As a seafarer who spends half my life at sea with few or no females, spending 2 days alongside 140 trail blazing women was a life altering experience. In November, 140 women gathered in Sydney for WIMDOI NSW 2018. Innovative women laying the foundations, setting the standards, enduring hardships, battling prejudice, and forging a path for future generations of women to work unhindered in male dominated occupations and industries.
Women from many walks of life spoke at the conference. Union delegates, organizers, politicians, activists, negotiators, film makers, lawyers, educators and grassroots workers. Women standing their ground in an often unwelcoming and sometimes hostile environment. Refusing to lose hope, being true to themselves and eventually finding not only acceptance in a male dominated workplace but genuine appreciation.
During the 2 day conference women did what they do best… they shared their experiences and they learned from one another. We shared our knowledge, our accomplishments, our insights and our stories. There was a deep comradery, and I’m sure everyone left feeling empowered, motivated and determined to continue their successes and to achieve their dreams.
We learned coping skills, negotiating skills, self-empowerment strategies. Speakers encouraged us to be firm and consistent. To embody a self-esteem that seems to come naturally to men, and to stop doubting ourselves. The MUA’s own Mich-Elle Myers told us to ‘Just Say Yes!’. She urged us to believe in ourselves and to know that when we’re asked to do something, it’s because the person knows we’re capable, even if we feel apprehensive.
We were taught to never take a blue personally, whether in the workplace or at the negotiating table, and to understand that fear is almost always at the root of all aggression, harassment and alienation. Men fear change in their workplace. They fear being proven inadequate or losing their jobs to women. The point was raised that sometimes there is no support from women supervisors who fear losing their token management position to new females in the workplace.
But women can belay those fears and contribute to a richer workplace. Many shared the skills that have worked for them over the years, and it was no surprise to me that the list of strategies were what I consider to be feminine attributes; kindness, honesty, be calm, open minded and resilient. Stop things before they start, and most importantly, be yourself. Strive to reach a point where you don’t care what others think.
It was definitely not all sugar coated. There are still many areas that need to change. Research shows that 50% of all working women experience sexual harassment & only 50% of those women report it. EBAs need to have well defined sexual harassment clauses. There’s no legislation in place to stop deportation of foreign slave laborers in Australia during court cases against their exploiters. Sydney Water leads the way with 27% of the workforce women, but 80% of those women feel there is no option for them to advance because part-time management roles don’t exist.
Knowledge is power. Get involved. Be active. Know your EBAs, legislation & regulations Remember there are no ‘women’s issues’ in the workplace. There are only ‘worker’s issues’. Harassment, bullying, mental health, compassionate leave, equal pay and job sharing are human issues and many of the people fighting for these rights are women. So, follow the example of one brave women at WIMDOI… when someone says ‘You only got this job because you’re a woman’ be confident in your self-worth, believe that you are of great value & know that you are creating a better future for everyone. Then be firm, calm and kind in your reply. Look them dead in the eye and say ‘You tell yourself that if it makes you feel better’
Ann Holmes IR
Please go to the WIMDOI Facebook Page or checkout the following online:
Jobs for Women Film Project – the story of Australia’s first successful class action for women’s steelworks jobs
Inspire the Future – Redraw the Balance Film – a British film highlighting school children’s perception of gender defined jobs
WRAW Kit – Help for Organizers
Destroy the Joint – Union Women’s Initiative in response to the David Jones CEO incident
SALT - Visits schools exposing children to women working in a variety of occupations