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: 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 we need to write women into history

A guest post from Alison Booth discussing her new novel, The Philosopher’s Daughters, and the importance of writing women into history.

To understand history, we rely upon the reports of others. And when we read those words we might ask ourselves whose stories are missing. Typically, it will be the stories of those who were losers, of those who had no power at the time: the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the defeated. This is where writers of historical fiction can present different perspectives to those that are found in standard straight historical texts, because they can tell stories that include the marginal voices that history left aside.

The beauty of historical fiction is that it doesn’t only report what happened in the past, it also makes the reader feel what happened, and in so doing it creates empathy for preceding generations. It helps readers understand what was experienced by people living through different times and in different places. It also helps readers understand who we are now, and how we got here, so we can appreciate what progress humankind has made. For example, we can see – and perhaps better comprehend – the extent to which female and racial equality have evolved, and we can see this in a much more personal and moving way than in a straight history text.

Feminism and female emancipation feature strongly in my latest novel, The Philosopher’s Daughters, and so it never occurred to me not to make the principal two characters female. When I first conceived the idea for The Philosopher’s Daughters, I kept imagining 1890s London and two strong young women, the daughters of a moral philosopher. Someone like John Stuart Mill, a great advocate for the emancipation of women. Someone who gives the girls a relatively modern upbringing. Then I thought of altering the sisters’ circumstances so that they separately choose to journey into remote and wild Australia. What might happen to them?  How might they see life at the ‘frontier’ once they are confronted with the brutal dispossession of the Indigenous population? How would their characters develop as they faced danger?

Of course, there were other reasons why I wanted the two principal characters to be female. In particular, I wanted to capture the north of Australia through fresh eyes, and the female perspective would certainly have been that up north in the 1890s. Women of those times faced prejudice at every step, and I felt that my two female protagonists would be well-equipped to empathise with a lot of the displaced Indigenous inhabitants. Because I wrote the novel from the separate viewpoints of the two sisters, I was also able to present a nuanced view of what was happening, for these young women saw the world in different ways in spite of their common upbringing.

People often ask what is the difference between fiction and historical fiction. All types of fiction are products of the imagination, but historical fiction is set in a carefully-researched context that will survive the scrutiny of historians. It’s worth pointing out here that the historian’s approach to what is history probably differs from that of the Historical Novel Society, which defines historical fiction as being written at least 50 years after the events described in it, unless written by someone not alive at the time of those events. Thus, a novel written in the last two decades of the Cold War wouldn’t, by this strict definition, be viewed as historical fiction by novelists, unless it was written by someone under the age of 30, but it would be viewed as historical by historians. And I have to say that I find this slightly odd!

What can historical fiction say about gender equality and race relations in modern times? Historical fiction brings characters to life in a way that captures not only the essence of an historical period but also the deeper truths of human existence. From this we can better understand how the past contributes to the present. And we can also better comprehend how to right the wrongs of the past. There’s a sense in which The Philosopher’s Daughters might be thought of the 1890s meeting of the #MeToo and the #BlackLivesMatter movements. These movements in their present manifestation show that we do indeed have a way to go yet in improving gender equality and race relations.

About the expert

A novelist with a keen interest in history, Alison Booth is an ANU-based Emeritus Professor of Economics. She is a regular contributor to academic journals and has previously published four novels, Stillwater Creek, The Indigo Sky, A Distant Land, and A Perfect Marriage. In 2017 she received the ESA Distinguished Fellow Award, and she is also an elected Fellow of the Econometric Society and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

Image description: Alison stands in a white blouse, black blazer and black pants in front of a bright tree with yellow leaves and surrounded by greass. She is smiling with one hand in her front pocket.

ADVICE: How women can protect their finances during the pandemic

Australia’s gender equality gap is expected to worsen during and following the coronavirus pandemic, leaving women with greater financial risks than their male counterparts. In this interview, Natasha Janssens, who came to Australia as a refugee at 18 years old and now runs Women With Cents, shares what the risks are for women and what they can do today to protect their long-term finances.

