Leading South Australian women 'choose to challenge' the status quo on International Women's Day - Showcase SA

Leading South Australian women ‘choose to challenge’ the status quo on International Women’s Day


Showcase SA’s International Women’s Day Luncheon featured an impressive line up of South Australian leaders speaking on what they Choose To Challenge, in tune with IWD 2021’s popular theme. Their challenges encompassed some powerful reminders, amplified by their incredible achievements as women and leaders in their respective fields.

Without further introduction, here’s how our inspiring guest speakers #ChooseToChallenge.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor, Lord Mayor of the City of Adelaide, with a PHD in Business Administration and previous experience working from marketing to CEO level in local events such as Adelaide Fringe, WOMADelaide, Adelaide Film Festival & Adelaide Festival of The Arts. Sandy spoke powerfully of her experience whilst running for her current office and those she has been exposed to by being a woman in her field.

“I am the 3rd female Lord Mayor in 181 years. I felt quite a lot of pressure during the election process in going for that particular role as a woman,” stated Sandy.

“A few people somewhat interrogated me, later implying they wanted to see if I had the ‘right parts,’ or ‘what it takes’ to be Lord Mayor,” she recounted, as if implying the two were interchangeable.

“I choose to be authentic, to listen and say, ‘I feel,’ instead of ‘ I think.’ Because quite often, how I think informs how I feel, and how I feel informs how I think.”

“I choose to challenge the narrative that men are assertive, and women are aggressive; that men are eccentric, and women hysterical. I choose to challenge that.” And to that we say, assertively and boldly put indeed, Lord Mayor. Thank you for your powerful contribution.

Caroline McMillen, Chief Scientist for South Australia with a decorated career, including a 6-year term as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President of Research and Innovation at the University of South Australia, as well as being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia during the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours. 

Caroline spoke boldly and confidently about her passion for diversity in the field of science, and her wish for people to rethink what a career in science actually means.

“Women talk about requiring the system to adapt to them, but I think we’ve conducted a failed experiment. It hasn’t changed the outcome even slightly significantly or quickly enough,” she explains.

“We are desperate to access a diversity of talent for STEM, we need different ideas and voices for a productive future, it is utterly important that we get that mix!” Caroline continued.

“I get stopped by people telling me ‘my son or daughter is thinking about science, should they do medicine or engineering?’ I think there is not well-known professions in science, it’s either doctor, or engineer. That’s it.”

Caroline went on to explain how in Science, people don’t treat it as an absolute profession, that it’s insecure, and people work very hard, but they find that the funding runs out. Caroline also states that she finds women are always the first to go, always the first to step back.

“It’s time to change – to keep growing science as a profession, so I choose to challenge how science is viewed as a profession, and how we can assure it is an absolute profession.”

A profound message to absolutely consider in what we perceive as science, what messages we’re feeding the youth of today and in turn, the future leaders of tomorrow.

Taryn Brumfitt, Founder of Body Image Movement, an internationally recognised movement encouraging women to embrace their bodies, founded on the belief that your body is not an ornament, it’s the vehicle to your dreams. Taryn spoke on her internal battle coming to terms with using her voice to speak up.

“I choose to challenge the fear of my own voice,” announced Taryn.

“I spent my early career unable to put my hand up, and speak up in board rooms, so I would be nervous, but you have to learn to get out of your own way, because it’s not about you – it’s about change.

“If you see something you don’t like, which in my experience has been the sexualisation of women, the objectification of women, toxic advertising in media… pick up the phone, write an email, tweet something, call it out and do something. We must ALL use our voice!” Taryn exclaimed passionately. An important reminder of the power of your own voice.

Kathryn House, the Community Builder of Impact100 SA and founder of Young Impact SA which awards high-impact grants to a range of South Australian-based organisations, supporting vulnerable members of the community. Kathryn spoke on her imposter syndrome, and how she came to terms with accepting the true value of her work and passion.

“When I met all these people, I kept thinking ‘I am not meant to be here,” Kathryn started,

“And then when I got my AM last year it really hit me…”

“The work I do is valuable, it is valued, and it is making a difference!” Kathryn continued.

“So, believe in yourself… dream big. You can start small, but you have to start – and that’s what I choose to challenge, everyone to do.” A great message about chasing your dreams, daring to dream big – and remembering that you can start small, in fact that’s the best way to start.

You can find pictures from our esteemed 2021 International Women’s Day Luncheon at Penfolds Magill Estate’s Tunnels right here.

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