Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Walk a mile in their shoes 2014

After a successful launch of the 2013 Harcourts Victoria Walk a mile in their shoes, we are putting on our heels again on the 9th of May raise awareness of the issue of violence against women.

Why Violence
This is an issue that is hard, violent and dark with jagged edges. Yet today on the news we constantly hear of violence in our streets, in homes, in nightclubs. Parents having to turn off life support machines, young men dying from a single punch, women murdered by partners or someone they don’t know. This is an issue that impacts our families, friends and communities we work in.

I have seen first-hand the impact on violence on partners, families, children and friends. They never get over it, the sadness and emptiness is profound and heart breaking.
Many of you reading this may not be aware of the increased incidence of violence towards women. (Following was gained from the White Ribbon website)

·         At least one woman is killed in Australia every week by a current or former partner

·         One in three Australian women over the age of 15 reports having experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

·         In 2013 the cost of violence towards women and children had reached US$14.7 billion

·         Domestic and family violence is also the major cause of homelessness for women and their children.
The above data shows that the impact of violence against women is widespread and long-standing, it generates profound personal, social and economic costs for individuals, communities and the nation.

Given the above data as well it is likely that we will know someone who has been impacted by violence they just may not have told you.
How can you help?

Join us in the walk; join us to raise money for awareness programs for White Ribbon. Research tells us that prevention of violence starts with education and changing attitudes and behaviours at schools between the ages of 8 – 18 years. Our goal this year is to raise $50K

Join us in the walk and in one voice let’s make a stand that violence of any kind is simply not OK.
Let’s unite men and women in high heels and give voice to those caught in the violence cycle who don’t have one and courage to those who need it to seek help.

Let’s unite on the 9th of May and in a gentle way shake the world and raise awareness.

Let’s unite because the victims could easily be our mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends or ourselves.

To register or donate is really easy, simply follow the link to the White Ribbon site. http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/events/harcourts-victoria-walk-in-their-shoes-2014
I look forward to walking with you



Friday, March 7, 2014

International Woman’s Day 2014 – Inspiring change

March 8 sees us celebrate International Women’s Day. It is the one day in the calendar year we have set aside since 1911 to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women around the world and also focus on areas where inequality remains.  It is a shame that 103 years on the issue of equality is still on the table.


 The theme for 2014, quite appropriately, is inspiring change.

However, the change that is required is different dependant on your perspective, where you live and the industry you work in.

From my perspective, as a migrant to this country, Australia is a country where wonderful things do happen. It has provided me with ample opportunities in both life and business. These opportunities have enabled me to give back to my first home Fiji and to give my kids chances that I never had.

Australia is a melting pot that allows migrants to hold onto and celebrate their heritage. We are mostly a tolerant society with generous hearts.

So what does IWD really mean to someone like me? I was born into a culture that the western world would label as being oppressive towards women. I have “fought” the equal rights battle since I was a child, so my perspective of what we have in Australia is perhaps sightly tainted.

Yes, we have an issue with equal representation and pay. However I also believe that we are in a good space to leverage to where we should be. I firmly believe that my children- in particular my son- will have a very different mindset towards women in the work place. That’s because he has seen his mum break the traditional moulds. In comparison, many adult males in the workplace today often group their female counterparts with their wives or mothers who have chosen to stay at home. This in itself is a career; in fact stay at home mums work approximately a 94 hour week and would be paid $113,000 if this were a salaried role.

I work in an industry that is fairly well represented by women and since 2010 we have had a steady increase of women who work in real estate in Victoria. The number of female agents is close to 6696 making up 58% of the work force, according to the Minister of Consumer and Women’s affairs.

However there is still a significant issue with equal representation at executive, leadership or management level. I am one of only three CEO’s in my industry and this statistic speaks volumes.

I can tell you a plethora of stories about the challenges I have experienced ‘managing blokes’ and I know in return they have found me challenging as well.

But the good story is this: there are companies like the one I currently work for that have supported me along my journey to success. The great news is that there are number of companies who will do the same for all working women.

