Dear St Michael’s College Community,
We take this opportunity to speak to International Women’s Day 2021 which is celebrated on Monday 8 March. The theme this year is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. In the lead up to Monday’s celebration, we were privileged to attend a breakfast at the Convention Centre hosted by the Business Chicks organisation where the Honorable Julia Gillard spoke to an enraptured audience, predominately made up of women but still supported by a smattering of men, about the importance of developing the capacity of women in order to drive progress for everyone. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, Julia easily won over the audience with her astute observations on women in leadership and her resolve to make the world a better place through her position as Chair of Beyond Blue and her significant involvement with the Global Partnership for Education which aims to provide educational continuity for the most marginalised children across the world. It was not lost on us that this is the very notion on which St Michael’s Mission and Vision is based…”the Lasallian tradition which is committed to the human and Christian education of the young, especially the poor…”. Three hundred years ago, our Founder, St John Baptist de La Salle, through great courage, insight and determination, brought to fruition the Christian Schools which provided opportunity for disadvantaged young people to break the bonds of poverty through the acquisition of knowledge and skills to improve societal opportunity.
Over the years we have both fielded the question: “Why do women need a special day?” And the simple answer is because there remains a world-wide gender gap that impacts on the quality of women’s lives. The evidence is irrefutable as identified in just a few of the examples outlined in “Women and Leadership – Real Lives, Real Lessons” (Gillard & Okonjo-Iweala, 2020) and listed below:
- The 2019 Fortune 500 list identified the number of female CEO’s at just 6%.
- For every dollar in wages that a man earns, a woman earns 63 cents.
- Over 900 individuals have won a Nobel Prize with just 53 of the recipients being women.
- Historic barriers still prevent women entering the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – in data and artificial intelligence women make up 26% of the workforce, 15% in engineering and 12% in cloud computing.
- At the current rate the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 95 years to close the global gender gap in political representation.
As witnessed just this week with the horrific kidnapping of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, there are further insidious dimensions to gender discrimination such as violence against women, human trafficking, lack of female health services and more, all which effectively deny women a voice. It is therefore imperative that these issues remain at the forefront of planning and policy so that a difference can be made in the lives of women. To this end, St Michael’s celebrated International Women’s Day on Friday 5 March with a range of awareness raising activities such as providing a booklet that identifies “Women of the St Michael’s Community”, senior students attending a virtual IWD breakfast, distributing promotional ribbons and stickers, promotion of the day through music and photography and listening to speeches from students and staff members. Gratitude must be expressed to the School Leaders, the IWD Committee and Assistant Year 12 Director, Mrs Ady Webb, in bringing this day together so successfully.
And that is why “the work is ours” in being called to come together, harnessing our capacity to make the world an equal and kinder place for girls and women.
Ms Bron Kemp, Deputy Principal Teaching and Learning, and Ms Amanda Price, Deputy Principal Staff and Strategy