  • The pandemic has led some to believe we’re gearing up for a mum-cession. Do you agree with this?

The statistics so far certainly do indicate that women are at greater risk of job loss, in large part due to being over-represented in part-time and casual roles that are at higher risk of being retrenched. Our own surveys in the Women with Cents community do indicate that in two-parent households it is generally the mum who is juggling work and homeschooling responsibilities while in many cases dad carries on work as usual. Not to say that this is men’s fault by any means but it definitely points to systemic and cultural issues that need to be addressed.

  • What are the financial pitfalls women commonly come across that have been further exacerbated by the pandemic? 

In general terms, women tend to on average earn less than men, which results in women having a reduced capacity to save as well as having less super for retirement (currently women retire with about 32% less super than men). Women are more represented in casual and part-time employment, and take career breaks in order to start a family and care for sick and elderly relatives. This compromises their financial independence and ability to earn their own income, as well as placing them at greater risk of financial abuse by their spouse.

All of these factors are currently being exacerbated by the pandemic. For example, 14% of women who have so far accessed their super due to COVID have emptied their super accounts. When you consider that women are currently retiring with 32% less super than men – emptying their super accounts, reducing work hours or job loss are only going to contribute to widening that gap, unless we take corrective measures to do something about it.

  • How can women facing these challenges overcome them? 

By becoming aware of the challenges and risks and taking proactive steps. For example, exhausting all other avenues of financial support prior to accessing the second tranche of super withdrawals. Networking and building their negotiation skills in order to bridge the pay gap and make sure they are being paid what they are worth. Becoming aware of the signs of financial abuse and reaching out for help and support. Making a conscious effort to push back on outdated social norms and working with their spouse to make sure that they are sharing the parental and mental load more evenly so that women and mothers aren’t the only ones reducing their hours and taking a step back from their careers in order to manage caring responsibilities during COVID. 

  • What do women need to be doing financially during this time to prepare for 2021 and beyond?

Doing everything possible to build up their emergency savings buffer in preparation for the recession that is to come – this could mean taking on extra work while it is still available, shopping around for a better deal on their bills, selling the second family car and any other items that they can go without, but taking action swiftly and aggressively in the short term.

Long term – Networking and diversifying their skill set in order to preserve their ability to maintain employment – there are many courses on offer at the moment at a heavy discount or for free.

If staying at home, taking advantage of super contribution splitting with their spouse so that they are sharing the full pay package evenly not just splitting the take-home pay. Preserving the insurances they have including those held in super so that they are well protected in the event of a perfect financial storm. Taking proactive measures to grow their money and wealth long term rather than taking the passive approach – it may have worked during times of economic growth, but the same can’t be said for navigating a recession.

About the expert

Natasha is the author of Wonder Woman’s Guide to Money and an award-winning finance broker and money coach. Her passion for education and helping others led her to start Women with Cents – an online community dedicated to empowering Australian women through education. Natasha is on a mission to ensure that all Australian women have access to professional financial advice, regardless of their age, income or circumstances.

Image description: Natasha is sitting on a black, leather lounge chair with her legs crossed. Her feet are on the lounge, with her black high heels on the floor. She wears a pink blazer, white top and blue jeans.

ADVICE: How to change the gender diversity ratios in STEM

While progress is being made in some areas, there is still a dire lack of diversity in STEM fields overall. Women still only hold about one in four STEM jobs, and many in the industry end up leaving due to hostility in the workplace.

We asked four highly accomplished women in STEM what can be done to drive change on this important issue.

  • In your view, what is the biggest thing driving the local and global shortage of women working in tech and data? What is the low-hanging fruit for each of governments, corporates, and individuals to improve the ratio?

Jamie K Leach, CEO, Open Data Australia:

The topic of diversity and equity in technology is a complex subject that requires many initiatives at multiple levels to address the disproportion.

