A day of protest or celebration? Why can’t we have both?

March 16, 2022

By Jamila Rizvi


March 16, 2022

By Jamila Rizvi

Dear friends,

It’s been quite the celebration of International Women’s Day this year. So much so that I am writing you an email about it more than a week since the actual day passed. What was once a day of protest, has morphed into a fortnight of corporate events, government speeches, and cupcakes, oh so many cupcakes.

Part of me thinks that’s not a bad thing. Many of the incredible women I know are fierce and effective when it comes to getting the work done but not so good at marking the wins. When you’re running at full speed towards gender equality, pausing to marvel at how far we’ve come is worth doing. So long as you don’t trip, fall, and forget what you were fighting for in the first place.

I was delighted to spend International Women’s Day in the company of Future Women members. Our annual Leadership Summit followed our annual First Nations Women’s Breakfast, supported by long-time partner WitcheryThis piece by our very own Madison Howarth succinctly summed up some of the problems with the commercialised International Women’s Day marathon and how easily the feminist movement can fail to include women who need it most.

At the Summit itself, Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman Teela Reid gave a rousing address that echoed these sentiments. I was proud of the diverse talent who were part of the audience and who appeared on stage. Visibility can be a double-edged sword for working women, as Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins reminded us in her opening remarks. Nonetheless photos like this one remind us of the power of representation and the depth of talent organisations miss out on when they remain monocultural.

There was no small talk this year, as our panels faced up to the big conversations from the outset. We heard about how leadership has changed since the global Covid health crisis, and how chronic stress and burnout have come to characterise our workplaces. We learned how critical thinking can advance gender equality and were urged to ‘test everything you hear’.

Both the Treasurer and Shadow Treasurer attended the Summit, delivering short speeches before subjecting themselves to a grilling from our audience. Our members absolutely held these two leaders to account, asking them about everything from superannuation, to paid parental leave, disability support, to the representation of women in parliament.

A personal high point of the two days was an incredible series of lightening presentations on how to ask for what you want. Far too often we’re told that if women asked for more money, they’d get it, but the data simply does not back this up. Our three speakers, Catherine Brenner, Louise Adler and Sam Mostyn managed to be both motivational and realistic about gender inequality in responding to the subject matter.

If you did miss out on the Summit itself, either online or in person, then never fear. Littered through this email are links to write ups and photographs of the panels and speeches for our members. You can immerse yourself in the world of mindset coaching, learn how to respond to a sexist boss and everything in between. Big thanks to our Presenting Partner, CommBank, our Major Partner, Salesforce, Entertainment Partner Hachette Australia and Charity Partner Plan International for making the Summit possible.

It’s been a week – or two – of talking about women, marking women’s achievements, and identifying the challenges women still face. These stories, women’s stories, are worthy of being told and should be listened to broadly, including by men. But we have done enough talking for the time being, it’s time to move the conversation forward to action.

It is an election year in Australia which is the ultimate opportunity to make women’s voices heard. Critically, that means all women. Women who might not normally have access to the same rooms or platforms that you do. Making and giving up space for diverse voices isn’t always comfortable but it will always make us better, and the women’s movement stronger.

We’ll be in touch again soon.

Until next time,

Jamila Rizvi
Chief of Content, Community and Online Learning, Future Women