Around this time last year I wrote about my experience attending the UN Women International Women’s Day Lunch in Canberra. My lament then, as a woman sitting at an all-women table, was the lack of men present at the event to hear the words of the guest speakers, share conversation with others around their tables, and in general show their commitment to greater opportunities for women and girls around the world.
This year provided a different experience in a couple of ways. While I attended the same event, this year I was not sitting at a round table, I was not served lunch, and I did not get to sit back and listen to the panel discussion about violence and the economic participation of women in the Pacific. Instead, fellow The May Group consultant Hannah Lawson and I volunteered to help out the organisers from UN Women throughout the event.
Our main role as volunteers was to race around during the lunchtime period with mobile EFTPOS machines, taking on-the-spot donations and encouraging attendees to sign up to give on a monthly basis, all to support the incredible work that UN Women does around our region. It was a hectic 40 minutes or so, and I was amazed by the enthusiasm of those wanting to donate what they could (including several of our fantastic clients) – we could barely keep up with all the hands waving us over! One woman was excited to tell me, as she made a $50 donation, that although last year she couldn’t afford to attend or donate, this year she could.
— Virginia Haussegger (@Virginia_Hauss) March 4, 2016
It was this spirit of action, shared by those attending the lunch, the event organisers, and the other women and men who volunteered their time for the day, which made it such a fun and uplifting experience. This spirit was no doubt bolstered by what has been a tumultuous but exciting year for gender equity, with family violence, women’s economic participation, and the importance of education for girls around the globe on the public agenda more than ever.
This spirit has also emboldened many men to speak up for gender equity, and I can happily say that my lament from last year does not apply, at least not as much, to the International Women’s Day Lunch of 2016. Men made up a significant portion of the audience, and the attendance of some senior men in the APS and the ADF shows a valuable commitment to change, both around the world and within their own organisations.
Though many people today will be writing about the multitude of issues women and girls still face, I see a multitude of reasons to be confident that things will keep getting better (like Google!); not in the least the momentum for change that we see through The May Group’s cultural change work. So to utilise a couple of the social media hashtags circulating at the moment for #IWD2016: I believe that #onedayIwill see equal numbers of men truly invested in and committed to gender equity, because in order to see a better world for women and girls we need to #faceittogether.