Passion to be life-changers: meet the Loreto women pressing for parity
MICHELLE McIntosh aims for the life-saving work she leads to be life-changing for women in Africa.
Back in her hometown, the world-leading pharmacist aims to inspire.
Professor McIntosh, a Loreto College alumna, urged the school’s student leaders to think big and importantly to follow their passion.
Her passion has helped to develop a simple-to-use, lost-cost and heat-stable inhaled form of the drug oxytocin, to prevent women in isolated areas from bleeding to death in childbirth.
“We see that potential of women who survive childbirth are more likely to help their children lead better lives and the better they all live, the better chance there if for education opportunities,” Professor McIntosh said.
More than 303,000 women dies each year in childbirth but Professor McIntosh said this drug could save 1.4 million lives within 10 years.
A 2001 Loreto graduate, Professor McIntosh’s journey through science has increasingly shaped her as a champion for women in STEM careers: science, technology, engineering, mathematics.
Professor McIntosh, based at Monash University, returned home for Loreto College’s annual International Women’s Day breakfast. In a year themed #PressForProgress, Professor McIntosh said it was so important for young women to be themselves rather than try and do what others thought.
“These girls – whether they’re making speeches or a captain – have so many great leadership opportunites already at Loreto. That really helps set them up for life,” Professor McIntosh said. “I think there’s still a long way to go not just in gender equity but actually diversity in all workplaces.”
Victorian Police Association industrial officer Nikkita Venville won The Courier-Loreto alumna spirit award for her past work in greater pay for early childhood education, a predominantly female industry. Ms Venville said she truly realised the values instilled in her at Loreto the more she pursued her passion for fair workplaces.
After five years, the equal pay case Ms Venville had worked on with the early childhood education union was dismissed on industrial relations legislation technicalities. This far from dampened Ms Venville’s passion.
“It made me want to continue fighting for fair workplaces and fair equality in the workplace,” Ms Venville said.
Student Ella Kendall was named Loreto Women of the Day while volunteer all-rounder Ella van der Voort won the community achiever award.
Loreto co-captain Lizzy Clark said International Women’s Day was such a valuable day to recognise and celebrate all women.
“In this time, it’s so important women and girls support each other because when women and girls support each other, that’s when great things come into fruition,” Ms Clarke said.
From Ballarat to the stars: astrophysicist shares journey with Ballarat Grammar girls
Virginia Kilborn was initially reluctant when her dad would drag her out of bed in the middle of the night to look at the night sky.
But now she can say she is grateful for the experience, which developed her fascination with the astronomy and was the beginning of her journey to become an astrophysicist.
The former Ballarat Grammar student returned to her home town on Thursday to share her journey with around 130 guests at the Ballarat Grammar International Women’s Day breakfast.
Guests could hear the excitement in Ms Kilborn’s voice when she shared details of a groundbreaking new radio telescope being developed in Western Australia.
“It is the golden age for astronomy happening in Australia right now. New telescopes are being developed that will enable us to see further and in more detail. We will be able to understand how the universe has developed from the big bang to today,” she said.
“There are lots of challenges on earth today where science, technology engineering and maths (or STEM) will play a really big role. But what we see in science is the number of women going into some fields is low, physics in particular. As the head of physics and astronomy at Swinburne University, I am very conscious that I am one of two women with 20 men around me at my staff meeting.”
Ms Kilborn has made moves in her university leadership role to improve gender equality in STEM, including reporting numbers of female applicants and programs to support women to transition from researchers to professors.
“A man with white hair and a lab coat is the stereotype we are brought up with. It does play an unconscious role for women and men when we are decided who should go into these roles and these are the barriers we need to break down,” she said.
“Women’s participation in STEM starts at school. I found role models were vitally important and I was lucky I had a female role model the whole way along... You just have to believe in yourself and take the small steps.”
Ballarat Grammar headmaster Adam Heath said the school actively promoted girls taking on STEM through career pathways and industry experiences, like the Women in Engineering forum.
Pioneering equality for over 30 years: Beacham says aims have not changed
Put the first female Vice Chancellor of Federation University and a pioneer of a movement supporting women in parliament in the same room – it makes for a powerful morning.
Federation University Vice Chancellor Helen Bartlett and pioneer of Emily’s List Jenny Beacham spoke at the Federation University International Women’s Day morning tea on Thursday.
“As a female in a leadership role I find some of the questions that are asked of me very interesting, particularly by senior male colleagues,” Professor Bartlett said.
“I was asked how did I think I would go as the first female leader at the university. It is perplexing because I don’t associate gender with those roles at all…. In the future there will be no female leaders, there will just be leaders.”
Daylesford resident Jenny Beacham echoed that message, wearing her Emily’s List badge pinned onto a bright green jacket which belonged to her sister who died of breast cancer. A purple scarf representing dignity hung around her neck.
“1978 was really my first awareness of international women's day. We were visiting Yugoslavia with four kids in the back of a combi van and I met a woman who was going on a bus trip to another country in Europe to celebrate the day,” she said.
“When I first started in my career I had to resign from my permanent teaching position when I got married, and I had to resign completely when I got pregnant. When I started working in head office of Australian Labor Party as the first and only woman secretary for the ALP, I was asked how I would manage my children.
“Emily’s List is a network to raise money and support women candidates in politics. We found women needed political networks and resources. The Australian parliament does still sit at 50th in the world for women in politics.
“Nothing has changed for me in the things I want to achieve; equity, diversity, childcare, choice.”
Time’s up for gender inequality as Ballarat turns purple
Ballarat was a parade of purple, as the city celebrated and acknowledged the contributions of female leaders past and present.
An afternoon tea was held at 3.43pm in Alfred Deakin Place, to specifically draw attention to the pay gap between men and women.
The Australia Bureau of Statistics estimates the gap sits at an average of 16 per cent. From 3.43pm, women are working for free when compared to the salaries of their male counterparts.
Another centrepiece of Ballarat’s celebrations included the unveiling of five portraits of female mayors.
For the first time, pictures of former mayors Jessie Scott, Wanda Chapman, Vashti Lloyd and Judy Verlin, and current mayor Samantha McIntosh, will hang in the Trench Room at Town Hall.
Ms Verlin said it was heartening that women held many major leadership positions in Ballarat currently. Only a decade ago, the City of Ballarat’s council was made up of all men.
“It’s wonderful I think to have the opportunity for future generations to acknowledge and understand what role we played in planning the future of the city,” she said.
Former mayor Wanda Chapman said she “came from a background of service” and wasn’t motivated by politics when she became mayor in 1988.
“It was about taking an interest in what was happening in your community, and taking it a step forward,” she said.
“I want to recognise those women that went before us. I talk about standing on the shoulders of women ... like Eleanor Roosevelt, Indara Gandhi, Golda Meir.
“I think the younger ones are now standing on the shoulders of ourselves, and may it continue to progress.”