It’s time to shine a spotlight on women

Women and girls are being encouraged to consider careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Pictures; Getty
Women and girls are being encouraged to consider careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Pictures; Getty

A LOT of people still ask why we have an International Women’s Day and not an International Men’s Day, writes CSIRO research team leader Dr Laura Kuhar.

I always say that it’s to shine a bit of a spotlight on women – to give the underdog a bit of airtime.

I’ve never been what I would traditionally call a feminist. I’ve always thought ‘well, I’ll just prove that I can do the job as well as anybody else’.

But then what really stuck out last year at International Women’s Day was the pay gap between men and women and how apparently, if we just let things run their natural course, it would even out – but it would take about 200 years.

I just thought ‘gee, that’s a long time!’.

Dr Laura Kuhar.

To make things fairer sooner, it would help if we could all support women a bit more.

I have never had a female boss but many of my male bosses have been very supportive and looked for opportunities for me to develop, challenged me, put me in difficult situations.

So there are many male enablers and supporters out there and sometimes I think maybe they feel a bit bashed because of the way we carry on!

But there are a lot of men that are working really hard to change things.

I was asked to give a talk on how to keep girls engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and I started looking at research – they’re finding things like, for example, at the age of one, when a little boy and a little girl are taken to the museum, the little boy is given a lot more facts than the little girl.

This whole stereotype around what boys and girls should be doing and what roles they should fill starts from a very young age.

And it’s everybody that perpetuates this myth — I do it, too, I’ve noticed, with my kids.

If we can start breaking down those stereotypes then we can pave the way to allow girls to move into traditionally male-dominated environments.

I find the main challenge for women in 2020 is just being in the minority in many work environments.

And there is still such a need for support for women with families.

Having facilities for women – childcare, breastfeeding rooms, flexible working hours — would facilitate women staying in male-dominated environments and just in the workplace in general.

It might be a generalisation but I really do think women tend to bring a bit of empathy and insight to the workplace.

There are many men that do that very well too, but women tend to have that softer touch.

I had never heard of imposter syndrome until about 18 months ago and it really resonated with me.

Since then I realised how many other people experience it — not only women but men, too — but I think women to a larger extent.

Essentially it’s just a feeling where you think ‘did I get here by luck?’ ‘By chance?’ Am I good enough to be here?’ ‘Can I do this next big thing?’ — that constant questioning ‘am I good enough?’.

We all need to be kinder in our self talk, stop questioning ourselves and learn to say ‘yes’.

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