The CEO of Facebook talks about the concept of women leaning in. I agree we do need to lean in, ask for what we want and put our hands up for roles. However this isn’t going to work if men don’t lean in as well. There has to be a meeting halfway.

And the starting point is not the work place. It is at home. How many women work and still carry a significant load in managing the household? The equality partnership starts in the home first and then flows into the workplace.

The other side of the coin however is the level of violence towards women in our society is at epidemic levels and here some stats that you may not be aware of: (obtained from White Ribbon)

                    1 woman is killed every week as a result of intimate partner violence

                    Domestic and family violence is the key cause of homelessness for women and their    children
                    14.7Billion is the estimated cost of this violence to the Australian economy

                    Intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill health in Australian women aged 15-44

                    1 in 3 Australian women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives

These numbers are alarming as it means that potentially someone you know has been impacted by violence, you just may not be aware of it.

So every day Australian business women are dealing with multiple issues such as

·         having fair access to boards
·         leadership positions
·         equal pay
·         quota’s and targets
·         living with the guilt of going to work
·         managing work and household responsibilities
·         violence in the home or sexual harassment in the workplace

Despite the above however the reality is we lead very fortunate lives in Australia compared to women in less developed countries who live lives of utter desperation.

They deal daily with issues of starvation, crippling illness and far too often facing life or death choices. Many live in war torn and drought stricken areas.

They face challenges such as

                    being stoned to death because you were raped
                    having a price on your head because you’re 16 and you want to go to school
                    being burnt to death because your parents didn’t provide enough dowry
                    living with the fear of being sold into slavery or the sex trade

While we talk about the corporate glass ceiling, in other worlds the glass ceilings extend from extreme poverty to the extremes of war, from contaminated water to aids, from no health care to no education. This may not be our world but there’s no escaping that it’s the world we live in, we can make it our problem and we can be part of the solution.

The theme for 2014 is inspiring change.  So how can you be an agent of change, what can you do as an individual of either gender?

The answers do start with us

1.       be ambitious and aim for leadership roles
2.       get better at asking for what you want at home and at work
3.       create partnerships with your significant others
4.       guilt management is as important as time management
5.       be confident to talk about your success – own it
6.       make sure you throw the ladder down to women behind you
7.       mentor or coach other women
8.       chose to work for companies that believe in gender balance and act on it
9.       pick a cause that is specific to women and become passionate about it
10.   champion change around the world and believe that you can change the world

To create or inspire change of any type means we need to take control. To have that work life balance means you need to have your work in balance first, so take control and make it so. Accept that just as we work in a new normal in the work place the same applies to our homes as well.

I also believe we need to let go of the gender titles. I sit on planes and if the pilot or co-pilot is a female we tend to be surprised.  In every culture around the world men are seen as the natural choice in leadership roles and to this day this assumption exists. Letting go of gender titles will go a long way to changing this.

Men and women don’t need to be the same in the work place, we are different and that’s a good thing for business. We bring different opinions   to the table, and by combining strengths and working together in gender balanced work places companies have proven to be successful.

As a woman in business who speaks out about these issues I run the risk of being labelled as “pushing the female thing”.

At first I was cautious and slightly apprehensive about making this my “niche”. I know I don’t always line up in my thinking with many other women who also push this important issue, however since my Telstra win I have consciously made this something I voice.

I am happy to cause disruption in how we perceive women in the workplace, fitting into the status quo is not an option. Finding a solution is.

Having a vision is critical. What do we want the future workplace to look like. And working towards changes would pervade every party of our consciousness and society.

I want to leave the workplace a better environment for my children and to do that it means that men and women need to work together and it is not just the responsibility of the woman to do this but both men and women need to work on this together.

If there ever was a time to get passionate and inspire change in your home, in your workplace, in your community, with your peers, to do something that matters now I believe is that time. It starts with you and if each one of us starts a small ripple it will eventually build into a tsunami of change. And 100 years from now my hope is that International Women’s day is celebrated for reasons different to today.

And remember if you see yourself as an equal in the workplace than that is how it will manifest itself.