Women highlight the need for unity

By Vanessa Wiltshire

THE women of Seymour are not shy of asking the hard questions and having the conversations that count. Especially when it comes to gender equality.

Last Friday evening, 50 women (and a very brave man!) gathered at The Brewers Table for International Women’s Day (IWD), which is celebrated and observed annually around the world on March 8. It is a day to reflect on how far women have come, and how far we have to go, to achieve gender equality.

The event was co-ordinated by Seymour Rotary and featured a guest panel of four senior leaders. The evening was hosted and facilitated by Jacqui Brauman, owner and principal solicitor of TBA Law. Jacqui is also a Seymour Rotarian.

Over a delicious spread of platters and finger food, guests listened to the experiences and views of each speaker on the IWD 2019 themes: #BalanceForBetter and #MorePowerfulTogether.

Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said that in the context of #MorePowerfulTogether, more work is needed around women supporting women.

“Unfortunately, in politics I have found that the criticism comes from women. Politics is very tribal, and I have found the women to be extremely competitive, more so than men,’’ Ms Ryan said.

“I believe that women can succeed in politics and that the culture can be changed. Success comes from remembering why we came.

“We keep community and people at the heart of what we do. We know what our values are and stick to them.’’

Lajita Allen-Agnew, solicitor advocate at TBA Law, spoke of the difficulty women face as mothers, both in the workplace and in their personal lives.

She shared a harrowing but ultimately inspiring story of hardship overcome, leaving the audience with a strong call to action.

“We are responsible for growing the next generation,” Lajita said.

“We are responsible for teaching our children how to treat others. We are responsible for cultivating a deep sense of self-worth, so they know how to treat, and to be treated”.

Bronwyn Dunwoodie, co-owner of Wine by Sam, detailed the challenges – and opportunities – she faced as a mother returning to the workforce.

“I didn’t notice any discrimination before I had children,” she said. “I was an architect, which is a male-dominated industry. I didn’t think anything of giving men directions. Picture me, 5’4’’ at a work site, with all those big men.” The audience laughed.

But when Bronwyn had her first child, things changed.

“I thought that I would be able to go back to work right away,” she said. “Looking back, it was ludicrous.”

When Bronwyn decided she was ready to return to work, doors weren’t so easy to open.

“I took a course in project management to upskill. The class was full of men with more experience and qualifications than me.”

But she remained undeterred.

To Bronwyn’s surprise, her peers nominated her as the leader of a major project.

“We delivered it on time and in budget, it was fantastic,” she said. “One man came up to me and asked me how I did it.

“I said that I asked questions and listened. I think that’s a strength of being a woman, that we are strong on communication.’’

Rosie Panelli, chief executive of Goulburn Options, said that we must be careful not to stereotype women, be it in the workplace or otherwise.

“There are more than two recognised genders now, so we can’t say that women are like this and men are like that.

“I believe that we must treat everyone equally. I’ve never planned my career and I’ve never felt held back by a man. I’ve always taken opportunities as they came.

“At 66 I feel like I’m just getting started. It’s been my responsibility to get to where I am and I don’t plan on stopping.”

■This year’s IWD event was held in memory of Rotarian Marlene Campbell, who originally ran the event two years ago.

Funds raised through ticket and raffle sales will go to Share the Dignity.

Thank you to The Brewers Table and raffle donors, Lorices Beauty Place and Day Spa, Hock the Ruby, Tabilk Winery, Hair Boutique, Beautify By Stephanie Lee, Jane Challis and Anna’s candles.