IWD2018: how safe spaces create inclusion for all women

To celebrate International Women’s Day, all week bluenotes will be guest edited by respected journalist and author Catherine Fox. We’ll be publishing content on women, their experience in the workplace and the future of equality. We hope you enjoy it.

Creating women-only spaces is important but we need to be mindful of celebrating all women on International Women's Day.

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Rochelle Johnson at Fair Day, 2018

ANZ employees Rochelle Johnson and Michelle Sheppard recently shared their experiences around issues faced by trans women to help others understand how workplace support can make a huge difference to someone’s life.

"I think I'm welcome here, I'm maybe welcome here, I'm not sure that I'm welcomed here” - Rochelle Johnson

“Women's Day events are all about 'let's break the glass ceiling', 'let's get gender balance'," Johnson says. "But they're only talking about one kind of balance - they're not really talking about a more-diverse concept of what that actually means.” 

As a trans-woman, walking into those spaces leaves her feeling fraught, Johnson says.

“It’s like ‘I think I'm welcome here, I'm maybe welcome here, I'm not sure that I'm welcomed here’ and most of us trans-women go through that experience of always being hyper vigilant,” she says.

The power of allies

The women agree if they learned anything good from the marriage equality survey – which they describe as a “horror” - it was the power of allies.

“We want you to stand beside us and help us advocate and help us achieve equality,” Sheppard says.

“So many people within our community are quick to throw terms around like 'pink washing' and so on but they don't actually see what's going on behind the scenes."

Sheppard recalls writing down everything she had to deal with as a trans woman to help create policies for the bank.

“The company I was with before, when I first came out, actually looked at me like they wouldn't touch me and wouldn't shake my hand or anything,” she says.

Johnson says most people find their transparency inspiring.

“Suddenly you’re living authentically," she says. "You're living in a way that you hadn't in the past and that kind of honesty is infectious.”

You can hear more of the conversation by watching the video above.

Jemma Wight is production editor at bluenotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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