Creating change through International Women’s Day

5 March 2021

Professor Michaela Rankin, Deputy Dean International and Div Pillay, CEO of MindTribes and Monash Business School Alumna

The Monash Business School International Women’s Day (IWD) breakfast was held on Friday 5 March at the RACV Club in Melbourne for over 200 staff, alumni, industry and community guests. This annual event, hosted together with the Faculties of Arts and Law, celebrates the IWD movement promoting the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

IWD is commemorated around the world on 8 March – a day that in 2021 marks a call to action to #Challengetochange to help forge a gender equal world.

To support this, the United Nations theme for International Women’s Day this year is ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the disproportionate burden women have been carrying, as well as the critical role their contributions have made in combating this pandemic from front line health workers and caregivers, to innovators, community organisers and national leaders.

It is often the different experiences, perspectives and skills women bring, in addition to the irreplaceable contributions to decisions, policies and laws that create better solutions for all.

As leaders in their own fields, we were proud to welcome three change makers and Monash alumnae, Amanda McKenzie, CEO, Climate Council; Div Pillay, CEO, MindTribes; and Professor of Practice, The Hon Dr Sharman Stone.

Business alumna, Div Pillay, challenged the room to think about gender equality from an intersectional perspective, asking people to “walk in my shoes” as she shared snippets of her journey highlighting intersectional feminism as the challenge of our time in the fight for gender equality for all women.

“What do you think when you hear comments, as I have for many years, from CEO’s, Board members, senior executives, Chief People Officers, even Heads of Diversity and Inclusion like ‘cultural diversity seems complex, we are not ready yet’, ‘we are already very multicultural; our staff speak around 80+ different languages’, ‘I am colour blind – I don’t see colour at all’, ‘just be patient, just as the gender movement evolved, so too will cultural diversity’?”

“Hearing these comments back in 2012, I became frustrated, tired and excluded but it fuelled me to take action and bring about change. In 2017 I started MindTribes to create a community where First Nations women, migrant professional women from different racial and cultural backgrounds could work together with carefully selected allies and advocates - to navigate these sentiments in their organisation, which were effectively telling them to wait.

“So far 363 women have come through our doors and 73% have had tangible advancement – nowhere near their potential, but a movement nonetheless. These movements helped open the eyes of their allies and advocates and now we have a change movement. The problem is it’s still too slow - the waiting has created low to no representation of these women in senior roles across different sectors… to everyone here and especially those in senior positions, we need your acknowledgment and your action to create real change.”

Law alumna and CEO of the Climate Council, Amanda McKenzie, is one Australia’s leading public commentators on climate change.

“The impact of climate change is all around us, including the most recent Australian bushfires that devasted lives and communities, which will have long lasting effects. In times of crisis like this, it is women who are disproportionately affected. Of the 1.3 billion people in poverty around the world, 70% are women. So those with less agency, less power and less wealth are the most affected.

“In the Climate Council, the Climate Media Centre was set up by a number of women to put a human face to the climate crisis from farmers and firefighters to those in remote communities. The Centre now produces over 20,000 articles a year looking at the fundamental impacts of climate change through a different lens, one that tells the human story.

“Social change is hard, it takes a long time, but together we must channel our rage, our strength and our persistence. We need to stand up and say we won’t put up with this  anymore, we won’t let issues just fade away again, we will change them.”

The Hon Dr Sharman Stone is an alumna of the Faculty of Arts, and a current Professor of Practice at Monash. During her time in government, she held several critical roles including Chair of the House of Representatives Indigenous Affairs Committee and Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls. Achieving greater gender equality and empowerment in the workplace and society has always been one of Sharman’s strongest commitments.

Sharman highlighted the current crisis in the Australian government. “We’ve got a crisis of our government, with issues from bullying and lack of transparency to alleged criminal behaviour and a lack of inclusion. What is going to be the bullet, the big change we need to remove this toxic culture in our government?"

“As individuals and as a nation we need to say no to misogyny, no to secret men’s business and no to the boys club. As alumni, we are fortunate to have had access to a world-class education through Monash, but what are you going to do with it?”

I would like to thank our dynamic panel of speakers for their stories and for challenging us all to create change however we can. I would also like to thank Dean of Law, Professor Brian Horrigan for his opening address and Dean of Monash Business School, Professor Simon Wilkie for his insightful closing remarks.

Dean of Arts and outstanding moderator, Professor Sharon Pickering, summed it up beautifully when she asked, “Why is it so difficult to understand we need leadership from every direction? This is our collective burden, our collective responsibility and our collective mandate for change.”

Professor Michaela Rankin
Deputy Dean International
Monash Business School