Duality: Race Perception in Australia

As a white Australian, I feel ill-equipped to speak on behalf of an entire people. But, as a user of social media, I can confidently write that I am continually frustrated by the double standard of prejudice I see in the country I was born in.

It is a strange kind of irony that Australians show open disgust at the lack of diversity at the Oscars -an elitist awards event far removed from the everyday reality of Australians - yet show no real compassion for the segregation issues so often observed at home. But, there is hope in the artwork of ACT High School student, Ineka Voigt. ‘Stolen Dreamtime’ featured as the Australia Day logo for the world’s most used website. Google explained the logo choice; “In response to the theme of ‘If I could travel back in time I would…’ Ineka wrote “… I would reunite mother and child. A weeping mother sits in an ochre desert, dreaming of her children and a life that never was… all that remains is red sand, tears and the whispers of her stolen dreamtime”.

The sketch should remind non-Indigenous Australians of the cost others have paid for their privilege. Rather than reflecting the hateful “If you don’t live it, leave it” nonsense posted too often on social media, Ineka’s illustration artfully reflects what should be recognised clearly as the day of dispossession it is.

In the UK, Asylum seekers’ doors are being painted red to identify their houses to the community. Today a law was passed in Denmark allowing refugees to be stripped of their possessions to cover the cost of their asylum. To this day, Aboriginal Australians fail to be recognised in the country’s Constitution.

Left in the hands of an aging generation, it seems that legitimate respect for difference is getting further from possible. I look ahead and see all of the mistakes my generation will be apologising for. So, it is fitting that the truth of our history is best reflected on Australia day through the eyes of a child already disillusioned by the views and actions of previous generations.




Gendering Interviews

I was skyping my brother when I realised something. He had a job interview coming up, so I asked him if he had prepared for it. “Mmm…not yet,” he told me nonchalantly. His calmness bothered me.

I, leaving a few days to prepare, searching ‘what to wear to an interview’ and ‘how to shake someone’s hand’ (in a way that screamed ‘hire me!’) could not fathom going to a job interview unprepared. This was nothing compared to my sister’s militant preparation of mental cue cards and format answers, days, even weeks, before the interview. And yet, here was my brother, days trickling into the dreaded day, and remaining wholly unfazed. The worst thing was, he was amazing at interviews. He was confident and funny, he was assertive and in control, he answered questions in model STAR format. He was everything I needed to be in an interview, and he hadn’t prepared for days on end. What was I, and my sister missing?

Then came in my realisation. My brother grew up in a society that valued the opinions of men. These set the conditions in which men grew up confident that their opinions meant something; society would listen to them regardless. In 2012, the car company BMW changed it GPS voice system because it was a female voice. BMW Germany received various complaints from drivers about the female GPS, telling them where to go and what to do. They trusted, and felt more confident, with a male voice directing them where to go. Is it a surprise then, that women are more likely to question themselves? Society grooms women to privilege the voices of men, while remaining silent, and uncertain of their own voices.

It is a well-established myth that women talk too much. Men are seen as ‘silent listeners,’ and women as mindless chatterers. This is the opposite of the truth. Extensive research by Deborah James and Janice Drakich, Margaret Franken and Janet Holmes shows overwhelming evidence in which men talk, and tend to dominate conversation far more than women, especially in a public setting. This happens from an early age. At primary and secondary schools, research found boys dominated classroom talk. At university, men also dominated conversation. Janet Holmes analysed the number of questions asked by participants in one hundred public seminars. Where the numbers of women and men present were about the same, men asked almost two-thirds of the questions during discussions. Moreover, Dale Spencer, an Australian researcher and feminist, believed that men have no accurate indication of how much they talk. Spencer asked students to evaluate which gender talked more in a given discussion. Men perceived the discussion as “equal” when women talked only 15% of the time, while the discussion was “dominated” by women if they talked only 30% of the time. Essentially, society would prefer women to be silent, than to talk at all. Is it so hard to answer why men can perform confidently (and better?) in a formal, interview setting?

Interviews require you to talk, to be sure of what you’re saying, knowing that your interviewers are listening, and accepting what you have to offer. Men have grown up knowing their voices will be heard, groomed into a society that privileges men’s voices from the classroom, to the office. Of course, there are women who are just as confident and do exceedingly well at interviews. But those come from preparation rather than from natural validation by society. The confidence a white, heterosexual man will have in what he has to say, will be different from how a woman has obtained her own confidence and validation. I understand the importance of interviews, I really do. How else can you gage a future employee’s work habits and ability to fit in a company? But being aware of how the system works to favour men’s opinions and validating the struggles women face, may be the first step to changing something in society.




