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Board four lead the way for women

 



Committee for Echuca Moama (C4EM) is leading the way when it comes to inspiring inclusion for women – this year’s theme of International Women’s Day celebrated on March 8.

Half of C4EM’s board of management is made up of women which includes Dr Cath Lees, Anne-Marie Cairns, Belinda Gilbert and Grace Angel.

All four women have faced challenges in the workplace, but more importantly, they have seen advances which are helping build a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment for women.

Cath said she recalled being in a job interview for a senior leadership role in her late 20s and being asked if she was married and planning on having children.

“At the time I didn't think much of it but now it makes me cringe,” she said.

"As a more 'mature' woman, I do worry about financial disadvantage, particularly in regard to superannuation having spent many years working part-time and never really being encouraged to think about my own retirement or superannuation fund. Many women find themselves unexpectedly on their own in the later stages of life and financial insecurity is a real concern.”


Female health issues were something Cath and Grace were both passionate about.

“No-one talks about menopause in the workplace!” Cath said.

“Hot flushes, raging emotions, brain fog, anxiety and self-doubt can cripple a once self-proclaimed, capable and organised woman!  These side effects are absolutely REAL for so many of my female friends and colleagues and are very confronting at the boardroom table – LOL.  We need to talk about it so much more, especially with our male colleagues who can be such great allies, and our future female leaders so they can recognise the symptoms early and not feel like they are slowly losing their grip on the workplace!" 


Fertility is top of the list for Grace.

“No-one talks about fertility challenges within workplaces (I do understand some like to keep this private), but as someone who's currently going through the IVF process, I'd like men in management to better understand the challenges for women in this situation,’ she said.

“Other female leaders can be more accepting and supportive of this and the journey. I would like to see businesses have more support with this tough topic and for those experiencing this. Endometriosis, miscarriages and IVF can take such a toll on the individual at work – physically and mentally (for both women and men). It would be great to open up this conversation within workplace leadership groups so there’s more support in the future.” 


On the upside, there are many positive experiences that inspire hope for an equable future.

“The older I get, the more I am grateful for those wise, senior women who mentored and supported me in my career,” Cath said.

“There is nothing more rewarding than lifting up and celebrating the achievements of our younger female generation, so eager to climb quickly.  Being able to provide a safe place for them to come and discuss their challenges and provide a little experience and wisdom in return is so rewarding. When women band together and lift each other up, there is nothing we can’t achieve!

“I was lucky enough to be supported to undertake a Women in Leadership course during my career.  This was such a fabulous environment of incredibly intelligent, supportive and very ‘human’ female leaders sharing their knowledge and vulnerabilities. I would love to bring this opportunity to females in the workplace in Echuca Moama and build on the great community we have here."


For St Joseph’s College Echuca principal Anne-Marie, it’s no surprise that education is her focus.

“This year’s Australian theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Count her in; Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress’," she said.

“This means that we all flourish when women are given opportunities and encouraged to grow and succeed.

 “Education has provided me with numerous opportunities to develop both personally and professionally. I am also acutely aware that education creates opportunities for others, it allows our young people to be the best versions of themselves; to reach their full potential.

 “At St Joseph’s we encourage all women to have kindness in their eyes and strength in their stride as they head toward their goal or their dream.”

 

Belinda works in the road transport manufacturing industry at Byford Equipment, and when she started 30 years ago it was a very male-dominated industry.

 “But with the right mentoring and support I have been given the opportunity to work my way through the business starting on the workshop floor as a welder and progressing through the different areas within the business,” she said.

 “In the beginning, I would go out to meet a customer and pull a welder out to fix something – the respect I earned was instantaneous. I was lucky that Gary the owner believed in me and knew if I was given the chance to learn from the ground up it would be an invaluable start in a male-dominated industry. Our business has always supported women and I think it adds a great balance to our workplace. We have had girls on the floor in welding positions, in production, procurement, sales, engineering and admin.  Really, there are no limits as to what we can do, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity.

 “If anything, working in a male dominated industry I have learnt to be resilient, persistent, open-minded and adaptable.

 “I think it’s important to build relationships with people and create a strong connection, whether they be male or female.”


For Grace, working in the traditionally male-dominated media industry has not come without its challenges.

“Working in the media industry; specifically radio and in account management can be more of a male dominant area of work, however over the last few years there's more women moving into leadership and management roles which gives me the confidence, motivation and drive for my job and to also hopefully work my way up within the company one day,” she said. “I feel these opportunities are available now more than ever, especially within larger corporate businesses.” 

 But the positives outweigh the negatives.

“As a woman on the board of C4EM – my first board position – I am proud and passionate and also very thankful that here in our community women are given a lot of opportunities to become more involved within business, community groups and volunteering etc,” Grace said.

“When we work together here in Echuca Moama and surrounds, big things happen. I am lucky to have met so many amazing women around town within this role on the board of C4EM, as well as in my position as account manager at Edge FM Radio, Ace Radio.

“As a 36-year-old female, it's taken me a while to see myself as equal within a business but with both my direct past managers as females who I look up to and appreciate their guidance, it has helped me become more confident with my choices and professional development.

“I sometimes look back at other women I've worked alongside that at the time I felt were ‘too over the top, controlling' but now realise how much they taught me when I was younger and finding my feet straight out of university. They inspire me for who I am in my job and personal life today. 

“I think it's up to us, as a female within the workplace/on boards to be honest and have open conversations and trust that your opinion matters and to respect yourself enough to take on feedback/criticism from others when needed.”

In the words of Coco Chanel – “Keep your heels, head and standards high!”

 

If you are interested in networking opportunities for women in the workplace, email info@c4em.com.au




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