Pledge for Parity: International Women’s Day 2016

On March 8 the Faculty of Arts joined in the global celebration of International Women’s Day 2016. As we celebrated the contribution Faculty of Arts staff, students and alumnae make in terms of social, economic, cultural, and political achievements, we also questioned how we can continue to progress towards closing the gender gap in a #PledgeForParity.

International Women's Day Logo

Through an opinion piece published in The Age, Director of the Melbourne School of Government, Professor Helen Sullivan, expressed her concerns about the underrepresentation of women in politics, urging us to take affirmative action. Professor Sullivan highlighted mentoring, networking and coaching as key tools for encouraging women to step up into positions of leadership. Melbourne School of Government’s  Pathways to Politics for Women program, a new initiative for 2016, aims to address this under-representation by providing hands-on training and networking opportunities for women who aspire to elected office.

Also contributing to the debate about how to equalise gender relations and improve the status of families was Dr Leah Ruppanner, Sociologist and Lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences. Drawing upon her current research, Dr Ruppanner provided innovative and novel solutions from around the world which might be instituted in the Australian context. By harnessing the power of community, offering intergenerational care, and making men the focus, Dr Ruppanner explores how Flexible families = workplace equality.

Demonstrating that women can succeed in industries traditionally dominated by senior, male peers, is Arts alumna, 2014 Rising Star Award for Young Alumni recipient and Alumni Council Vice President Jenny Taing. Jenny was awarded the Hugh D.T. Williamson Scholarship by the Financial Institute of Australasia (Finsia) at the end of 2015 in recognition of her leadership, professional qualifications, community and social responsibility, in relation to her contribution to the financial services industry. Jenny will use the Scholarship for professional development, travelling to the USA in June to complete the High Potentials Leadership Program at Harvard Business School. ARTiculation asked Jenny a few questions about her award and whether she had any advice for young women looking to step into leadership positions in the future.

Ms Jenny Taing, Arts alumna, Alumni Council Vice President, and recipient of the 2014 Rising Star Award for Young Alumni and Hugh D.T. Williamson Scholarship.
Ms Jenny Taing, Arts alumna, Alumni Council Vice President, and recipient of the 2014 Rising Star Award for Young Alumni and Hugh D.T. Williamson Scholarship.

What does the opportunity to attend the High Potentials Leadership Program at Harvard Business School mean for you? What kind of impact do you expect it will have on your career?

The opportunity to attend the High Potentials Leadership Program at Harvard Business School is a life changing event. With Harvard’s infamous case method teaching and a course which top executives fly in from all around the world to attend, it will be an amazing learning environment where I’ll be exposed to global best practice leadership from the world’s top businesses. The experience will allow me to take the next step in my career and develop my skills as a young leader in financial services, the community and as a non- executive director.

Do you have any career advice for young women?  

It’s important when building your career to always be guided by your values and interests and always be ready and open to take on new challenges and opportunities.

My non-executive director career was not planned, but essentially started from a visit to the emergency department at The Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital with my Mum, a Vietnamese refugee. The experience sparked my interest in health and saw me volunteering on a number of committees at the hospital. Four years later, at the age of 29, the Victorian Health Minister appointed me as a board director of the Eye & Ear, the youngest to ever be appointed to a health service board. I’ve since built on my passion for health, with an appointment by the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council to the corporate board of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), the national scheme that regulates medical practitioners.

What advice do you have for young women who aspire to (or may not have considered) leadership roles?  

To achieve leadership, it’s really important to have mentors and to build a diverse network early on in your career.

My mentors and champions have been critical to my progression to leadership. Their wise counsel, encouragement and support gave me the courage and confidence to take on leadership roles, as a young woman, from a disadvantaged refugee background and the first person in my family to receive a tertiary education. They have been critical in shaping my career and have guided me through some of the most challenging situations. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.


International Women’s Day was also the perfect opportunity to reflect on the strength and achievements of women, and to celebrate the brilliant ladies who make the Faculty of Arts such a robust and exciting community. We took to social media to create a tribute to the impressive, bold, impactful and resilient women who inspire us.

Image above: A snapshot of the fabulous, fearless females we profiled on International Women’s Day 2016.

The Faculty of Arts was thrilled to hear back from some of our social media savvy stars.

May we continue 2016 in the spirit of International Women’s Day by inspiring and supporting each other. #Celebratewomen