Pressing for progress this International Women’s Day

A word from our Acting CEO, Brad Webb:

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme, “#PressforProgress” – hashtag and all – is a timely build on the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements calling for improvement and progress in the treatment of women in all areas of society.

At Samaritans, we welcome all action and public discussion around preventing assault, abuse, harassment and discrimination against women as we strive for a safer, fairer and more inclusive world.

IWD will take place this Thursday and specifically calls on everyone to take progressive action to accelerate gender equality. The official website has an interactive list of simple actions that anyone can read through and commit to as a supporter that wants to #PressforProgress. When I committed to action, I was one of 136,227 people who had pressed forward to take action. I encourage you to take a look and join me.

A report was released last week from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare exploring the latest data on family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. The numbers are shocking, but they are certainly not new. Women from all walks of life have experienced violence at a crisis level for many generations. Identifying and calling out this crisis publicly is long overdue.

There are countless sources of information that show the discriminations women face in our society and in our workplaces. Not only are women discriminated against and disadvantaged as opposed to their male counterparts, but women who have disability or who are poor, trans, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander face additional hardships.

At Samaritans, we are proudly a White Ribbon Accredited workplace and we want to continually demonstrate progress as an employer of choice for gender equality. The newly formed Domestic and Family Violence Prevention and Awareness Committee (formerly the “White Ribbon Committee”) provides leadership and support to Samaritans in its goal to end domestic and family violence.

For the last three years, Samaritans has been part of benchmark reporting for our sector conducted by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Samaritans has performed well in terms of our large proportion of female staff and female managers, as well as the female representation on our Board. However, there are a number of areas in which we can improve and progress toward gender equality, and this is why it is a strategic priority in the new Samaritans Strategic Plan. 

This year, my personal commitment to #PressforProgress is to forge positive visibility of women. So in preparing for this week’s blog, I sought out the thoughts of one of our longest serving female team members, as well as one of our newest female recruits.

As you read through their thoughts on International Women’s Day, perhaps take a look at the #PressforProgress prompts online, and comment below with how you will accelerate equality for women.

Elaine Fitzgerald

Current role: Executive Assistant, Warabrook Central Office
Commenced with Samaritans:
Tenure: 24 years

What made you start working for Samaritans?

I had been out of the workforce for 11 years. After emigrating from England at 19 with my husband at the time, and my young baby, I was excited about getting a new job in my new homeland (a big decision at 19 in 1981). BUT the biggest hurdle was yet to come – I was faced with not being ‘allowed’ to work, my husband wouldn’t let me!  So, roll the clock forward 1.5 years, I was lucky to be selected for a 6-month placement through Hunter Group Training which placed me at Samaritans Youth Resource Centre, then I was fortunate enough to gain permanent employment with Samaritans.

What has made you stay at Samaritans since ‘94?

It was a family for me, full of caring, compassionate people who were dedicated to what they were doing. I had never been this close to human compassion for others before – it was empowering.

What have you seen change around you both in Samaritans and in your life since you’ve been working with us?

Women found a voice, stood up and were heard! Especially with domestic violence (DV), women have been given the ability to “walk away” and find support. 20 years ago, what did they do? Who knew what was available? There was no social media, no smart phones; they had nowhere to go. Most women affected by DV were isolated and living in fear, no one spoke of the abuse they endured. We’ve come a long way on the DV road, but still with a few miles to walk.

We have to admire those women who took on the male biased gender attitudes and broke down the barriers. It took decades, but finally we can benefit from their accomplishments, and see their achievements throughout history at last being recognised. Who would have thought that there would be female Prime Ministers/Presidents, female sport presenters on TV in areas classed as male dominated sports, women’s sport other than netball and gymnastics now being aired on tv, equal pay (still not there yet!). But with so many achievements driven by women, for women, why in 2018 do women still have to keep ‘chipping away’ for gender parity?

This year IWD is themed “Press for Progress”. How do you believe workplaces can be more committed to gender equality?

By understanding and promoting ‘gender parity’- take action to knock down those archaic barriers!

Incorporate discussion on ‘what is gender parity’ into workplace inductions and most of all, all staff to lead the way by being mindful of what we say and do. Remember we all work under the same Mission, Vision and Values umbrella, so for us here at Samaritans, we should definitely be able to lead the way!

– – – –

Belinda Waldock

Current role:Skills Development Assistant, Mid North Coast
Commenced with Samaritans: 2018
Tenure: 1 month

What made you start working/want to work for Samaritans?

I applied on the suggestion of my friend Alex, another Samaritans employee. Alex suggested the position would really suit my situation as a full-time university student. Before starting my application, I went on the Samaritans website to find out a bit more about the work Samaritans. It was so encouraging to read about the employees and volunteers who give so much of their time to helping to restore dignity to people who are often pushed to the margins of society.

What have you liked so far?

So far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the team members and clients we work with. I have also enjoyed building up a better understanding of the importance of working together with other services provided by Samaritans to ensure that our clients are cared for holistically. I have loved meeting so many passionate people working to make life better for others!

This year IWD is themed “Press for Progress”. How do you believe workplaces can be more committed to gender equality?

I believe gender equality in the workplace starts with each of us making a decision to know where we stand and to keep an open mind to new ideas. One of my favourite sayings is “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. In order to keep moving forward on issues like gender equality, it is important to know the part you can and will play in making change both inside our workplace and beyond it. Awareness is the first step to healthy change… so go find out more!

*If this article raises concerns for you, a friend or a loved one, please contact the National Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Line (1800 737 732) or Lifeline Domestic and Family Violence Helpline (13 11 14).

In an emergency, always phone 000 or dial 106 from a TTY for a Text Emergency Call if you are deaf or have a speech or hearing impairment.


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