Health and wellbeing

4 City of Sydney employees reflect on this year's International Women's Day theme

With equal opportunities to earn, learn and lead, entire communities thrive. 

Employees who shine international women's day

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Count her in: Invest in women. Accelerate progress.'

We spoke to 4 women in our organisation about what this year’s theme means to them, the importance of diversity and what they’ll remember on International Women’s Day:

  • Heather Davis, manager libraries and learning, Creative City
  • Jamal Bassam, senior social programs, Social City
  • Jane Grant, area manager – public domain, City Infrastructure and Traffic Operations
  • Tracey Duncan, 119 project manager, Social City

Investing in women and accelerating progress everyday

Heather: This is something I truly believe in but I'm also lucky enough to practice everyday in my work.

As a library and information professional, everything I do comes down to creating environments for people to access learning and education. Education is an opportunity for people to control their own lives and have economic independence. Together, we’re stronger when we include and represent different voices.

“Lifelong learning is so important, everyone should have the chance to reach their full potential.”

We’ve had positive change to include women and invest in their education and workplace participation, but we still have a long way to go. Talking about how this benefits everyone is a great step forward in the conversation.

Heather Davis, Manager libraries and learning, Social City
Heather Davis, Manager libraries and learning, Social City

Thriving workplaces built on diverse employees

Jamal: We live in a world plagued by unconscious bias, snap judgment and perceptions that shape our worldviews. Marginalised groups, including women, can experience racism and structural inequalities in the workplace.

It’s important our leaders feel supported to take responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees, particularly those who feel excluded or deprived of opportunities.

Thriving workplaces use the skills and assets of their diverse employees. At the City of Sydney, we’ve unlocked the power of diversity by increasing female participation, attracting employees who face barriers in employment and translating our values including diversity into actions.

Jamal Bassam, Senior social programs, Social City
Jamal Bassam, Senior social programs, Social City

Seeing more women in previously male-dominated industries

Jane: I’ve been working at the City of Sydney for over 10 years now in the public domain. It‘s been gratifying to see the number of female engineers and construction workers onsite increase.

When I started my career, I was often the only woman in multidisciplinary meetings with over 20 architects, engineers and other consultants.

Last week I went to a construction site with 2 engineers from my team to meet with 2 site project managers – all of us were female!

We could improve by encouraging more female engineers through sponsorship programs. Many women enter the construction industry through roles like landscape architecture or project management, simply because they aren’t encouraged to pursue engineering.

I started off my career in architecture and moved to landscape architecture. I probably should have transferred to engineering. My father was an engineer and even he didn’t suggest it to me!

Jane Grant, Area manager – Public domain, City Infrastructure and Traffic Operations
Jane Grant, Area manager – Public domain, City Infrastructure and Traffic Operations

Empowering women to speak up for their safety

Tracey: As the world continues to push for gender equality, employers are rising to the challenge to ensure that their workplaces are safe, healthy and inclusive for all.

It’s important we empower women to speak up and advocate for their safety rights without fear. Counselling and employee assistance programs and policies against discrimination help educate both men and women about sexual harassment, consent and respectful behaviour.

Women are at risk of physical harm whether it’s from partners, family members, colleagues, clients or even their commute to work. Harassment, assault and gender-based violence are grim realities for many in my community.

Tracey Duncan, 119 project manager, Social City
Tracey Duncan, 119 project manager, Social City

The incredible impact of women who’ve come before

Jamal: I value my family’s beliefs in empowering women. This has shaped my career and my passion for gender equality.

I’m grateful for my mentors Pat, Hend and Astrid. As a recent immigrant, these strong role models had a huge impact on my life in developing a positive mindset and a desire to thrive.

They provided career guidance, support and advocated for my progression. When faced with doubt or discouragement, I reminded myself of their key to success, self-belief, which was crucial for my personal and professional growth.

Heather: I'm really inspired by what I see and hear from young women I meet. A lot of things that I accepted when I was younger are called out and challenged now.

I'm optimistic for the future when I see young leaders stand up against discrimination and exclusion. I think it is important for us to remember that any progress we have made can’t be taken for granted. And, as we have seen in other countries, it could be taken away. We must keep talking about why equal participation is important.

Tracey: I remember and celebrate the achievements of women who have and continue to pave the way to gender equality and advocate for women’s rights and empowerment.

As I reflect on my professional career, I’ve had 5 managers and all have been women. These women helped shape the person I am today. I admired their ambition and the way they juggled their work and family lives. Always patient, willing to listen and help where they could. They showed me that women can do it all. 

Published 8 March 2024