Women united in the struggle

first_img“Make it happen”.That was the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, and for those attending the Greek Australian Women’s network event last week, it encapsulated both the stagnating state of gender equality and the hope that change will come. Seven highly influential women from the Greek Australian community came together to take part in the discussion ‘Girls and Education’ at the Food For Though Network’s event on Sunday.A packed audience of more than 100 women, girls, and the odd man or two sat down to hear of the struggles many have witnessed in the workplace, and the troubling state of violence against women.Giving the keynote speech, parliament’s first female Greek Australian minister, Jenny Mikakos, spoke of the worldwide gender gap in children attending school. “Only 30 per cent of girls worldwide are enrolled in high school,” she says.“More than 60 per cent of people who lack basic reading and writing skills in the poorest nations are women.“As children grow, so does inequality.” She also spoke of her own heartache at the fact her mother wasn’t able to pursue her dreams to become a teacher in the ’60 and ’70s.Life in education and the gender gap was the topic of the panel’s discussion chaired by Alphington Grammar’s principal, Vivianne Nikou.Acclaimed academics Joy Damousi, Georgina Tsolidis, Ann Mitsis and student Maree Skalistis spoke from experience.“Self esteem and self confidence is at the core of the issues of women in education,” Professor Damousi says.“When you look at why it is that a majority of women graduate university but they’re not moving up, it’s one of the potential issues that I think we need to talk about.“It’s one that doesn’t hit the headlines.”One of the most confronting aspects of the discussion came when the panel discussed domestic violence in the Greek community. “Sixty per cent of women didn’t report the last domestic violence incident,” Professor Georgina Tsolidis said. Women in culturally and linguistically diverse communities are starkly more highly represented in those statistics, many silenced thanks to cultural stigmas and entrenched gender roles. “We need to break that cycle of violence,” Ms Mikakos said.It’s been an ongoing issue in our community and one that is getting worse as our community expands due to an increase of Greek migration thanks to the crisis. Settlement issues and tight finances have pushed the rate of new domestic violence up, with the Australian Greek Welfare Society saying their number of cases has increased dramatically over the past four years.Wife of the Greek Ambassador to Australia, Eyvah Dafaranos highlighted the need for members of the community to embrace newly arrived women by offering them sponsorship in their industry to give them more independence in their family life.The panellists also agreed that “women shouldn’t have to choose between career or family”.Entering into an industry that is very male dominated also had the panellists jumping to give advice.Neos Kosmos asked the group if they had any advice to young Greek Australian women entering the workforce. “Don’t be afraid of it (male dominated field), actually embrace it, you’ve got a lot you can bring to that space,” Dr Ann Mitsis said.“You have to be very confident in your dealings with colleagues,” Professor Damousi says.“I’d also strongly advise to cultivate a number of mentors, not just one, male and female, because there will be various aspects of the job that draw on skills which you’ll need to develop that people can help you with.”Founder of the Food for Thought Network Varvara Ioannou also said the best way to succeed in a career is to “stop judging, stay current in your chosen profession, and seek mentors”. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img

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