Our leaders #BreakTheBias

This International Women's Day, four of our female leaders talk about what the day means to them, women they admire and the importance of lifting each other up.
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Every day, women around the world are working to break down bias to create a gender-equal world – one that is inclusive and values diversity.

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate all women and their leadership in their homes, workplaces, industries and communities.

At Youth Off The Streets, the majority of our staff and leadership team are women, including CEO Lex Nadine Lutherborrow.

Lex reflects on the women who have influenced her to be the best leader she can be.

“The woman I admire most is my mother. She followed her husband from the city to the country and embraced it all with determination – and a bit of humour – and gave us kids a fantastic foundation for adulthood.

“I also admire Aunty Pat, Youth Off The Streets’ Cultural Development Advisor, who embodies resilience and reconciliation in everything she does. She’s a woman who doesn’t always say much, but I could listen to her for hours when she does.

“In my eyes, these two women share universal qualities of strength and integrity.”

Read on to see what some of the other women in our leadership team say about breaking down barriers in the workplace, championing other women and working towards an equitable future.

Ranna Peera – Director of Youth Support Services

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a day where I stop and reflect on the contribution women make to societies around the world – in their various walks of life and their different roles. I also reflect on the challenges and adversities women faced historically and still face today.

How important is it for women to lift each other up, and what does that mean to you?

Women must support each other individually and understand the issues that women face across the board. Once we take a stance, we must influence in whatever capacity available to us.

It’s empowering to all women when support comes from a place of understanding, lived experience and compassion – whether we are receiving or giving the support.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I’ve received so much excellent advice over the years. One piece of advice I constantly remind myself of is: the only person stopping you from getting what you want is you. You have only failed when you have stopped trying.

Catherine Harland – School Principal

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

The day acknowledges the struggles and successes of women while highlighting the importance of everyone tackling the barriers to achieving inclusion and gender equality.

I think this year’s theme, Break the Bias, demands change. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough – action is needed to level the playing field.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I’m proud of taking up the challenge of leading the development of our Year 11 and 12 school program at Merrylands, and establishing The Bowen College in Maroubra. Both programs continue to flourish under the guidance of incredible staff who are passionate about providing a space where young people can thrive.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Be patient, respectful of others and continue to challenge yourself.

Karen Penning – Marketing and Communications Manager

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s our opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women around the world – their commitment and contributions to every aspect of society – while recognising that the fight for gender equality is far from over.

In countries like Australia, gender issues are on the mainstream agenda and bias is getting called out more often. And yet women are still paid less, discriminated against and experience harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence. In many other countries, women and girls are still denied basic human rights such as access to education and healthcare.

Working in communications for an organisation with a majority of female staff, International Women’s Day is also a great moment to highlight their incredible skill, determination and positive impact on the lives of young people.

They are truly inspiring.

Have you faced any barriers, as a woman, to becoming successful in your career?

When my children were younger, negotiating flexibility at work was challenging. I remember being wracked with nerves when I requested to return to my job part time. I had to jump through several hoops to ‘prove’ that I could make the arrangement work. There was a fair amount of reluctance to change the status quo.

That was over 15 years ago and it seems extraordinary to me now – combining work with raising children definitely put me on the so-called ‘mummy track’ for a while. That being said, I appreciate that I’ve benefitted from enormous privilege in many areas of my life, and I try to keep learning and understanding more about the barriers that other women face.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Decades ago, early in my career, I was told by a male boss, “Don’t get too big for your boots”. I can’t remember what prompted the comment, but instinctively I knew it was code for “Remember your place” and that he would never say that to any of the men in the team.

It was a great piece of ‘advice’ because that was when I understood that I had to do the exact opposite. To be confident in sharing ideas, to back myself and to encourage other women to do the same. “Don’t play small” is what I ended up taking away from that experience.


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