What does the International Women’s Day slogan, #EmbraceEquity mean for you? Why is it important to you?
I think the slogan is an important part of an ongoing conversation as to whether equality is enough and if instead, we should look towards equity as a better principle to progress society.
It’s important to appreciate the distinction between the two concepts. Equality is based on the belief that all people should have the same opportunities. Equity acknowledges that people don’t begin life in the same place, and that circumstances can make it more difficult for people to achieve the same goals. When we embrace equity, we embrace diversity, and we embrace inclusion.
I have heard it best expressed as follows: Equality is the goal, and equity is the means to get there. Through the process of equity, we can reach equality.
Equity is important to helping everyone be at their best by aiding people according to their needs to ensure they can be successful. I think that is vitally important in every facet of life.
Equity means creating a fair and equal world. What actions do you take to work towards achieving greater gender equality?
My grandparents used to have a saying that they would often recite in Arabic. Loosely translated it meant “a person who wants to learn, can learn studying under a tree if so required”.
Recently I have found myself pondering over those words. They were and are in fact:
Firstly, an acknowledgement that not all students had access to the same resources when completing their education. My grandparents were born to a time and place where for many children in their local community learning under a tree was quite literally the only education available.
Secondly and perhaps most importantly a lesson in perseverance directed at those students whose only option was to learn under a tree by reference to whatever materials they could get their hands on. I guess the lesson was that despite the differences in learning opportunities, if a person really wanted to learn, the lack of those resources would not prevent them from doing so.
Of course, since the days of that saying, society has changed. The pace at which everything is advancing is accelerating and the resources being referred to have changed from for example encyclopaedias to search engines on the internet accessed via individual student laptops.
I guess the key in my mind is to avoid a situation where a lack of access to educational opportunities becomes the reason an otherwise talented individual is hindered from succeeding. For that reason, I think it’s important to support causes like the sponsor a child campaigns run by World Vision and the Smith Family. At one point, and I hope it’s no longer the case, young females (and I expect older children generally) were less likely to be sponsored as donors were more likely to sponsor toddlers or babies. That fact spoke to me on a very personal level. I would love to do more in this area.
I have always found that the desire to learn makes for the best team members. It is not something that can be taught and is often taken for granted. When I see that initiative, I try to nurture it. I do understand that people don’t begin life in the same place, and that circumstances can make it more difficult for people to achieve the same goals, particularly for women. For my part, I don’t ever want to get in the way of any of my team members succeeding. On the contrary, I want to do everything in my power to help them attain the career goal that they desire – whether it’s climbing the career ladder, achieving work-life balance, accessing women’s networking functions, fair gender inclusion or something else that I haven’t even considered. I have an open-door policy office-wide for anyone who wants to talk to me. The key is to work together and to constantly aim to be better at everything we do.”
How does Cor Cordis demonstrate its commitment to gender equity to ensure there is a sense of equality and belonging?
Equality focuses on providing all genders with equal opportunities. Yet, women often require more than a level playing field. They need to belong in a culture that actively promotes and supports them in all aspects of their life, from education to the workplace to health.
Forging gender equity isn’t limited to women solely fighting the good fight. Allies are incredibly important for the advancement of women. It is good to see all the partners support diversity and inclusion and IWD initiatives to build the Cor Cordis culture and make it one of equality and belonging.
Our NSW team is now roughly 50/50 male to female staff and it is definitely a step in the right direction. Our firm has also implemented a number of initiatives including the establishment of a diversity and inclusion committee to champion the key objectives of our firmwide diversity and inclusion strategy.
Can you share any achievements you are most proud of?
Being the first female in my family to graduate from university.
Being in partnership with some of the true doyens of insolvency (and the first female partner in those offices).
Being brave enough to take a time out (career break) when I needed one.
As a woman, what are the most important challenges you have overcome to fulfil your role?
Perception bias when dealing with prospective clients (in the form of both age and gender).
Being a leader who is tough but fair. It is a difficult balance to strike particularly for females in leadership roles.
On International Women’s Day, what message or advice you can pass on to anyone, especially young women trying to establish their careers or anyone striving for gender equality?
Work out what you need to succeed and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Have faith in yourself and pause and acknowledge that to get to where you are required hard work and talent. Build on that base, which is by no means insignificant, and be your best you. That is all any of us can do.