Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day. It’s both a day of celebration and a day of action – celebrating the achievements of women while also recognising that we have an unfortunately long way to go before we achieve gender parity.
At the time of writing this article we were facing over 217 years to global gender parity.
In 2017 and so far in 2018 we have seen some strong momentum on women’s issues, through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. This year’s International Women’s Day looks to push this further with this year’s theme – #PressForProgress.
This year, to explore the issues faced by the women closest to us, we’ve interviewed three incredible women from our own team to better understand the challenges faced by these women and those like them.
We sat down with one of our Senior Legal Assistants Alicia Walker, Trish Boyle our Administration and Accounts Assistant and Rebecca Coote our Marketing Manager and asked them some questions about their careers so far and what the future may look like for them.
Can you introduce yourself and your career so far a little bit for us?
Trish: I’m Trish, the Administration and Accounts Assistant at Gouldson Legal and I joined the Firm in October 2017. Previously I was working in the Self-Managed Superannuation Industry for 8 Years and prior to that I worked in the Motor Industry.
I also have a background in the Hospitality Industry, which helped me to develop my people skills and gain confidence for future ventures.
Alicia: I’m Alicia, a legal assistant with Gouldson Legal and have been with Gouldson Legal for just over 6 months. I have been working in the Personal Injuries industry for 8 years and prior to that worked as a service manager in retail.
I first got into personal injuries after I finished my study to get a bit of life experience before looking at joining the Police Force. After a tragedy occurred in our family, where I lost a friend in a car accident, I knew that I was in the right industry – helping people that have been through accidents. I love every aspect of my role.
Bec: I’m Rebecca (but I prefer Bec), the Marketing Manager at Gouldson Legal and I’ve been with the firm for almost 4 years. I have been working in Marketing for about 6 years, and before that I worked primarily in hospitality while I was studying.
I first got into Marketing at the Casino here in Brisbane while I was finishing my education degree and then loved it so much I continued on into my Masters of Business (IMC) and have worked in marketing roles ever since!
Do you think there are barriers ahead of you in your career, or ones that you have previously encountered, that you feel are specific to your gender?
Trish: I was a Sales Rep for a couple of years in the early 90’s and it was quite challenging as it was a boys club, in terms of getting your foot in the door with a lot of the accounts I was seeking. There were very few female Managers in general and also very few female Managers of Restaurants and Bars.
I found that though there were many women in the hospitality industry it wasn’t until the mid-90’s that it started becoming more acceptable for women to advance into managerial positions and that the opportunities for women to do so increased.
Thankfully however, for the role I am in now, I don’t think there will be issues like this in my future – I think there is a healthy balance of both men and women in Administration.
Alicia: I believe that things have changed immensely over the years in the legal industry, I always remember it being a very male dominated industry when I was younger and first started out, but I don’t believe that is the case anymore.
I think that things have definitely changed a lot and there are more and more women becoming lawyers and moving up in the industry. However, I still worry about the pay gap for women (especially in more senior roles) and the impact having kids still has on women’s careers.
I have always wanted to have kids, and definitely will one day, but I worry about how this will impact my career in the future – not just for the immediate time off following my kids, but the way this might impact my career progression, promotions and other opportunities. Though there has been some progress here with flexible roles etc., I still think that the decision to have a child impacts a woman’s career so much more than a man’s and this is something I worry about.
Bec: I think this really depends on where I (or anyone for that matter) work, to be honest. At the moment I feel like there aren’t a lot of barriers or issues like this for me in my current role, but I’m aware that in the future this could be different. So I do worry about my future roles, especially because I have always been driven in a career sense, with my career being my primary focus.
With this focus comes the language and attitude that can surround driven, career focused women, which is something I find really challenging at times. There are a lot of studies into the way we speak about women in management or senior roles – men are ‘assertive’, women are ‘bossy’. This even impacts the way women interact with others. I’m quite direct, but over the years I have had to learn to soften the way I email or interact with others, so not to be branded bossy (or worse).
Unfortunately, I have still dealt with resistance and dislike, especially when I was younger in management roles in hospitality – while I had the skills and experience, it was often the case that I either wasn’t taken seriously or that I was thought to be cold and rude, all while doing my job and doing it well. These types of reactions are why so many women (including many I know personally) intentionally or subconsciously moderate their language and behaviour, to walk the impossible line between ‘weak or emotional’ and ‘bossy or ice-queen’.
This type of moderation is something that is well recognised in research etc., but for all the research and campaigns I can bet you it’s still something most women have to consider most days.
I’m also very aware that I am privileged to only have these concerns, many women around the world face much harder challenges than I.
What do you think about International Women’s Day?
Trish: I think whatever avenue that can be taken to give women in the workforce recognition is essential. Especially in light of the many hurdles our sisters have endured before us and currently the exposure of men in high positions that are finally being questioned for their conduct towards women in the workplace.
Alicia: I have never attended an IWD event, but I think that efforts and events like this are important – just because I don’t see too many challenges as a woman in my line of work doesn’t mean others don’t, any it’s important to recognise and address this.
Bec: I think days like this are important and help to draw more attention to the challenges that still exist – however these don’t reach into all the communities that need them, in some cases they don’t reach the women who are facing the biggest challenges to achieving parity.
I also think that the tone of these and the way we seek to include men in these initiatives is how we’re going to see ongoing progress. I think at times we can alienate the men who are supportive and working hard to help remove the barriers that exist for women, which makes the efforts seem like they are against men, rather than against inequality – wherever this is, and whoever it is perpetrated by.
I think (like I’m sure many do), that achieving parity is something that should include everyone who is working for this, regardless of gender.
And lastly, who is someone that inspires you?
Trish: I would have to say I truly admire Ita Buttrose. A woman that has had a career spanning over 40 years and still going strong. Ita battled through an industry that at the time was male dominated and managed to not only succeed in her chosen career but also gained the respect of both men and women alike. Women like Ita proved that it is possible to balance being a mother and have a successful career.
I also think the newly appointed Prime Minister for New Zealand Jacinda Ardern is a wonderful inspiration to our future generation.
Alicia: Definitely my Grandmother. My grandmother was one of the first woman to get a loan solely in her name as a single mother. She had three children and worked a number of jobs to provide for her family before eventually getting remarried.
Even though she isn’t with us anymore, I still remember the stories and her resilience to work and provide for her family really opened my eyes to what challenges I myself can overcome.
Bec: Corny I know, but my Mum. When she was younger she refused to sacrifice what she wanted in life just to do what was expected (marriage, kids) and she took off travelling and exploring the world for over two years. She broadened her horizons and lived for herself, not for anyone else, which I find really inspiring.
She rather hilariously stood my dad up years before they finally met again, and when she was ready they married happily and had my brother and me. Both my parents loved travel and wanted our eyes to be open to the joys and struggles of the world, so they took us travelling with them.
While she isn’t known for her stand for parity in any way, she certainly raised me with eyes open to the challenges of the world and with the belief that I could overcome challenges before me – that I am worthy of the life I want to lead. She still encourages me to break the mould and believes that the world is open to me, which is something that I think everyone needs.