International Women's Day

04 Mar 2021

International Women's Day featured image

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the achievements of women and girls.

One of the themes for 2021 International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge – as a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. To celebrate we spoke to three Churchill Fellows who help forge positive change for women and Choose To Challenge.

Angela Ballard is the Principal Consultant and Coach at Angela Ballard Consultancy and Coaching. Angela’s 2009 Fellowship saw her travel to Canada, United Kingdom and the USA to study sexual assault prevention and intervention in a military environment.

What does the 2021 International Women’s Day slogan #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

To me #ChooseToChallenge means respectfully calling out opinions that are factually incorrect; and commentary and behaviours that diminish women’s contributions. #ChooseToChallenge is when they know better they can do better.

How did you Fellowship advance your career?

I feel privileged to have received a Churchill Fellowship and to have been able to immerse myself in researching best and promising practices of sexual assault prevention and intervention in a military environment. Research that has applicable findings in many workplace cultures across Australia. My Fellowship provided me a platform of credibility and elevated my knowledge and experience to the table in national and international settings that has influenced change in how sexual assault in the defence environment is reported, supported and managed.  Changes that would not have been possible from within.

Years on, being a Churchill Fellow has given my voice credibility no matter what table I am at.

Why is it important for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

From experience, it’s a hard slog being a female in a male dominated environment and even harder being the first female to achieve something in that environment. The feeling of working in isolation or in competition is exhausting.

I am all about empowering women to be the best version of themselves. Giving them the encouragement to be confident to enter and stay in the conversation no matter how difficult and helping them realise their contribution is valuable.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a women in a career in your field?

I see the challenges women face are collective challenges not individual – we are not in competition with one another.

And as an individual be true to your values, set your boundaries and remain your authentic self.

Marina Brizar is the UK Director of Talent Beyond Boundaries. Her 2018 Fellowship saw her traveling to Canada, Germany, Jordan, United Kingdom and USA to foster positive impacts of migration by bridging the gap between humanitarian/ skilled visa pathways.

What does the 2021 International Women’s Day slogan #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

The 2021 International Women’s Day slogan #ChoseToChallenge is a call to action. It invites all people – particularly women – to recognise and rise to the challenges in our society and to effect positive, robust, and meaningful change.

How did you Fellowship advance your career?

My Fellowship advanced not only my career, but my life. On my travels, I gained knowledge, confidence and conviction which allowed me to shift my career trajectory from being an immigration lawyer to being an immigration disruptor.

Upon my return to Australia, and through the dissemination of my report, I got the opportunity to start operations in the UK for Talent Beyond Boundaries with the mission of unlocking international employment and immigration pathways for refugees and other forcibly displaced people, to lift them out of countries of first asylum and into meaningful, fulfilling lives and careers.

With reliance on the contacts I made while on my Fellowship, and with reference to the findings and recommendations in my report, the UK government made a commitment to explore displaced talent mobility pathways into the UK, and the Department of Health and Social Care developed pilots to bring skilled refugee and other forcibly displaced nurses to work for the National Health Service (NHS). This impact was achieved within 12-months and during a global pandemic!

Why is it important for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Indeed, light, warmth, and energy increase.

I have been the fortunate beneficiary of mentorship and sponsorship by incredible women who encouraged me to believe in, and have courage to act on my convictions, passions, and ambitions. It is my turn…

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a women in a career in your field?

Do not dwell on problems; rather, be part of the solution as a dignified, joyful and powerful warrior.

Simone Carson AM is Co Founder and Director of leading national food rescue organisation SecondBite. Simone’s 2018 Fellowship saw travel to Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, United Kingdom and USA to improve Food Rescue in Australia by examining best practices globally.

What does the 2021 International Women’s Day slogan #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

Choose to Challenge is such a great slogan, it’s powerful. It reminds us all to stay strong and stay committed as we continue our work. As a member of the Churchill Trust it reminds us that our projects have challenged practise, have challenged ideas and have challenged ourselves and our sectors. That is not always an easy thing to do so the slogan is like a tonic. It energises me. Also on reflection the slogan has reminded me that in my mentoring role I need to challenge others in order to encourage their growth and potential.

How did you Fellowship advance your career?

The fellowship has opened doors and and started conversations that may not have been possible if I had not had that opportunity. It grew my network. It matured my practice and it gave me confidence to speak about a subject that I knew well but now I could draw upon an international perspective. In Australia the opportunities to amplify the link between waste and hunger and the link between good nutrition and health.

Why is it important for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

Woman have been left out of the conversations, the planning and the outcomes for people across our world.

There is no room for woman to leave other woman out of the room. Instead we need to create more pathways, more opportunities for woman to be at every stage of progression and development.

To me, lifting women up means including, listening, partnering, progressing all women from all different backgrounds at all levels of organisations. The workplace and our society can only be more valuable when men and women have an equal say. We need to aim high to help supply every Australian not just one gender.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a women in a career in your field?

Believe in yourself. Trust that who you are and what you believe in can make a difference and can bring about change. Always look for ways to give another person an opportunity to speak and have their voice heard. Use all your skills and never be afraid or uncomfortable to champion kindness. Thinking of others is not a weakness.

Jo Saccomani is the founder and director of Two Sheds Workshop Woodwork for Women and Kids and also of Schmickee-doo woodwork for Kids. Jo’s 2016 Fellowship explored new and effective ways to extend carpentry and woodworking skills to women and children.

What does the 2021 International Women’s Day slogan #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

All my adult life I have challenged the status quo. Be it purposefully standing for feminism and the environment with placards on the streets being one voice among many or blockading in Tassie to save the Franklin River. Or incidentally as I worked as a carpenter in the male dominated building industry for 30+ years. I think it is important for those of us that can to push against and try to change structures and attitudes that disadvantage or hold back members of our communities. For me now I think I challenge by creating and being the changes I want to see. Through my work I do this firstly by providing safe, supportive workshop spaces offering programs where women can come and learn woodwork and building skills from skilled and experienced women teachers. These women may or may not take up building trades as a job but they are there in our communities building things for their friends, families and local community to see and be inspired to build things too. Then secondly offering these same skills for children ages 7 and up to learn. Boys and girls learning together from their women woodwork teachers hopefully creating a normalcy that girls and women can build. Quietly but hopefully profoundly changing inground attitudes to what women and girls can and can’t do.

How did you Fellowship advance your career?

My Fellowship gave me knowledge to apply in my work. But also, I think more importantly, the confidence to step into the role of leading a way forward to shift  attitudes to women in the building trades from the very young ground up.

Why is it important for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

I have found, in my work, that it takes a very little bit of knowledge and experience for women to feel empowered and to step into a bigger, more confident version of themselves. Women spend a weekend in one of Two Sheds woodwork workshops learning how to use a drill, a saw and a hammer and construct something with their own hands and come out blazing ready to go onto a new building project at home. The feeling of having the skills to change (literally!) one’s physical environment or situation is incredibly life changing for many women, and I believe this feeling of knowhow and confidence ultimately leads to strength and empowerment of women in other parts of their lives. These skills are embedded in myself and my teachers by our experiences and training. Passing them on is easy for us (as one of my teachers said to me “I can’t believe this is what I get paid to do!”) but the effect can be profound in women’s lives. So “why not lift each other up” it can only benefit all women and girls in the long run.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a women in a career in your field?

Connect, share and laugh with other women – we are our best support for we know intimately what we are going through.