In 2019, International Women’s Day wouldn’t be legit without a hashtag. This year it’s #balanceforbetter. In this context balance surely references equality. If you have three men at the table, you must also have three women. For balance.
But although balance references equality, it doesn’t equate it. Especially when the three men at the table have thirty years of top CEO positions between them on top dollars, and of the three women at the table, only one is a CEO on half the pay of the men across the table, and the other two women have yet to be promoted. The table may be balanced, but it is not equal.
Although there are roughly equal amounts of men and women on our dear planet, the numbers show us that women still bear the brunt of domestic violence, income disparities and an obscenely unbalanced power dynamic both in the home and in our wider communities.
I wonder how many Australians know that the leading cause of homelessness in our country is domestic violence? Women and their children represent the overwhelming majority of domestic abuse victims, with numbers that are so skewed, so damaging and so horridly unbalanced.
An underlying factor leading to homelessness among domestic abuse survivors is a dependence on the income of a partner. When a woman decides to leave an abusive partner she must either be able to support herself (and often her children) or face the risk of becoming homeless. And consider this – sometimes, the fear of becoming homeless is even greater than the fear of staying with a partner who is dangerous, abusive and violent. Which leads to the sickening statistic that on average one woman per week is murdered by an abusive partner.
For thousands of women experiencing domestic violence around our country, they rely on the services and help provided by a host of wonderful not-for-profit organisations. The Newtown Neighbourhood Centre in Sydney is doing incredibly valuable work around homelessness and domestic violence. They assisted over 6,000 people last year alone finding housing, providing counselling, referrals and offering other supportive community services. The Newtown Neighbourhood Centre is led by Liz Yeo, a dynamic CEO fighting to end homelessness and isolation around Sydney. Her work through the Newtown Neighborhood Centre is actively changing the lives of thousands of women, and men, each year.
Another tireless CEO championing women’s health and wellbeing is Pat Turner, AM. Pat runs the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), a national peak body representing Indigenous health care. Pat has worked for decades to advocate for Indigenous professionals and community members to have an equal seat at the table in creating policy and programs that are geared toward the Indigenous community. She believes in the power of self-determination and through her organisation and others, Pat made history in December to get the government to agree for the first time to have Indigenous peak bodies serve as equal partners in the overview of Closing the Gap initiatives around the country. Pat’s determination and perseverance in advocating for equality is shifting and challenging the unbalanced power dynamic between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Having an equal seat at the table is a historical feat and will hopefully redirect our country down a more balanced and intentional path with Indigenous voices leading the way.
We women are are resilient creatures. We are resilient because of the support offered by women like Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President of the Blue Knot Foundation. Cathy is a medical practitioner, mental health advocate and a leading voice on survivors of childhood abuse and trauma. Through the Blue Knot Foundation, Cathy’s mission is to improve the life outcomes of trauma and abuse survivors. But her work is not just improving lives, it’s saving lives.
These are just three women making real tangible impacts on the lives of thousands of Australians.
For my part, I run a communications agency called Fifty Acres that works with not for profits and other businesses that have an ethos of doing good and giving back. We are an agency that supports the work of game-changers, of innovators and rabble-rousers. We are an agency led by women and empowered by our diverse backgrounds. And we are an agency that is changing the way the workforce supports women. We do things differently by supporting flexible working arrangements which include working remotely from home or a workspace, and we support flexible part time work and also hire contractors and freelancers. This intentional flexibility is especially supportive of working mothers and it’s something that we celebrate. We know that the work-life balance of motherhood is a real issue that often keeps capable, talented women out of the workforce. Having an employer who understands and actively supports flexible working arrangements is a game-changer in the lives of women and I’m thrilled to be leading the way in these efforts.
Although there is much to celebrate on this International Women’s Day, there is also much to strive for. I truly believe in the power of women as game-changers and as strong voices seeking to bring both balance and equality to every table. We know we have so much more work to do, but with women like Liz Yeo, Pat Turner AM and Dr. Cathy Kezelman AM, I’m ready for it.