‘It’s her humility I will never forget’: Female leaders come together to celebrate International Women’s Day

Amy JohnstonSouth Western Times
Cobie Rudd, Bunbury MLA Don Punch, Kerry Windsor, Mellisa Teede,  Natalie Peterson, Posy Barnes, Sharon Upston, and Kristy Gillian.
Camera IconCobie Rudd, Bunbury MLA Don Punch, Kerry Windsor, Mellisa Teede, Natalie Peterson, Posy Barnes, Sharon Upston, and Kristy Gillian. Credit: Amy Johnston/South Western Times

Female leaders and business owners across the South West region have come together for a celebratory afternoon tea for International Women’s Day.

Hosted by Bunbury MLA Don Punch, women from the region were invited for an afternoon at the Dolphin Discovery Centre to listen to a panel of inspirational female chief executives and business leaders discuss the beauty and challenges of being a woman in 2022.

South West Development Commission CEO Mellisa Teede.
Camera IconSouth West Development Commission CEO Mellisa Teede. Credit: Amy Johnston/South Western Times

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was Breaking the Bias, which was a key topic discussed by the women on the panel.

Bunbury MLA Don Punch said the theme of Breaking the Bias is extremely important in building a diverse community.

“When we think about bias, it can be both conscious and overt, and sometimes we can do something about that through our legislation,” he said.

“But more often it’s unconscious and it’s implicit through values, perspectives, ideas, misapprehensions people have.

“The problem with bias, is it takes away from the individual, it takes away from our community ... because when we exert bias, we are denying potential, we are denying talent, we are denying the opportunity to make a difference.”

The six woman discussed topics including their personal journey and how they progressed in their careers, the different opportunities and challenges in the workforce, and how women are able to successfully manage both a career and family in 2022.

When asked which female figures have been an inspiration, ECU South West Deputy Vice-Chancellor Cobie Rudd nominated former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, following a personal experience.

“I was at a dinner... and I luckily got seated next to Julia Gillard,” Ms Rudd said.

“There was this poor waiter, he was so nervous, it must have been his first day on the job, because he was shaking so much.

“He was serving creamed spinach, and when he got to Julia Gillard, he spilled this hot green spinach down her red suit.”

Ms Rudd said Ms Gillard’s humility was so inspiring.

1.	ECU South West Deputy Vice-Chancellor Cobie Rudd.
Camera Icon1. ECU South West Deputy Vice-Chancellor Cobie Rudd. Credit: Amy Johnston/South Western Times

“She discreetly got up and changed into a new suit, because when you are Prime Minister, of course you have a spare suit.

“Throughout the whole night she continuously asked the boy if he was alright ... and it really made me pull myself up and ask myself, ‘am I that kind?’.”

The panel session ended with a Q&A with the audience, which involved an in-depth discussion on expectations for women juggling the pressures of having a career and children.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA South West manager Sharon Upston said it’s common for women to feel pressure to “do it all”.

“It is so difficult to juggle all the expectations to show you are serious about your career and serious about having a family,” she said.

The women agreed society must work together to break the culture of bias against women in the context of family and industry, and men in the workforce need to help champion the concerns of gender inequality in the workplace.

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