engagement at Blind Citizens Australia and is also vision impaired herself. She has over 15 years’ experience working in the community and not for profit sector and has developed a love for creating and overseeing projects that focus on engaging people with each other and their communities.

Sally is currently completing a Bachelor of Social Science (Organisation Management) at the University of New England, where she also works as a Peer Assisted Study Session Leader.

Outside of work, Sally helps coordinate her local ‘Stingrays’ program; an adapted version of Nippers that aims to teach surf awareness skills to kids and teens with disability.

For more information about Blind Citizens Australia, please visit

Image description: A young woman with light brown hair in a white dress smiles against a backdrop of red bricks and a window.