CLARITY – “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” Epictetus
Attending the recent Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Womens Network Conference (QRRRWN) in country Kingaroy Queensland Australia encapsulated the value of what women can achieve when they have an education and access to information and nurturing supportive networks. In the 30 years that I have been attending professional and community based conferences, this is one that will remain a stand out for me.
Why? Simply because it captured three generations of women who have lived and worked on the land, carved careers in what was previously seen as a male dominated environment and most importantly, how they shared their personal experiences and resilience to achieve their individual, family and career goals. Many are mothers raising the next generation of women who are not as intimidated or constrained by some of the struggles that my generation and those of past generations encountered regarding access to education and lifelong learning.
Many of these young women have excelled in their tertiary studies, travelled extensively, hold senior positions in diverse professions and have returned to the community that they feel so much a part of and are making their mark. It truly was a reflection that when you can access the right kind of support – it really can change your life and the lives of others.
One of the most joyful personal moments at the QRRRWN Conference was speaking with the young high school students about their future careers. In particular the encounter when two poets named Willow (one a pseudonym of Chris Knight’s and the other her real name) transcended the generational gap to share some insightful moments about the women’s movement and the importance of supporting others to live their dreams. Young Willow was sponsored to attend this event by the QRRRWN Bursary Program with encouragement and assistance from her High School Teacher. It was wonderful to listen to her aspirations and how inspired she was by the presentations and life stories shared by the speakers and panellists.
The value of Educating Women and Girls has a significant benefit to ending poverty and increasing women’s economic empowerment and financial security. However access to education and improving literacy and numeracy skills across the world still remains a significant barrier for many women and girls. The calibre of the Keynote Speakers at the QRRRWN Conference certainly highlighted that the Women on the Land are definitely at the forefront of innovation and sustainable and diverse farming practices. A casual conversation with a former ABC Journalist who hosted a rural radio program was that whenever she would phone to speak to the farmer – she rarely even knew the name of his wife. Amazing how we can still make assumptions about who is actually running the farms.
Continuing the theme of how I am embracing technology, this video produced in Australia back in 1961 by the ABC shares some interesting perspectives of whether educating women especially those that choose to get married is worth it or not. There will be segments that will make you laugh out loud and other parts that will no doubt bring a frown or two depending on your age, personal situation as to whether mothers should even be in the workforce or whether they should have to wait until they are 45 years or older and their children are all grown up before they should even consider getting a University degree.
ABC News Woman’s World: Education for married women (1961) interviewer Jean Battersby discusses the value of education for married women with Jean Inkster (Pharmaceutical Chemist and former Lady Mayoress of Melbourne, Australia) and Toni Thompson (Kindergarten Teacher) …who believes that too much education fogs the mind up too much ….
The aspirations and attitudes towards married women getting a university education and working when they have children are still as relevant and contentious today as it was back in 1961. One major difference is how expensive it has become to gain a University degree and how many woman spend decades trying to repay the higher education fees and the costs of child care. One of my friends, Gina Hope Masterton shared the following comments after watching the video:
“Well, I was born in 1965 and was definitely not encouraged by my high school to pursue university study even though I was getting As and Bs. I got into UQ law and then QUT law and graduated with a law degree in 2000, became a Barrister, worked for the federal government as a prosecutor, worked in litigation firms in Los Angeles for 13 years, got a masters in law from QUT and soon I’ll have a PhD from Griffith University and then go into business for myself at the private bar! I said ‘no’ to a loser husband that I couldn’t depend on, no to ungrateful kids and no to being a full time cook/housekeeper, and a big fat ‘YES’ to education, freedom and independence and I’d encourage every young girl to get educated!
It is timely to remind ourselves that not all women work by choice but rather necessity to provide for their families. Many are single income earners as well as carers for their children and elderly parents. Many have not had the benefit of securing a substantial superannuation package for when they retire. Many have not been able to earn the same pay as men because of the gender pay gap. What was your reaction or thoughts when you watched the video? It may vary depending on your age and work / life experiences but for many working mothers, some of these challenges and stereotypes of a women’s place still exist. As much as we all might aspire to being the Super Action Woman that can do it all – we often struggle to do this unless we have the support of others who want to help us succeed in our careers and in life.
I’d love you to leave a comment on this blog post about your views of what you think has changed for women regarding their roles in the workforce and society, especially those that live and work in rural and remote communities. As we embrace the new digital technologies that are available today there is a resurgence of interest in sharing stories of our pioneering women of the past who were the real trail blazers. It is also a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the dedication of other women who have been researching and uncovering these precious stories and making them more accessible.
One thing is for sure, we can never rest on our laurels in celebrating and learning about the history of the women’s movement and some of these fearless women from the past who had a vision for the future. It is also fortuitous that we can rewrite or at least add to these stories of our women’s history. Readers may recall that New Zealand was the first self-governing country in the world to give women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This occurred on 19 September, 1893 when the Governor, Lord Glasgow signed the New Zealand Electoral Act into law. It was decades later before women in other parts of the world through their tireless campaigning won the right to vote. Much of the credit for the New Zealand Women’s Suffrage movement records the work of Kate Sheppard who also appears on the current NZ $10 note.
However, in a recent article published on 19 September 2018, some 125 years later, New Zealand writer Cathy Bell shares the story of Mary Ann Muller or Femmina as she was known. Mary Ann was fighting for women’s rights before Kate Sheppard even arrived in New Zealand, but her pioneering contribution to the cause is little known until now. Fémmina: The story of NZ’s unsung suffrage provocateur Mary Ann Müller by Cathie Bell
What is significant when we reflect on those that are credited for being trail blazers, movers and shakers is that they received significant support from others along the way. Their names may never be known. Just like today, many women who have been successful in their chosen careers, business, political and professional lives still work incredibly hard to shift the goal posts and make it easier for the next generation to have choices during their working life that they never had.
I’ve love to hear what you think still impact on working mothers and what we can do to support them. In the next blog, I’ll share a few insights into Women and Assertiveness Skills including the role of women in Australia and New Zealand Politics and a few tips about How to Get On Boards to influence decision making processes. We are making progress however we still have much to do if we are to achieve 50/50 Agenda 2030.
Director, Inspirational Connections/Dream Catcher
Freelance Springboard Trainer Australia
WNA National Rural and Remote Ambassador
Australia’s #1 Leading Expert Networking Communicator
M: 0403177012 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
ABC News Woman’s World: Education for married women (1961) Video 3:32mins
Fémmina: The story of NZ’s unsung suffrage provocateur Mary Ann Müller
by Cathie Bell / 19 September, 2018
Women’s Network Australia (WNA) https://www.womensnetwork.com.au/
Soroptimist International A Global Voice for Women www.soroptimistinternational.org
Queensland Rural Remote and Regional Womens Network https://www.qrrrwn.org.au/
The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily the views of the Springboard Consultancy Ltd