The theme for this year’s International Woman’s Day is ‘Make It Happen’. And when it comes to eliminating gender inequality, Australia’s teens are getting help to do just that.
While globally women have come a long way in terms of equal rights, a recent report into the perception of gender inequality in Australian teenagers found an alarming one-third of girls have personally experienced gender discrimination by the time they’re 18, while only 26% of all teens believe women have the same opportunities to advance in the workplace as men. If you’re shocked by those figures, join the club.
There is a flip side however. Clearly passionate about gender equality, nearly 90% of the Australian students surveyed for the Westpac Youth Gender Report ranked gender equality as ‘very important’ to them – and over half believing companies with equal opportunities for men and women are more successful.
So how do we close the gap between what these kids are experiencing and what they believe is important? Larke Riemer, Director of Women’s Markets at Westpac, says “Education is the starting point. For young women we need to reaffirm that they can do or be anything.” The findings revealed many teenagers already assign gender to particular industries, with “Homemaker” as the top ranked gender specific industry associated with women, whereas Trades, Mining and Engineering were seen to be male-aligned. “We need to address these thought processes during young people’s formative years across both genders – as much of it is unconscious.”
In Victoria, that education is currently available via Young Vagabond Workshops. Following a recent successful pilot, the Westpac-funded workshops are rolling out in various high schools across the state with the aim of breaking down gender stereotypes. Larke Riemer explains the sessions are “designed to change the perceptions of adolescents at a critical stage in their development process, empowering them to think critically about how gender stereotypes affect their lives”. With the workshops soon to be rolled out across New South Wales as well, both male and female year nine students are exposed to modern definitions of gender as seen in advertising and social media and then invited to compare the perceived message to their own gender identity. The aim? To draw the students’ attention to stereotypes which they may otherwise have been unaware of, and prompting them to reassess any gender-based preconceptions.
But the conversation shouldn’t just stop at the school gates! With parents revealed as the key influencers regarding their children’s choice of future careers (35% of teens surveyed said they looked to their mothers for guidance) it’s crucial that the message is taken to the wider community as well. “It’s our hope that these workshops motivate students to start this dialogue from an informed place. The pilot showed us this is already starting to have an effect with parents and students coming forward with unprompted positive feedback on the impact of the workshops”, said Ms Riemer.
With an already enviable 42% of leadership roles currently held by women at Westpac, the company hope that eradicating gender challenges for the next generation entering the workforce will allow them to reach their goal of 50/50 balance of females/males in leadership roles by 2017.
As Director of Westpac Women’s Markets, Larke Riemer and her team work alongside female business owners and professional women to help them build sustainable and profitable careers.
She shared her top five tips on “How to succeed as a woman in the workplace”
1. Find a mentor
Regardless of your skill set, there will always be someone who can provide you with a different perspective – don’t be afraid to ask the question and engage a role model to give you advice and impart wisdom.
2. Challenge assumptions
Unconscious bias and gender stereotypes exist in the workplace. These can impact managers’ decision-making processes, allowing them to be overshadowed by assumptions that can lead to discrimination (often unintentional). Be the change – recognise these unconscious behaviours in yourself and call out gender typecasts whenever you see them to educate those around you.
3. Promote the female economy
Recognise and promote the fact that female participation in the workforce has long term financial benefits for the economy as a whole. Make sure you have a clear understanding of how you will market your skills and achievements within business to ensure they are valued and recognised. Be conscious that your actions can encourage and empower other women to pursue their own career aspirations.
4. Use your networks
Be proactive about industry networking and look for new opportunities and connections at work. Women are natural networkers and love to share information. Ensure that you drive and build these relationships to help you advance in your chosen industry.
5. Maximise time away from work
To remain visible during times like maternity or parental leave, develop a contact strategy to stay in touch. Whether it’s a regular phone catch up or even a quick visit to the office with the kids; it will help you remain visible, and reinforces your commitment to the business.
The Carousel supports gender equality in the workplace. This International Women’s Day, let’s Make It Happen.
By Paula Crawford – Producer The Carousel
About Young Vagabond
Young Vagabond founders Haylee Collins and Ashleigh Grogan launched the first edition of Young Vagabond magazine in 2013. Haylee and Ashleigh shared a common passion for furthering the empowerment and equality of women around the world and have continued to grow and evolve Young Vagabond, with 2014 seeing the magazine go digital and the organization growing to encompass school workshops, events and yearly memberships.
The workshops engage students to look at traditional and modern definitions of gender presented by various mediums such as advertising and social media. Students are broken into male and female groups and challenged to consider how these messages align with their own gender identity. The purpose is to draw students’ attention to stereotypes, which they were perhaps unaware of, prompting them to unpack these preconceptions and allow them to assess situations differently in the future.
For more information please visit www.youngvagabond.com.au
Rubyconnection.com.au is Westpac’s interactive online community designed to inspire, educate, promote and connect Australian women no matter what they do, where they live and who they bank with. Ruby provides an opportunity for all Australian women to learn from each other.
For more information please visit www.rubyconnection.com.au