  • Improve Education – A change in education from the earliest of ages to break down stereotypes and to bolster the number of girls studying science and technology from primary school, through to secondary school and onto tertiary education. Formal education, paired with exposure to real-world professionals through mentoring and work experience opportunities.
  • Champion Role Models – Champion role models need to be visible and accessible as both women in tech, and the male champions that support and promote equality and diversity in the tech industry.
  • Challenge Negative Stereotypes – Negative stereotypes exist from the earliest of years, with segregation in toys, entertainment and through the direction of play-based learning during infancy and early childhood education. Also, the perceived requirement for women to form women-only networking groups and forums and to separate the genders is continuing to exacerbate the gap. While support from other women can be nurturing and beneficial, it does not assist in breaking down stereotypes. It does not help in correcting the exposure to hiring executives and reducing the barriers that exist through network theory and segregation to decision-makers.
  • Create and Foster Networking and Mentoring Opportunities – networking and mentoring opportunities need to consider the following in their creation:
    • Exposure to decision-makers – executives and recruiters
    • Visibility to successful and passionate females in tech
    • The opportunity to showcase up-and-coming talent
    • A safe environment for females and students to ask open and honest questions without fearing judgement or retribution
    • The ability to celebrate appointments and promotions publicly to perpetuate success stories
    • Continuing education and development at the highest levels

  • What can today’s STEM leaders be doing to empower women and those of diverse backgrounds in their careers?

Dr Bianca Capra, Senior Aerospace Engineering Lecturer, UNSW:

There are many things our STEM leaders of today can do empower women and those from diverse backgrounds. Some are small, and some are large but all have positive impact. My advice would be to be mindful of your own unconscious bias and to openly and honestly listen to the challenges, experiences and opinions of minorities in your areas. We can all learn a lot by listening to others and reflecting on what we hear, and how we can each collectively act to improve and advocate for systematic structural changes so that diversity and inclusivity are core to our businesses.

Some immediate practical advice would be to mentor, promote and advocate for those in all minority groups that work for you – look for the differences people bring, value these differences, and help them develop and find their voice and passion.

Take the manel pledge! As a female aerospace engineer that was never taught by a female at university level, and regularly attends conferences where all keynote speakers, and most session chairs are male I say enough is enough! Women have always, and continue to, contribute to engineering and STEM more broadly. Be bold as STEM leaders and wear your values, don’t agree to sit on panels that don’t include true diversity and be open and honest about your choices. Without this visible and vocal support of our STEM leaders we will not be able to enact effective change. 

Understand that the system we are working in was designed primarily for one demographic only and that as a result the structures and mechanisms supporting this system are inherently biased. By recognising and accepting this, our leaders can then make effective change to promote greater diversity, such as introducing flexible working for all, supporting staff who are returning from long career breaks, looking for and valuing the knowledge and experience that diverse teams bring, and redefining the metrics we use to measure success so that it is reflective of all.

Give women and others from diverse backgrounds the tools to succeed – showcase, highlight and value the ideas and thinking they bring to teams. Importantly, empowering women and those from other underrepresented groups requires showing your current staff the important role we all have in creating a more inclusive and equitable work environment.

I would like to add that leaders and influences come in many forms. Parents, teachers and peers all have a key role in shaping the identity and self believe of the young people around them, so in my opinion these are also today’s STEM leaders. Listen to the passions of the young around you, use inclusive language, encourage and support their interest in STEM, and never say ‘never’ or ‘yes but …’.

  • Why do you think there is a lack of diversity in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths) fields? What can practitioners, organisations, and communities do to overcome these barriers? 

Dr Kudzai Kanhutu, infectious diseases physician, telehealth Clinical lead and Deputy Medical Information Officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital:

It boils down to meaningful opportunities and informed choice. Where there are historical power imbalances it can be very difficult to shift the balance and provide everyone with equal opportunities.  If I had my time again I may well have chosen to study Engineering and not Medicine. However, I wasn’t in a position to pursue that option because I didn’t really understand at the time the incredible opportunities that might be available if I chose engineering, physics or pure maths.

