2020 has been a year of unprecedented events and significant challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted young women through slashed workforce participation, decline in university enrolments, increased caregiving responsibilities and the exacerbated threat of domestic violence. Support for young women must be at the centre of Australia’s pandemic recovery and long-term growth.
Women in Australia continue to be underrepresented across all spheres of leadership – we see this in our houses of parliament, in our boardrooms and in our communities. Women make up only 30 per cent of Commonwealth Parliament, 28 per cent of Board Directors and 18 per cent of CEOs. This under-representation is exacerbated even further for young women who experience the unique intersection of discriminatory age attitudes and gender bias.
Equity in representation is a human right and one that promises to deliver a more just and fair society for all people in Australia. The Australian economy would gain $8 billion if young women transitioned from tertiary education into the workforce at the same rate as young men, and Australia’s GDP would increase by 11 per cent if we closed the gender pay gap.
While young women disproportionately experience many of the great social challenges of today , they also have the skills and creativity to developing new thinking and solutions to these challenges, informed by their lived experience.
However, putting yourself in a position of leadership in a patriarchal society like Australia can be daunting and at times unsafe. Young women need safe spaces and support structures to develop their leadership capacity. That’s where YWCA comes in.
YWCA works with young women to know their rights, understand their potential and build their confidence in leadership. We do this through programs like Asista, Every Girl, Youth Frontiers, the Young Women’s Council and the Board Traineeship Program. Programs such as these support young women to grow as role models and community leaders and into independent, financially secure women.
Because when young women lead, great things happen.
Spotlight on the Young Women’s Council
Our Young Women’s Council brings together 18 young women and girls from around Australia to advocate on gender equality, contribute to important campaigns and inform the strategy and governance of YWCA. Young Women’s Council members contribute to a national feminist agenda while learning new skills and pursing leadership opportunities – all within a safe and supportive environment.
“Before joining the Young Women’s Council I thought of leadership and advocacy as something I couldn’t necessarily do, at least not in a public or significant way, but now I see both things can be done by anyone at any level. I’ve also learnt so much, especially from the different perspectives and lived experiences of the other members and YWCA staff.”
Yusra, 25, Melbourne
“Being on the Young Women’s Council not only gives young women from diverse background and all walks of life opportunities and platform for activism, but it also allows us to come together and be surrounded by other young women with the same common goal.
Hawi, 18, Adelaide
“Being a part of this group has really cemented my identity as an intersectional feminist. I’ve noticed that I’m now spotting more examples of institutionalised sexism and am aware of the barriers that are stopping young women from reaching their potential. Being a part of the Council has really made me realise just how deep these issues run, and how much work we still have to do.
Hannah, 19, Adelaide
“I joined the YWCA Young Women’s Council to learn how to use my voice as an ally advocating for young women’s issues within my community. However, what I gained from my time on the Council was so much more. On meeting my fellow Council Members, I gained a whole new understanding of the “sisterhood” that I’d grown up hearing so much about but was yet to really understand.”
Alexandra, 25, Darwin
By financially supporting YWCA this festive season, you are helping to develop young women as leaders and planting the seeds of change for a better future for Australia.