International Women’s Day @ Hilda’s

By Georgie Macho

“There’s no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish”

Michelle Obama

In light of this year’s United Nations theme for International Women’s Day, ‘Count her in: Invest in Women’, St Hilda’s was lucky enough to hear from Dr Angela Jackson on women’s economic participation. Jackson is a Lead Health Economist for Impact Economics and Policy, who has worked across tax, fiscal, and social policy, and is currently the National Chair of the Women in Economics Network. 

The day began with students, alumni, and college staff mingling with one another in the Junior Common Room. Alumni reminisced about their time spent at college, and current students got to hear about how St Hilda’s has evolved over the past sixty years. Having first formed as a women’s only college, Hilda’s greatly values International Women’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate the inspiring women who founded this college and those who continue to show female leadership today. 

As Dr Jackson took her place at the front of the room, all eyes turned to her. She began her speech with a much-needed acknowledgement of the need for intersectionality when trying to achieve gender equity. From here, she dove into how economics plays a large part in the path to gender equity and what we can do to assist its journey. 

As a successful woman working in a male-dominated field, she touched on the depressing statistics of sexual discrimination within the Australian workplace. However, she also talked about the less visible unconscious biases that hold women back within the workplace. Women are much more likely to underestimate themselves whereas men overestimate themselves, which can specifically occur when applying for jobs and promotions.

What surprised me though, in the crux of her speech, was how motherhood impacts women in the workplace and policy choices. She informed us of the drop in income that mothers take on after having their first child. This was confirmed by a recent Treasury analysis which confirmed that the thirty percent of women who earn more than their partner prior to having children suffer the same income drop as new mothers who do not out-earn their partners. On top of this, when taking into account unpaid housework completed between female and male partners, it was found by the University of Technology Sydney that a woman with children must earn 109 times more than her male partner to reach gender equity. 109 times is an absolutely remarkable statistic and feels like such an intimidating feat as a young woman in my final year of university. 

Aside from the somewhat frightening statistics regarding gender equity in the workplace, she ended her speech with words of hope as we, the next generation, lead this age-old fight for gender equity. Jackson then opened the floor to questions, and as the first few questions were all asked by women, it was interesting to see that the eagerness to ask questions came from men in the room in a stark majority. In fact, all of their questions came from a want to understand how they can support the women in their lives and help us in our movement toward gender equity. It is from witnessing this that I am hopeful that this demonstrates the desire within our male-identifying students and staff to acknowledge and utilise the power they hold in contributing to our journey to gender equality. 

The day closed out with a word of thanks from our Student Club President, Paddy Ryan, and guests jumped out of their seats to mingle with others. In the moments after the luncheon had ended, it was unanimous that everyone I spoke to, including myself, was absolutely enthralled by Dr Jackson and her speech. 

The day was an incredible privilege to attend and I am so glad to have been able to learn about aspects of gender equity that I previously hadn’t known much about from such an inspiring woman.