We need to get better at communicating what is available to people and how it can apply in their contexts, finding creative personalised ways to teach and foster STEAM curiosity.  Often the best people to come up with creative solutions to problems are those most affected by it.

  • In your view, what is the biggest thing driving the local and global shortage of women working in tech and data? What is the low-hanging fruit for each of governments, corporates, and individuals to improve the ratio?

Courtney Blackman, CMO, YBF Ventures:

There are so many layered factors that have pervaded modern culture for millennia including hiring practices to media portrayal of women as to what constitutes a “male” job and what constitutes a “female” job. Historically, tech has been framed as a “male” job. From a media perspective and more recently in regard to popular television shows focused on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) world – The Big Bang Theory and Silicon Valley, which concluded their final seasons last year, were both hotbeds of same-old tropes with men taking centre stage and women being the support characters. It was only in later episodes of The Big Bang Theory that female scientists were introduced as characters, where previously, it was four male “geniuses” and a blonde woman who was both a waitress and struggling actress. I’ll put my hand up and say I’m as guilty as anyone for watching shows like these and I’m fully aware of the gender biases slipping stealthily into my own brain. Unfortunately, these biases will permeate through to the next generations as they will forever live on through re-runs (both on television and the way people think).

When hiring, everyone from the founder of a tech startup to HR departments in larger companies already have biases in place, and more often than not, the pool of potential tech employees is an omnipresent visual of masculinity. Females, regrettably, are more reticent to put themselves up for tech roles as the roles are deemed and enforced as “not for them”.

With that said, there are so many inspiring women working in tech, but sadly the turnover is twice as high for senior women working in tech than men. And three times more males found startups in Australia than females, according to Startup Muster’s 2018 annual report.

Education targeting young women in STEM will certainly help with a future inclusive workforce, but today, programs need to be put into place to retain female tech leadership, which would in turn have a positive impact on recruitment and retention for junior tech roles.

I’m the CMO (and sit on the Executive Leadership Team) of tech and innovation hub, YBF – which has offices in Melbourne and Sydney. The company upgraded its leadership at the end of 2017 and one of the key pillars of the new leadership was to take an active approach to gender equality. When I joined the team at the end of 2017 there was one female on the team. With the hiring of me, that number was inched up to two, but our new CEO wanted to see parity. Over the next six to twelve months we worked together as a team on recruitment and by mid-2018, we reached gender parity. We have fluctuated a few times where we’ve actually had more females on the team then male, but normally the average is 50-50. This has been an incredible achievement – to shift the entire culture of Australia’s most renowned tech and innovation hub from being primarily male to being gender inclusive. In 2018 when we did reach parity for the first time, one of the men on the team was actually moved to tears as it was never a priority for the company previously and he realised how important it was.

Part of my specific role in shifting our company’s culture was developing and directing the Lift Off Awards. The awards take place annually in Melbourne and they celebrate gender and cultural diversity in fintech. To date, the awards have gained endorsement from incredible female leaders including Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Sally Capp, Australia’s first Fintech Minister, Senator Jane Hume and the Chief Executive Partner of Lander & Rogers, Genevieve Collins.

ADVICE: Why Businesses need to be as transparent as possible about diversity – It’s not about being perfect

After a decade in the technology sector, Gemma Lloyd recognised some key themes about when she was most and least empowered to perform and be recognised for her talents. One of the standout keys to success was having visible female leaders and a workplace environment that consciously acted on diversity and inclusion issues.

This is what led Gemma to develop and build WORK180, a platform that connects recruiters and job seekers, with the mission “to empower every woman to choose a workplace where they can thrive”. From her own experiences and based on research, Gemma started to gather and assess the various attributes that provide an empowering workplace for women.

WORK180 now has 35 different criteria, including flexible working, parental leave and pay equality, where employers transparently list their policies and initiatives on each issue, so potential employees have as much information at hand as possible to make an educated decision on where to apply for work.

The dialogue on transparency is changing

Today, WORK180 partners with some of the largest and most respected enterprises and businesses across Australia, the UK, and the US. But it wasn’t always easy.

