The COVID-19 pandemic is testing gender equity in ways that no-one expected. Women – and particularly women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds – have been among the worst affected by the unprecedented events of last year.
We know that women from migrant and refugee backgrounds are at the intersection of gender and culture and experience many additional challenges.
For example, the unemployment rate for female migrants is higher than both migrant men and Australian-born women, and one in four women from diverse backgrounds have been forced to scale back at work due to cultural barriers.
A survey SSI conducted in 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on refugee women highlighted concerns about the economic and social impacts of COVID-19, including job losses in a cohort predominately employed in the hospitality and retail industries.
Employment goes hand-in-hand with financial independence and stability, but the pandemic has highlighted that we cannot segregate newly arrived women to the confines of unstable, low-skilled or low-paid work.
Our efforts to rebuild our society and economy after 2020 must be inclusive. Among other things, we need to enable women and girls from diverse backgrounds to utilise the skills, knowledge, and experience they possess in stable employment with clear career progression opportunities.
In order to fully harness the potential of our population, there needs to be clear career development opportunities for women, in professions they have an interest in. Achieving this not only has benefits for women as individuals and their families, but truly benefits the wider society.
The value and importance of supporting diverse women into leadership positions is just one of the topics I will touch on at the 2nd Innate Power of Women Forum, being held digitally to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.
SSI is also undertaking several initiatives to directly support the needs and advancement of women and girls and ensure they are included in advocacy and awareness campaigns.
This includes SSI’s recently approved submission to the United Nation’s Sixty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which warmly welcomes the Commission’s focus on the full and effective participation of women and girls in decision-making.
SSI, in addition to many other organisations, has responded to the initiative of the Global Refugee-led Network, to endorse the “Refugee Participation Pledge”. This pledge calls on signatories to actively and accountably support the participation of refugees in decisions that affect their lives.
Internally, SSI is taking the time to self-reflect and ask, ‘how can we do better?’ through the implementation of our Women and Girl’s Strategy 2021-2023.
We embarked on developing a Women and Girl’s Strategic Plan in recognition that empowerment of women is an important goal for clients, staff, and multicultural communities.
As a result, we held consultations with women from across the organisation, including several round tables, to hear what our staff want and need from us as an organisation.
Through this process we identified that with an increased focus on wellbeing, leadership and empowerment, SSI can further support our cohort of incredibly talented women to grow professionally and achieve greater professional, financial and social outcomes for themselves and their families.
Our Women and Girl’s strategy will target all women employed and supported by SSI. It will have a particular focus on women from CALD backgrounds due to the significant proportion of our constituency client base they represent.
While crisis may touch all of us, it rarely impacts all demographics equally.
We must be vigilant that COVID-19 and its subsequent effects does not revert progress we have made in closing the gender gap, particularly within multicultural communities, and slow any future advancements to a snail’s pace.
Rather, we must use this upheaval as an opportunity to stop, reflect on, and refocus our work on the areas it is needed most.
SSI CEO, Violet Roumeliotis