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.