Gemma explains, “In the early days, companies asked, ‘What do you mean you want us to be transparent?’ After they had started using the platform, it was easy to show the benefits of transparency. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about sharing what you do and don’t offer. Employees just want to know what they’re getting into.”

Companies that partner with WORK180 experience a range of different benefits. BHP, for example, which has been working with WORK180 for five years has experienced a 21% more engaged workforce and a significant decrease in safety incidents since starting their diversity and inclusion journey.

Gemma says, “I haven’t seen any negative impacts from being transparent. Even if their policies aren’t great. Companies that talk about their improvements, like BHP, speak volumes. That journey is really important. BHP is an inspirational company to look at.”

Diversity can’t sit solely with HR

Gemma has seen a stark difference in success and impact among different organisations trying to get the most from their diversity and inclusion initiatives. Many businesses are committed to closing the gender pay gap, which is bigger for women of colour and women with disabilities, and many businesses also seek to benefit from the innovation and creativity that comes from diverse teams.

Gemma believes the businesses that do this successfully have the entire leadership team involved, with everyone understanding why these initiatives are in place, not just what they are.

She says, “It needs to be driven from the top and driven by all the business leaders. If you want success, it cannot be an HR initiative.”

WORK180 provides an online HR health check for businesses to help them get a full understanding of where they stack up and where they can improve. Gemma encourages business leaders to assess four key areas – policies and benefits, inclusive culture, storytelling and job ads.

She encourages businesses to interview women working at and with the organisation to understand why they are there and how their experience could be improved.

Even during these tumultuous times, Gemma encourages any women currently looking for work to explore the WORK180 platform as many of their clients are still hiring, including Woolworths, Atlassian, BHP, Microsoft and NAB.

About the expert

Gemma Lloyd is an award-winning entrepreneur, whose focus is on empowering women and improving workplace equality.

A passionate advocate for gender equality, Gemma is a keynote speaker, takes part in expert panel discussions and provides commentary for media outlets such as ABC Radio, Channel 7 and Sky Business News.

In 2017, Gemma was a finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards 2017 in two categories (For Purpose and Young Business Woman) and in 2016 won WIT Entrepreneur of the Year.

Also in 2017, WORK180 won the Victorian Innovation Minister’s Diversity Award, Tech Diversity Award Winner in Media, in 2016, won the #Techdiversity Award in the Leaders in Advertising category and was a finalist in the 2015 ARN Women in ICT Awards in the Innovation category.

In 2015, Gemma and Valeria Ignatieva established WORK180, an international jobs platform that pre-screens employers on policies around paid parental leave, pay equity, flexible working and more than 30 other criteria.

Those that meet the required benchmarks are able to join the WORK180 network and advertise their jobs to an extensive audience of talented women. Workplace policies and initiatives are also made public so that candidates are able to see where an employer stands before they apply.

In 2018, Gemma and Valeria launched WORK180 in the UK and a US network is currently being developed.

VIEW: How to find, support, and empower female led brands to tackle gender equality

Around the world, gender parity at the leadership level is lacking. In some areas and corners of the globe, it’s improving, but the general consensus is we’re still far from reaching balance on our boards and leadership team.

Some reports say this could take 100 years to achieve.

In the US, 50.2% of the college-educated labour force is made up of women, yet women still only hold 25% of leadership roles. In the UK, women only hold one in three board positions in the UK’s top public companies, and a mere 15% of FTSE 100 finance directors are women. And in Australia, the rate of which women are appointed to boards has plummeted from 45% to 31.7% between 2018-2019.

Femeconomy, founded by Jade Collins and Alanna Bastin-Byrne, is on a mission to keep businesses, boards, and consumers both informed and accountable. Jade and Alanna shared their views on Femeconomy’s role in addressing the gender parity and equality issue, as well as their observations on how this has become such a significant global challenge.

  • Why does Femeconomy exists? What problem does it aim to solve?

Femeconomy is a national membership organisation that educates consumers, business owners and budget owners on how their purchasing decisions can create gender equality.