One Girl: One Dream

Chantelle Baxter - Image via:

Would you like to know how a rebel found her cause and was named as one of Melbourne’s 100 top most influential people in 2011 after being a party-girl lacking ambition for much of her late teens and early twenties? Read on…

Chantelle Baxter is the CEO and co-founder of One Girl which happens to be one of the fastest growing non-profit organisations in Australia. She founded the organisation at a point in her life when she saw everything she had been doing so far was futile. She had helped women switch to vegan pregnancy supplements and choose breastfeeding over formula, but so far it wasn't making much of a difference in quality-of-life. Then Chantelle travelled to Sierra Leone as part of a mentorship program where she was required to live for a month within a remote community and become involved in their everyday life. It was here that Chantelle discovered her heart could be moved and a dream could be born. She fell in love with the children of the community and particularly noticed the hardships the girls were subjected to.

One Girl was started on the back of this trip and exists to ensure that girls and women around the world are given access to an education. The basis of this foundation is that ‘when you educate a girl, she’ll change the world’ and their motivation is to educate one million of the 66 million girls globally.

There is nothing insignificant about the impact One Girl is having on uneducated women. To date, Chantelle has raised over $1.8 million for the work of One Girl and has been asked to speak at countless events raising awareness for these women. Raising awareness is a necessity as currently in Sierra Leone girls have more chance of being sexually assaulted than of attending high school.

Another of One Girl’s branches is LaunchPad. LaunchPad’s product line consists of eco-friendly sanitary pads – a welcome luxury in Sierra Leone where they can miss up to a week of school every month during their period for lack of sanitation. The program has two main roles: partnering with local Sierra Leone women in LaunchPad businesses and providing free menstrual health training and sanitary pads in schools. The social taboo around menstruation is extremely difficult for the women and so being empowered through business and something as simple as a good, affordable sanitary pad is freeing indeed. Many women in Sierra Leone have had FGC (Female Genital Cutting) rendering it very painful for them to insert anything (a tampon for example) into their bodies. Likewise, social etiquette sees them only successfully married on proof of their virginity and so few want to risk spinsterhood. A special point of One Girl and LaunchPad in particular is that they have listened to the audience and done their research, designing a product that is made from all natural materials, relatively locally sourced and perfectly suits the local women with all the daily cultural pressures they face.

Business Brains is a financial literacy and business education program delivered to young girls (and boys) in Sierra Leone to provide them with marketable skills for the future workplace. The program began when a young girl fainted in class from hunger, highlighting the need for more food provision.

The girls themselves suggested a solution, seeing One Girl financially backing them to start their own small companies from which they could buy their food. A few emails later and Diet Standards donated Diet Standards OmegaHD vegan dha supplement and Vegetarian Prenatal DHA made from algae oil. This helped 3 of the women who were pregnant have healthier babies. Another few phone calls and these pregnant ladies got access to free prenatal medical care and ultrasounds.

One Girl is also building schools with proper sanitation and resources – a welcome haven after a 10-year civil war which resulted in 1200 of their schools burnt to smithereens. To help vulnerable or at-risk girls make it to school, they provide scholarships which ensure the girl has her fees paid, a school uniform and stationery. A strict selection committee chooses who will benefit from scholarships as they look to save girls from child marriage, teen pregnancies and a sheer lack of money – three of the leading contenders keeping young girls out of school and away from a future. The willingness of the people of Sierra Leone has partly ensured the success of the relationship with One Girl. These programs work and realise tangible, life-changing results.

Chantelle didn’t stop there. She is also one of the creators of Do It In A Dress which is a fundraising campaign anyone can sign up for. The gist of it is to pick a challenge to do in a dress, gain sponsorship for doing it and then complete the challenge. Statistics dictate a girl’s life will improve dramatically if she is educated. She will not only have an increased income but will also invest most of her income back into her family and she is likely to marry later in life with a smaller and much healthier family.

The challenge is really for all of us, through things such as Do It In A Dress, to do our bit to see these predictions fulfilled.

If you’d like to get involved…One Girl wants to do things differently to other organisations. They want show transparency in all their financials and so publish their year-end financial reports online so that you can see where your money is going. If you’d like to know more or to donate, please visit http://www.onegirl.org.au/ and http://www.doitinadress.com/.

Nicola Johnson CONTRIBUTOR

Nicola Johnson CONTRIBUTOR


How to Get a Raise in 47 Seconds

In Sweden, women earn on average, $346,000 less than men over the course of their working life. In a PSA to draw attention to the issue, Annelie Nordstrom, chairwoman of Sweden's largest union, 'Kommunal' is transformed into a man in the comically titled 'How to Get a Raise in 47 Seconds' video, released ahead of International Women's Day earlier this year.

In the states, the comparison is about 77 cents earned by a woman to every $1 earned by a man. 

In New Zealand, women are afforded a grander scale of opportunity but pay disparity and gender inequality is still a major issue around the world.  The questions is - What are we doing about it? 


