You can’t be what you can’t see.
That’s the message from some of Warrnambool’s prominent leaders.
Former Warrnambool City mayor and chair of the Wannon Water board Jacinta Ermacora said the importance of women on boards and in leadership positions couldn’t be understated.
“There’s great dangers of having a monoculture or just ten of the same persons sitting on the board even regardless of the gender,” she said.
“Many organisations, inadvertently through perhaps conscious bias, hire people like themselves who’ve been through the same pathway.
“Cracking that open is women can’t be what they can’t see and broadening the definition of merit to include women. So that you’re not just drawing on 50 per cent of the population when you’re considering appointing someone but 100 per cent (of the population). South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said from her own experience women often placed barriers on themselves.
“My number one priorities have always been family and work,” she said.
“I haven’t sacrificed one or the other. I think it’s different for men.”
Mrs Britnell said diversity in leadership mattered and women often doubted their abilities.
“I’ve sat on boards and I can be ruthless and cut throat but females also provide a different perspective,” she said.
“I honestly believe everyone is capable. Women really struggle to believe in themselves and think ‘I’m not good enough’. That does put a barrier up and we do need to get the balance right.”
Moyne Health Services board chairwoman Karen Foster said she was encouraged by the number of women who were stepping up and taking leadership roles. “But there is a really long way to go,” she said. “I never used to be a fan of affirmative action, now I’ve thought it through really carefully and I think it will take affirmative action to bust through to the point where we have got equality.”
Ms Foster said it took a lot of courage to put yourself forward and we lived in a community that was quick to cut down tall poppies.
“But the more women that do it, the easier it will become for people behind us,” she said.
Grabbing opportunities and running with it
WHEN Felicity Melican was made principal at Sinclair Wilson in 2001 she didn’t think it was very significant.
“It was a great opportunity and I grabbed it with both hands,” she said.
“At the time I didn’t think much of it, but I guess it was.”
She said International Women’s Day acknowledged the struggles of many women who had to break through the glass ceiling. “And perhaps I’m a result of what they’ve done,” she said.
Young girls told to aim higher and speak up
BRAUER College principal Jane Boyle says she believes part of her job is to empower young girls to have confidence to seek leadership positions.
Ms Boyle said the school had a strong leadership program which was naturally open to boys and girls.
“But I won’t let a girl pull out and say I don’t think I could do that,” she said.
“My job is always to say have a go. It might not be as bad as you think.
“I see the huge potential of young women and they’re stepping up.”