Reflections on
International Women's Day

Farida Malek
By Farida Malek
Community Engagement Manager, CultureVerse
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On International Women's Day, we invited the Think HQ team to share their reflections on what the occasion means to them and the communities we serve.

Farida Malek, Senior Community Engagement Coordinator

As we celebrate International Women’s day, we promote and empower women as the fundamental builders of a society.

Every year on the 8th of March people celebrate IWD across the world, recognising and acknowledging the achievements and impacts of women in all aspects of our lives and society.

As we celebrate IWD this year I hope we do so by promoting equality and recognising women from across the world who have never been recognised or had the opportunity or platform to speak up for themselves, in particular women of multicultural backgrounds. As we celebrate IWD I hope we acknowledge and recognise those women who dedicate their lives and show leadership in poverty stricken regions, in war zones, and in areas which have been affected by natural disasters as they are the heroes worth celebrating!

Jessica Billimoria, Head of CultureVerse

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, Diversity Council Australia has launched ground-breaking research examining the state of play for culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) women in leadership. The research, conducted by a team of CARM women, focuses on how the intersections of two key marginalising characteristics – race and gender – are operating in workplaces.

Amongst so many powerful insights, is a section titled ‘A good ally’. The three things that stood out to me, and that I know I can focus on every day are:

  1. Centring lived experience - by asking, rather than assuming how to best support CARM women. And ‘passing the mic’ rather than dominating the platform.
  2. Seeking to understand - ‘doing the work’ to educate ourselves, others and organisations, about racialised gender discrimination and how to be a good ally – rather than relying on CARM women to shoulder the burden of always educating others.
  3. Standing up and speaking out - about racialised gender discrimination, when the person affected either cannot, or finds it difficult. Often behind the scenes without drawing attention to the marginalised person, for example, noticing when a name is pronounced incorrectly, and addressing the issue privately - taking the pressure of addressing issues away from CARM women/marginalised people.
Rebecca Song, Senior Account Executive

From my observation, it is a day on which people recognise and celebrate women, in particular, mothers' contribution to the family and society by taking the family and mother duty away from them for one day.

It is a great start at the journey of gender equity, however, there is a long way to go.

In our community, I don’t think that there is any official celebration other than the commercial opportunity around it. It is common for restaurants and shops to provide “International Women’s Day” discounts.

I think, the coexistence of traditional thinking and modern movement makes it extra hard for women in recent times, which means they are expected to both, i.e. have a successful career and dedicate their after-work time to be great wives and mothers. I personally think the ideal situation is for everyone to be seen as “human” instead of “male” or “female”, not just in policies and industry regulations, but also accepted as a social norm.

Above are situations and issues that I noticed in China. However, considering that most Chinese migrants in Australia have higher education levels and are more open-minded – the Chinese community here might not face the same issue.

I think it is important to acknowledge that every culture is at different stages of the gender equity journey. While gender equity is aligned with Australian values and most values around the world, we also respect individual's choices.

Blake Mason, Group Account Director – PR, Events and First Nations

Writing from the perspective of a queer man having celebrated World Pride in Sydney recently, the festival was a beautiful reminder of the invaluable contribution of women within the LGBTQ+ community. Women have always been at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ movement, from the protest in 1978 through to the colourful celebration we experienced this year, they been fighting for our rights and equal treatment. They continue to challenge gender stereotypes and gender-based violence, paving the way for a more inclusive world. Women have played a critical role in shaping LGBTQ+ culture, from drag queens to dykes on bikes, and everything in between. They have created safe spaces for our community and fostered solidarity among marginalised groups. I also recognise the immense contributions of trans and non-binary women in particular. They have fought tirelessly for their rights while simultaneously advocating for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. We must continue to uplift and centre their voices, which are often silenced or ignored. This International Women's Day, as we celebrate the achievements and contributions of women globally, we must also remember that the fight for true gender equality is far from over, and we all have a role to play in ensuring a more just and equitable world for everyone.

Elise Erwin, Senior Account Director

As a white cis woman, I think that IWD can provide recognition and space to discuss important gender issues. For me, it's a day to reflect on women's rights and inclusion – the progress we've made and priorities for advocacy and action. I also think it's incredibly important to spend the day listening and learning from other women's experiences and how gender intersects with issues faced by oppressed and marginalised communities. Because, without truly understanding the complexities and challenges faced by diverse groups, the impact of change will be contained and limited. As the famous African proverb goes "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Women's rights have come a long way since the suffragettes, and importantly the First Nations rights activists before and after them – I think reflecting on this progress helps motivate change and honouring the many women who dedicated and lost their lives to the cause is important. I like that IWD provides a platform to spotlight inspiring women to help empower others and I value the contribution of men on the day who play such an integral role in achieving equality.

The systemic issues women face today, in the workplace, law and health to just name a few, are a result of exclusion from their design and decision making. With so much energy going towards correcting these issues, we can't lose sight of what's ahead. The future is undeniably digital and women, and other diverse groups, need to be in the driver's seat this time. I don't think it's a coincidence that STEM has become male dominated, but there's time to turn that around.

Activism and advocacy has no position description. It's about informing yourself and contributing to the conversations that you feel compelled and safe to do so. Start with listening and create time and space to reflect on what you learn.