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International Women's Day: Choose to challenge

Written by Margot Taylor
on March 05, 2021

The world will mark International Women's Day on Monday, March 8.

The theme of this year's day is 'Choose to challenge'. A world that challenges ingrained gender norms is a world that will be more equal for all.womens-day (Large)-1

Women at our retirement villages have seen immense changes in the expectations and opportunities available to them over their lifetimes. From supporting the war effort to women's liberation, and more recently the #MeToo movement.

To celebrate this important day, Ryman Healthcare communications advisor Margot Taylor spoke with two Weary Dunlop Retirement Village residents and their granddaughters about the challenges they have faced and overcome as a result of their gender.


Weary Dunlop resident Elaine and her granddaughter Talia                Elaine                                                                                           
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is 'Choose to challenge'. What challenges have you faced as a woman, and how have you overcome them?

Elaine: Women of my generation did not have the choices those of today’s generation have. There were limited career opportunities. The most common occupations were teaching, nursing or being a shop assistant. When women married or became pregnant they were often required to leave their job. Women were unable to procure a loan from a bank without the partnership of a male. Women did not have the opportunity to leave abusive relationships as they often had no source of income.

What opportunities does Talia have now that you didn’t have?

Today’s young women have greater opportunities if they are able to get an education. They have a greater variety of careers available and they are able, due to technology, to study and live anywhere in the world.

What advice would you give to Talia?

My advice to my granddaughter is live your life to the fullest. Be true to yourself, be honest and kind. When choosing a life partner choose someone who will be your best friend, who will treat you with the love and respect you deserve.

What has been the greatest accomplishment/improvement for women in your lifetime?

The greatest improvements for women have been as a result of the advancement of technology. Technology has allowed the improvement of appliances giving women more time for personal interests and hobbies. Women can shop for almost anything from home.

Talia, what challenges have you faced as a woman, and how have you overcome them?

Talia: I feel incredibly grateful that the challenges I have faced as a woman are much subtler than the challenges faced just one generation ago. I have incredible freedoms such as the opportunity to work, study and live independently. The biggest challenge I feel is the pressure from society to look a certain way and prioritise appearance above all else. I strive to overcome this challenge by assessing when and why I feel like this and not comparing myself to other women.

What has your grandmother taught you about being a woman?

My grandmother has shown me how to live with generosity and kindness at the fore of everything I do. She taught me through example that this doesn’t necessarily mean being in servitude but choosing to do these things with independence and out of love not obligation.

What has been the greatest accomplishment/improvement for women in your lifetime?

To me, the greatest accomplishment for women in my lifetime was seeing the first female prime minister come to leadership in this country. In seeing this example, women and girls were able to envision themselves in such a position and I think that was such an empowering moment for Australian women.

What do you hope has changed/improved for women by the time you are your grandmother’s age?

I hope that by the time I am my grandmother’s age women and girls globally have access to education and the freedoms to live and work however they desire without judgement. While things are always improving we still have a long way to go.

Weary Dunlop resident Ellen and her granddaughter Erinnsmail-11 (Large)-1
 
What challenges have you faced as a woman, and how have you overcome them
 
Ellen: Despite being a full and complete provider for a family I have had to do this on a woman’s wage, work conditions, a woman’s lack of legal rights and the recognition normally afforded a man. Without any financial or family support I have overcome these societal obstacles by sheer grit, hard work, determination and courage in the face of difficulties - out of love for my children.
 

What opportunities does Erin have now that you didn't have?

My granddaughter has had access to education and a fully supportive family.

What advice would you give to Erin?

Have confidence in yourself and courageously believe in your dreams.

What has been the greatest accomplishment/improvement for women in your lifetime?

Education, improved women's health and emerging awareness of the social/political distinctions between men and women's rights.

Erin, what challenges have you faced as a woman, and how have you overcome them?

Erin: Generally, I've been expected to take on extra tasks at work (eg. teaching, managing labs) which take up a lot of my spare time and go unrecognised. I'm told that I'm more suited than all my male colleagues for all of these extra tasks as I have better communication skills. I am currently advocating in the university for recognition of all the 'extra' activities undertaken by the other females working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

What has your grandmother taught you about being a woman?

My grandmother is fiercely independent and self-driven. She's taught me that if there isn't a current pathway to do something you want to do, then you make one.

What has been the greatest accomplishment/improvement for women in your lifetime?

The most recent accomplishment that has stuck in my mind as being the most shocking, was the decriminalisation of abortion in South Australia since January 2021. This was a significant right granted to women which should definitely not have taken so long.

What do you hope has changed/improved for women by the time you are your grandmother’s age?

I really hope to see a larger percentage of women in STEM fields. While I've never felt directly discriminated against in my career in STEM, it has become apparent how much the field could improve with a more diverse set of minds tackling the world's problems.

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