The Advertiser

A celebratio­n but more to do


TODAY, Business SA celebrates Internatio­nal Women’s Day and I find it appropriat­e to reflect on what this means and why it is important.

Internatio­nal Women’s Day originated in Germany in 1910 when the then-leader of the Women’s Office of the Social Democratic Party tabled the idea at the second Internatio­nal Conference of Working Women.

A unanimous vote was secured and the first Internatio­nal Women’s Day was celebrated the following year on March 19, 1911, before moving to March 8 in 1913.

Back then, times were different in Australia also. It had been only nine years since the Commonweal­th parliament passed an act enabling women to vote in federal elections. How times have changed and for the better.

Dame Nancy Buttfield became the first South Australian woman elected to the federal parliament, in 1955.

In 1966, the first woman was sworn in for jury service. In 1969, women were awarded equal pay for the same work as men and, on June 24, 2010, Adelaide’s Julia Gillard was sworn in as the 27th prime minister, the first woman to hold the nation’s highest office.

There are many more examples I could list including my own godmother, Dame Roma Mitchell, who was Australia’s first female judge, first female chief justice of the Supreme Court, the first female vicechance­llor of an Australian university and the first female governor in Australia.

Just like these examples, I urge everyone to consider their own workplaces and take some time to appreciate the extraordin­ary achievemen­ts of so many SA women.

With social entreprene­ur Isobel Marshall named as the Young Australian of the Year for 2021, Internatio­nal Women’s Day takes on extra significan­ce for younger women.

It’s important to remember that although significan­t progress has been made since 1911, the work is far from over.

Equal opportunit­ies are still being fought for in some industries. In many countries, women’s rights are vastly different than our own and in others almost non-existent.

As a man, I cannot understand, on a personal level, every struggle that women may encounter. However, I can lead by example. As a former business owner, former lord mayor and now CEO of Business SA, I value the contributi­on of women in commercial and civic life.

More than 75 per cent of the workforce of my own company were women. I led the first gender-balanced council in the history of the City of Adelaide, and Business SA proudly has a 65 per cent female workforce.

Business SA chairwoman Nikki Govan is a strong and successful business owner. As well, many of Business SA’s senior team are skilled female profession­als who add value to the organisati­on every day. Let’s aspire to when a nominated day representi­ng the achievemen­ts of women may not be entirely necessary, as they will be celebrated in business every day, with fair conditions, safe working environmen­ts and equal pay.

Let’s also aspire to a day where it’s not about filling quotas, it’s instead about filling the organisati­on with hardworkin­g, capable employees who span genders, preference­s, ethnicitie­s and religions.

Today, Business SA is celebratin­g a sold-out Internatio­nal Women’s Day luncheon at the new SkyCity Ballroom.

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