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Women leading change

On International Women's Day, courageous young women standing up, speaking out, and leading change are giving us hope.

By Good Things Foundation Australia · 08/03/2021

Jess Wilson, Jo Cavanagh, Liz Williams, and Helen Milner are amongst the many women leaders at Good Things Foundation

After watching the stories in the media over the last three weeks, it’s hard not to be disillusioned by the state of workplaces, our education system and our culture across the country.

We’re hearing of a toxic culture and alleged assaults against women in what should be a leading Australian workplace, Parliament House. Young women all over our country are sharing their experiences of sexual assault at the hands of boys who are their peers. They call for earlier education on consent from both their schools and their parents and for boys to have the same. I am yet again reminded how far we still have to go to ensure a society that provides an equal opportunity at work and safety from violence for women everywhere.

And yet, this year on International Women’s Day, it is these courageous young women standing up, speaking out and leading change that is giving me hope. Our Australian of the Year, Grace Tame’s ability to speak so eloquently about how we can and must change the culture and system that keeps victims of sexual abuse silent and their perpetrators protected is inspiring others to demand change.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also highlights the gaps that remain. The pandemic we’ve experienced in the last year has impacted women more significantly than men across work and family life. In September 2020, McKinsey published its annual Women in the Workplace report revealing that the COVID-19 pandemic may have erased at least six years’ worth of progress for women in the workplace. In Australia, women have been particularly impacted by job losses due to the pandemic and that is before the end of JobKeeper payments this month.

Women are more likely to lack vital digital skills

At Good Things Foundation, we have been acutely aware that as so much of our work and lives moved online in the past year, women are more likely to be digitally excluded in our country than men. With the significant increase in digital transformation across sectors and the Federal Government calling for a digitally focussed recovery from COVID, investing in improving digital capabilities is a key strategy in enabling women to return to work and fully participate in the digital economy.

We strongly believe that support should be directed towards women with low or no digital skills, in low-income families, who are unemployed or underemployed and have called for this focus in our recent Federal Budget submission. There is a need for women to improve their digital skills to maintain existing jobs and participate in the continued growth and transformation of female-dominated industries such as aged care, healthcare, social services, disability support services, and education.

What we know is that when women are given the opportunity to learn digital skills with the right support, they are more likely to increase their confidence and connection to others as well. This is evidenced by the recently released evaluation into the Be Connected program we deliver. Increasing women’s skills and confidence leads to opportunities to improve their lives.

As a people-focused social change organisation, at Good Things Foundation we believe in the power of technology to change lives. But importantly, we know that it’s actually the connection between people that makes a true difference. Our story of three women in Charters Towers is just one example of this.

Women leading change

I am proud to lead an organisation that is having a positive impact on the lives of people across the country, but I do not do this work alone. I am supported by the experience and knowledge of Jo Cavanagh OAM as our Board Chair. At a global scale I work alongside the inspiring leadership of Good Things Group CEO, Helen Milner, OBE, and Group Chair, Liz Willams, MBE. The Good Things Foundation Group is women-led, and I am proud to be part of this group of strong, knowledgeable, impact-driven and fierce leaders. Our ambition is clear: together we want to create a world where everyone benefits from digital.

Our approach to this is through supporting, championing and highlighting the work that happens on the ground in grassroots community organisations. Every day in our network of over 3,500 community partners, there are women (and men) working to make a difference to people in their local communities. People like Robyn Garratt, Coordinator at York CRC and Norminda Forteza who kept their communities connected online during COVID. And, Ly from the Indochinese Elderly Refugees Association who has helped reduce isolation in her community.

So, I end this reflection not with the stories of harassment and violence against women that dominate our media today, but with a celebration of those of women who are working tirelessly to support change in their communities every day. We must continue to challenge the systems, the structures and the culture that create inequality, AND we must continue to celebrate the real impact women are having leading and supporting change every day in the lives of people in their communities.