Femeconomy identifies and amplifies companies that have at least 30% women on the Board of Directors or are 50% female owned. We encourage people to use their purse power or procurement power to support these companies.

Companies with female leaders are more likely to have workplace flexibility and less likely to have a gender pay gap, so they are helping to create gender equality for their employees and communities.

  • What is your vision for Femeconomy over the next 3-5 years?

2019’s Women for Media report states women represent 18% of sources in business reporting. Femeconomy’s female leader interviews with our community are a way to remedy this imbalance for the women achieving outstanding results in business.

Recently Femeconomy was recognised by the State Library of Queensland as being a subject of social, political, cultural, artistic, religious, scientific or economic significance and relevant to Queensland. As a result, Femecononomy’s website has been added to the Australian National Web Archive. This means Femeconomy’s website content will be able to be accessed by the public globally in perpetuity. 

For those women who have shared their leadership wisdom with Femeconomy via our Female Leader Interviews, we are so immensely proud that their voices, and thought leadership, will be captured and preserved forever. 

We want to continue sharing the stories and amplifying the voices of women leaders who are the gender equality trailblazers of our generation. We believe if you see it, you can be it.

We also want to continue our advocacy around using economic levers like consumer purchasing power, and procurement power to drive the growth of women led businesses. All organisations, including corporates, governments, not-for-profits and small businesses can implement gender equality procurement principles in their supply chain and create more sustainable, profitable organisations.

  • Why are female-driven businesses often overlooked, undervalued, or misunderstood? 

It’s a mixture of our legacy social and workplace structures, including the male breadwinner model, and unconscious bias. As a community, we have progressed, but gender equality and social change take a long time. It was only in 1983 that an Australian woman’s passport application no longer had to be approved by her husband!

In Australia, we know that our organisations are still overwhelmingly led by men, and much business is done via relationships and networks. 

34.8% of Australian business owner managers are female. Yet women owned businesses access less than 2% of the global procurement market, a significant economic disadvantage to women.

To help address this disparity, Femeconomy recently partnered with The 30% Club and leading Australian Board Directors to develop a Gender Equality Procurement Toolkit, to support organisations to implement procurement strategies that create gender equality across their supply chains, and foster ethical supply practices.

Femeconomy also developed an example Gender Equality Procurement Policy that is targeted towards Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and encourages women led businesses to adopt these principles themselves, and trade with each other.

  • What can both women and men do to better support gender diverse businesses? 

As consumers, identify and purchase from brands with women leaders. Most people have a top 10 brands they habitually shop with – think groceries, insurance, banking, clothing, gifts, cosmetics, toiletries, electronics. Using Femeconomy’s approved brand directory, check your favourite brands are Femeconomy approved, and if they aren’t, switch to like brands that are.

Within businesses, ensure you procure goods and services from women led businesses.

This will create gender equality across industries, and more profitable and sustainable businesses. It’s a win-win.

  • What is the most commonly misunderstood aspect of gender diversity in the workplace? How do we overcome this? 

Intersectionality is the topic that most often gets raised with us. That is where another trait such a woman’s age, marital status, parental status, childfree status, cultural background, skin colour, linguistic differences, disability, or sexuality for example combine to mean that there is a ‘double whammy’ of disadvantage and stereotyping faced by that person, because of our unconscious bias.

People may claim that they treat everyone the same, or see everyone the same, but research has proven again and again that this just isn’t true.

The way to overcome it is to identify and examine our own inherent biases, and start to question them. Many of our stereotypical beliefs about gender have been culturally normed and formed, and reinforced by the people who surrounded us as we grew up, and our life experience.

Challenging ourselves to be inclusive, and seeking to understand each other is the way forward.

About Femeconomy

Choose female led brands. Create gender equality.

Femeconomy approved brands have at least 30% women on the Board of Directors or are 50% female owned. So far over 850 consumer and business brands meet our criteria.

Further information is on Femeconomy or view Jade and Alanna’s TEDxTalk.