Yesterday morning I was fortunate to address the Victoria Police International Women’s Day Breakfast, and witness our best attendance in recent years.
I was particularly pleased to see that our tables were filled with a diverse range of sworn and public service staff, and men and women, engaging in discussions that until recently weren’t quite so prevalent.
Gender parity has certainly kept our attention over the past 18 months through the VEOHRC Review, and I have no doubt that many of our people were motivated to attend by growing focus that’s been given to this topic. It might still make some people uncomfortable, but we’ve reached a level of productive discomfort that’s driving change in a very promising way.
If there’s any indicator that our workforce is open to change, then the discussions I heard yesterday are a great starting point.
Today is International Women’s Day and across the globe, communities will be celebrating the achievements of women and the many and varied contributions women make to our lives.
Some people might say this is about being politically correct; but it’s actually about doing what’s right.
It’s easy to remove this issue from anything personal, but we all have women in our lives, and whether they’re colleagues, friends, or loved ones, they are our motivation for driving change. If that’s not a reason to support gender parity, I don’t know what is.
For Victoria Police, this has been an ongoing discussion and one that isn’t going away any time soon; it’s going to take some time for us to foster the sort of culture that we’ve been talking about; a culture that’s respectful, inclusive, and champions women’s achievements.
As one of our speakers so aptly said yesterday, the biggest and best changes are often made in small, steady steps. We may not resolve every issue in the next 6 months, but we’re not aiming to – we want the sustainable and meaningful change that comes with a real commitment to progress.
Of course, I do hear some people sounding fatigued by a focus on gender parity, and to them I would say this: it’s easy to tire of hearing about an issue that hasn’t directly affected you, or which you haven’t taken the time to understand.
It’s even easier to be nostalgic about a time when these issues were not discussed.
It’s easier in almost every way, to maintain the status quo.
But we’ve never been an organisation or a culture that takes the easy way out; we’re about doing what’s right. We are about upholding the right.
It’s about making sure that everyone working in the same team, with the same shared goal of keeping the community safe, can do that job with equal standing, with equal opportunity, and with equal respect.
If we want to be respected by the broader community, we have to foster respect from within.
We have to set strong standards and make ourselves accountable for the way we treat one another.
We need to foster workplaces that are inclusive, respectful, and which celebrate diversity.
Ive already seen some early signs that this is happening, and on International Women’s Day, it is important we reflect on the good stories…the examples that remind us it’s not a losing battle, but one that will be made up of many small victories.
I would encourage everyone to think about what they can do for gender parity…not because I’m asking you to, but because you see the need for change; because you want the women and girls in your life to have the very best opportunities, and to realise their full potential.
Most importantly, we all stand to benefit from a culture that recognises women and men equally. This isn’t about privileging some people over others…it’s about a shared sense of values and opportunity.
That’s the kind of organisation I want to lead, and the organisation we should all be proud to be shaping.
Reviewed 22 February 2019