It wasn’t until she was well into her first year of university that Cecilia Ngu realised she loved law.
“Like many other young people, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life when I finished school. I chose to study law, but didn’t know if it would be for me,” she explains.
The lightbulb moment was when she realised that laws affect everybody, but that not everyone understands, can navigate, or is appropriately represented in the legal system.
“Having grown up in a mixed culture family and in a very multicultural area, it wasn’t until I was older that I became conscious of a lack of representation of people who look like me in the media and in leadership positions.”
“Unconscious assumptions do affect opportunities for women and people of colour, and it can be self-perpetuating with young women from culturally diverse backgrounds self-selecting out of opportunities when they don’t see themselves represented.”
Now that Cecilia is a practicing lawyer herself, she is dedicating time to breaking the glass ceiling for other diverse women.
Cecilia is co-Chair of her firm’s Multiculturalism Network and working with the Diversity and Inclusion team. Through a volunteer role as the Policy Director of Diverse Women in Law, Cecilia is also leading a research project into the unique structural inequality and systemic barriers faced by female-identifying law students and entry level lawyers from diverse backgrounds.
For that reason, when YWCA Australia advertised for their Board Traineeship program with a statement that they wanted young women from culturally diverse backgrounds, it immediately caught Cecilia’s eye.
She was already familiar with YWCA through participating in fundraising and networking events, and a supporter of their work through her own academic and personal passion for addressing housing affordability and generational disadvantage.
“My Law Honours thesis was on The Criminalisation of Homelessness in New South Wales, where I analysed the disproportionate and draconian response to the Martin Place homeless camp in 2017. One of the key issues I identified was that people need long-term housing solutions for stability and to address structural inequality.”
“YWCA’s dedication to providing medium to long-term affordable housing to at-risk women and their families as well as their homelessness and domestic violence services is work that I admire and want to be part of.”
“The fact that they have such an inclusive culture, actively advertised for young women from diverse backgrounds, and interviewed through an intersectional lens was very appealing. They recognise that feminism is diverse and affected by people’s different lived experiences.”
As one of two trainees accepted into YWCA Australia’s 2020 Board Traineeship program, Cecilia will be partnered with a current board member, sit in on YWCA board and committee meetings as an observer, and undertake the Australian Institute of Company Director’s Foundations of Directorship course.
“This is quite an incredible opportunity for a young woman, especially as board directors are so often older men in their fifties and sixties. To have this chance to get involved with a board and participate in strategic decision making, risk management and good governance while in a fully supportive feminist environment is highly unique.”
The YWCA Australia Board Traineeship program will run between July 2020 and June 2021.
When asked what one piece of advice she would give to other diverse young women, Cecilia says, “Don’t self-select out just because you think that your experience isn’t enough. So many skills and experiences can be transferrable. Just put yourself out there.”
Cecilia is one of two young women selected to be part of YWCA Australia’s Board Traineeship Program. As a YWCA Board Trainee, Cecilia will be partnered with a current YWCA board member, sit in on YWCA board and committee meetings as an observer, and undertake the Australian Institute of Company Director’s Foundations of Directorship course. This Board Traineeship program is part of YWCA’s commitment to advancing leadership opportunities for young women in Australia.