Image via: 

Although it’s 2015, gender biases still exist (surprising, no?). Obviously they have improved over the last decades, but there are still many careers and fields of study that are considered “historically male-dominated.” One of those is engineering.

Isis Anchalee, a female platform engineer at the company OneLogic, was featured in their recruiting campaign – she appeared on billboards designed to try and draw in more women. After receiving backlash for her photo – which commenters claimed gave a false picture of what female engineers looked like – Wegner started a campaign, using the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer.

The point of the campaign is to help redefine what an engineer should look like, hopefully making the field more accessible to a diverse group of individuals, according to Anchalee. It encourages people – both male and female – to post pictures of themselves with the hashtag.

Vicky Scrooby - Software Engineering

Data from 2014 (via ) shows that less than a quarter of engineers in any given specialisation are female. Vicky Scrooby, a software engineering student at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, hopes that can change.

Scrooby was interested in engineering from a young age, and received full support from her friends and family to pursue the degree.

 “I became interested in engineering near the end of high school,” she said via email.  “I have always enjoyed science and math, so I was looking into degree options that included those subjects. The reason I was drawn to engineering is the real-life application aspect. Engineering takes theoretical concepts, and applies them into concepts and objects that can be used and seen.”

Scrooby is currently completing a 12-month internship between her third and fourth years of study. 

While it can’t be denied that gender-bias does exist, Scrooby says she’s been fairly lucky.

“I wouldn't say I've received any negative backlash due to being a woman in this field. There definitely is a difference in gender representation […] However I find that my fellow students and colleagues treat me just the same as a male.”

Not only is Scrooby an engineering student, she also feels strongly about encouraging females to pursue careers in the field. One of her jobs had her running programs that encouraged younger girls to think about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, and she thinks #ILookLikeAnEngineer is a good idea.

“I think the best way to encourage girls, whether through clubs & camp sessions, or whether through advertising campaigns, is through having a good role model. Isis Anchalee is a legitimate software engineer, so I think she is a good role model.”

In the meantime, Isis Anchalee is now developing a team to build www.ilooklikeanengineer.com as a "safe platform for us al lto continue to share our stories and experiences relating to diversity issues in tech." 




Kingdom of Girls

This striking photoseries entitled "Mädchenland" or 'Kingdom of Girls', is the product of photographer, Karolin Klüppel for an interview with Mic.  The series focuses on the matrilineal Khasi culture in the state of Meghhalaya (India) wherein women are revered and in Karolin's words "To disrespect a woman here is to harm society". 

Girls are brought up with an incredible sense of self, an inherent self confidence and respect that is cultivated by their families and of the people in their culture.  Instead of the tearing down of women so synonymous with western culture, the Khasi foster a respect for women and of matrilineal cultivation. 

The Khasi culture is a testament to how empowering girls at a young age, fosters a sense of self-sufficiency and confidence rarely seen in today's western teens, producing women that are self-assured, independent and successful. 

Read the full interview with Karolin at Mic's website here.  and see the full portfolio of images at Karolin's website here

120 years of Women's Suffrage - Infographic

Image  via

Image via

While the Women's Suffrage Movement has been a battle fought since the 18th Century, it is astounding that some countries are still only just coming onboard almost 300 years later. 300! In 1718 Sweden, taxpaying female 'members of city guilds [were] allowed to vote in local [and national] elections' (via) a move that was rescinded in 1758 for the former and 1771 for the latter.(via)

Pitcairn Island and the Isle of Man were both ahead of the game without being self-governing countries with the former offering universal suffrage in 1838 and the latter in 1881 as well as various American states signing on before 1893 but it was New Zealand that became the first country to extend women the right to vote in 1893, an action that beat every other country by a minimum of nine years with Australia following suit in 1902 and Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland following suit over the next 13 years. 

It was an act that came about after two decades of campaigning by New Zealand women with the help of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (a women's organisation advocating the total abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and all other drugs) who upon noticing that the bulk of the support for moderation came from women, took an active role in supporting the suffrage movement in New Zealand, arguing that "women could bring morality into democratic politics"(via)

It's an harrowing thought to know that there are still so many countries around the world which still do not allow women this fundamental right and that a group of acutely motivated women in the late 1800s could garner a positive result that is ignored and yet-to-be achieved by these countries. 

It impresses me that New Zealand is so forward in so many ways while still being such a sheltered country, steadfast in its beliefs about what this country stands for and what it will and will not allow, regardless of what superpowers try to coerce us into accepting. 

In light of New Zealand's forward-thinking attitude and in celebration of the 120 years of women's suffrage celebration, this infographic below from Statistics NZ highlights the achievements of the women's suffrage movement in New Zealand.

Image courtesy of  Statistics NZ

Image courtesy of Statistics NZ