Minister for Women Pru Goward's speech at SWECO Awards Ceremony

on Thursday, 06 March 2014. Posted in Sustaining Women's Empowerment in Communities and Organisations, Topical Issues

Australian Centre for Leadership for women’s (ACLW) International women’s day event 5 March 2014

Speech by Minister for Women, Pru Goward MP

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we gather today, and pay my respects to the Elders, past, present and future, men and women.  I extend my respect to Aboriginal women who for thousands of years have preserved the culture and practices of Aboriginal nations across their countries.

Firstly, congratulations to Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey on the launch of her e-book Considerations for Australia’s Next Prime Minister. This book contains thoughts from 17 leading Australian women on gender and leadership that will no doubt provide useful insights for women aspiring to lead their communities and organisations.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to celebrate the work of many communities and organisations that work tirelessly towards women’s empowerment.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to stocktake women’s achievements but to also reflect on where the challenges remain.

Clearly, there are still challenges and one area that remains vital to women is increasing opportunities to improve our financial security and independence. Communities and grass-roots organisations can play a crucial role in this.

The NSW Government has recognised this by setting up the Investing in Women Funding Program. This program supports community stakeholders to develop innovative solutions to increase women’s participation in non traditional trades and occupations. Local councils, peak organisations, not for profits and industry bodies can all apply for funding from the Investing in Women program. These are all organisations with strong community connections.

Boosting the number of women in trades makes sense – for the economy, for industries experiencing skill shortages, and for women who are seeking new employment opportunities. But, more importantly, increasing women’s labour options increases their financial security and independence.

Opening up non-traditional trade apprenticeships helps girls and women realise they can do things beyond those traditionally undertaken by women, such as child care or hairdressing.

Over the last 18 months, the NSW Government has partnered with stakeholders to roll out over 20 Women in Trades projects and initiatives.

One example of a successful project is Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen – or SALT. Using their try-a-trade trailer, SALT delivers workshops to girls and women in towns and cities across NSW. In these hands-on workshops girls and women can try out an assortment of tools – sometimes for the first time - to get a hands on feel for a trade that might become their future.

SALT is a fabulous example of women helping women to achieve their aspirations, and I’m proud of the support the NSW Government is giving to organisations like SALT.

Another example of Investing in Women, is the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA) which will be running a week-long careers, leadership and aspirations camp for 30 Aboriginal girls and young women from Western Sydney.

The camp will focus on supporting access to non-traditional trades, including the opportunity for participants to get hands on experience in set design and construction with Opera Australia, and working with Lend Lease at some of their large development sites across Sydney.

Promoting gender diversity in male-dominated areas of the workforce is an important strategy in building a more egalitarian society. We need to ensure that women receive the same development and job opportunities as men and that we can take for granted the capacity of men and women to have a range of skills and abilities.

Only then will more women be represented in leadership roles across all sectors and industries.

Increased representation will build acceptance of women in the male dominated industries such as electrical, construction and automotive which in turn will change perceptions of what is “women’s work” and what women are capable of.

Last year’s Women in NSW Report, presents some areas of positive change in gender leadership. Noteworthy is TAFE NSW, whose senior management comprised 57 per cent women in 2012, up from 43 per cent in 2006.

The leadership gender gap between Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men is narrower than the general population gap in NSW Government Board membership, Senior Executive Service positions, and amongst peak NSW Aboriginal organisations.

We are poorer as a society when women are not adequately represented amongst our leaders. Ongoing action is vital. A balanced gender representation and participation needs to be present at all levels in organisations, in the community, business and government sectors.

Improving women’s participation in all areas of life makes sound economic sense. Goldman Sachs research indicates that narrowing the gap between male and female employment rates in Australia could boost Gross Domestic Product by 11%.

Another NSW Government initiative, the NSW Council for Women’s Economic Opportunity, that I chair, provides specialist advice for this Government on strategies to give women greater economic opportunities.

The Council provides insights and advice from a wide group of stakeholders including employers and business leaders from the construction, automotive, education and training industries. The Council plays a key role in identifying solutions to increase the number of women working in non traditional trades.

We need to keep working towards levelling the playing field to prevent gender discrimination. The NSW Government’s focus is to promote a structural change, dismantle existing gender stereotypes and provide the support needed to ensure a pathway for women’s voice and leadership.

The seeds for real change are sown at the community level and both communities and organisations have a vital role to play in supporting women. The seeds are sown in ourselves, in our values and attitudes.

Congratulations again to all of the award winners today. You play a fabulous and essential leadership role in your communities. I wish you all well for your International Women’s Day Celebrations.