“An equal world is an enabled world” - how can we all help forge a gender equal world? As we celebrate the achievement of women, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality (key themes for the 2020 International Women’s Day), let’s all consider what we can do to ensure we have a gender equal mindset and what we can personally commit to action.
Jan Owen, a friend of the Y in Australia, is an absolute champion for equality and young people. As former CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Jan was spotted by the global coordinators of Y175 when she presented to a gathering of World YMCA Leaders in Brisbane last February. Jan was then asked to present a keynote address at Y175 in London on the global trends impacting on young people. Her relationship with the Y continues now as Strategic Advisor World YMCA and The Y, Australia.
As we face into the future of the workforce, Jan is calling for the Y to make sure that girls and women get the opportunities they deserve and to ensure they are given equal opportunity for education.
“Globally, for girls - they need access to education. The trajectory of the world system needs to change, and the Y is in a great position to lead in gender equality. We’re cognisant of our privilege and right to education past primary school, but these inequalities still exist globally and the Y should be front and centre, with a big lense to focus on education and enabling access for girls. Then we must ensure that their access to opportunities go beyond high school, so they’re not filtered into traditional work, and beyond what they saw their mothers and grandmothers do,” Jan said.
“You can’t be what you can’t see. When we see someone in a role, it makes it possible for others. When we see people ahead of us, we can aspire to greater things, so I applaud the female President and CEOs at the Y - they’ve now made it possible for other girls to believe it’s a possibility for them too, this applies to disability, colour and gender.
“A key theme for 2020 is adaption. To ensure our future and the sustainability of our planet, communities need to live and work differently. Women naturally demonstrate adaptability, entrepreneurship and collaboratively working together - which are key future skills we require, and as we consider where the future of the workforce is going (STEM), we need to make sure women do not get pigeonholed into caring roles. New technology, and new opportunities in healthcare and education, offer tremendous opportunities for girls to step into.
“When women are represented at all levels in organisations, we know that the Corporation’s bottom line changes, the return on investment and culture improvement is significant. Gender and inclusive practice (with different life experiences), and the natural attributes that women bring are vital for success in organisations. Women can actively engage in multiple roles, and we need to make sure that we offer flexibility to work, and they’re not discriminated against because of their roles as mothers. How can we support them? Some solutions: a flexible gig economy, portfolios of work, job sharing, encouraging opportunities for women, and entrepreneurship - women currently occupy 75% of small to medium businesses.
“Australia has a unique global resource we need to recognise in our First Nations people with much ancient knowledge, practice and wisdom of our Indigenous Elders. There are also many incredible young Indigenous people like Amelia Telford, who is Seed’s National Director, passionate about protecting our land, culture and communities from the impacts of climate change and fossil fuel extraction - awarded the National NAIDOC Youth of the Year in 2014, leading the way for other young women,” she added.
We are in a time of great transition where more is being asked of leaders than ever before. Three of the best pieces of advice Jan received over a long career as a founder and CEO are:
1. Pace Yourself - ensure you create blocks of time throughout the year to retreat, reflect and regenerate.
2. Surround Yourself - with the unlike minded, diverse thinkers, mentors and peers from different sectors, disciplines and industries to spend time with and learn from.
3. Mind Yourself - rather than set your future direction from a position of stress or crisis which narrows your options, develop the skills to listen to your intuition, broaden your perspectives and cultivate your mind to adapt to change.