Where else but Wollongong could you get close to 900 women and men coming together to discuss and raise awareness about equality in work, life and marriage?
It was a point not lost on Illawarra International Women’s Day keynote speaker Magda Szubanski in Wollongong on Friday.
Szubanski spoke about everything from helping change the face of Australian television comedy with a group of other groundbreaking woman, to coming out herself and how much she loved visiting Wollongong and driving down the escarpment. But she said the fact that so many women and men turned up at an event to so openly talk about important issues such as equality said much about Wollongong and the Illawarra community.
I am five foot two inches tall and I have never thought anyone is bigger than me- Magda Szubanski
Szubanski has been ranked in the top 10 people Australians most like and trust. And that was clearly evident in Wollongong on Friday where she spoke about everything from making the movie Babe near Robertson to the release of her book Reckoning that addresses her own journey of self discovery and self acceptance about her own sexuality. It also talks about the rights of the LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex) community. “It (the book) is nothing about celebrity. Let me make that clear. I think it is actually about inter-generational trauma”.
Szubanski opened her talk by saying "I really do like to have a conversation with people” and invited everyone to think of a question they would like to ask her while she was talking. In question time she was asked about being so brave and replied “courage is not a state of being. You become brave by doing brave actions”.
Szubanski started her presentation talking about her family and the roles the women in it and her father performed during World War II. “I grew up hearing these stories of extraordinary courage so it is not surprising..that I am five foot two inches tall and I have never thought anyone is bigger than me”.
Szubanski also spoke about the importance of the way fathers treated their daughters. She said because of her dad’s influence she never thought there was anything she could not do.
“He said you can do whatever you want to do. And it appalled him that 50 per cent of the world’s potential was wasted because of an irrational prejudice.”
Gender equality discussed in The Gong
How we can all play a role in helping women and men to be treated equally was the topic for a panel discussion involving Tania Brown, Nicki Bowman, Warwick Shanks and Associate Professor of Sociology Richard Howson at an Illawarra International Women’s Day lunch in Wollongong on Friday.
Ms Brown is chair of Destination Wollongong and chief operating officer of the SMART Infrastructure Facility and was asked about the number of women in the Faculty of Engineering.
She said it was changing but would more quickly if more parents and teachers encouraged children to consider becoming engineers.
Ms Bowman is on the Illawarra Management Committee of Dressed for Success. During her career she became the first female in many roles and was asked about the challenges she faced. She said the messages people get when they are younger and planning their career were important preparation. Especially the messages conveyed by fathers. Her father told her there was no disadvantage in being female. She said that did not stop women receiving some tentative attitudes when they were the first to take on a particular role. But that was often because some people did not know how to act. She said knowing there was no disadvantage in being a woman helped her.
As KPMG Wollongong managing director Mr Shanks was asked how a business can ensure the equal treatment of female workers. He said systems and processes and acceptance were important to equality and opportunity as was identifying problems, challenging thinking and finding practical ways of dealing with issues. He said unconscious bias was one thing to be aware of. “There are training courses that many big corporate’s do for their people to acknowledge unconscious bias exists”.