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Raise your voice, Sistas!

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If you’re reading this, you may already be an advocate for gender equity, and ready to be part of a solution.

You might already know the much touted and lamented stats.

33% – the number of Australian women experiencing domestic violence;

10% – the number women comprising our corporate boards and positions of power and influence such as politics;

20% – the pay gap between Australian men and women performing the same job.

I think it’s fair to say the majority of people disagree with the inequity of this reality, are tired of being reminded of the statistics and of this unfair, unacceptable and unequal status quo. I also argue the majority have an appetite for change, to take action that will ensure our boys and girls enjoy an equal future, where their gender or their birthplace does not escalate their risk of domestic violence, impact their selection for employment or determine their pay level.

So why are these numbers stagnating or – in the case of violence against women – growing?

I believe it’s because these women, who we see reflected in depressing numbers in newsprint, do not have a strong voice to elevate their plight onto the front pages of news media, the news feeds of social media and dinner table conversations.

It’s a tough conversation, but can Sistas lead the way?

The Equal Futures Project is determined that yes, Sistas can lead the way and help their communities raise the voice of its women at risk, in leadership positions and those aspiring to lead future generations.

Yes, currently many heads of industry in communities all over the world are mostly male. However, there are many well qualified industry experts who are female and whose voices can be raised and heard in our media, our networks and at our dinner tables. You probably know, employ or work with one of these female subject matter experts. Maybe you yourself are one!

We can raise the voices of those women in our community (and often their children as well) who have experienced domestic violence and are not in a position to speak for themselves.

Currently, more than one woman per week in Australia is dying at the hands of a male relative or partner, and their voices need to be heard, sharing the message that it is not ok to stand by and watch anyone being vilified, harmed or discriminated against because of their gender.

As a community we can support these women, with our actions and our voices.

By putting these role models in business and community in the spotlight, we can learn, get motivated and inspired by progress, rather than remaining paralysed by overwhelming statistics.

Sistas, we have a once in a generation opportunity to lead sustainable change in equity, raising our individual voices so that as a collective our noise is deafening. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community to raise its voice and champion change, progress and maturity, building a future we can all be proud of.

The time for analysing statistics has passed. It’s time to act.

On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day, a global celebration and opportunity to shine a light on those men and women amongst us who are making it happen, effecting change in the workplace and the community, role modelling programs, initiatives and attitudes that result in more diverse, inclusive and successful outcomes for everyone.

What action will you take this International Women’s Day to raise your voice for an equal future?

*Contact belindamaesmith@gmail.com or through our Facebook page facebook.com/TheEqualFuturesProject

Belinda Smith is Manager, Commercial Business at Hunter TAFE, former Telstra Young Businesswoman of the Year and equity advocate. You can follow the story on Twitter at @belindamaesmith.

Belinda Smith is Manager, Commercial Business at Hunter TAFE, former Telstra Young Businesswoman of the Year and equity advocate. You can follow the story on Twitter at @belindamaesmith.

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