What does it mean to be a leader? Is it something you’re born with or a skill that you develop? Are there differences in how a leader is conceptualised across different cultures and different workplaces? It’s an opportune time to be focusing on women and leadership in the workplace: the Federal Government has just released a plan for achieving gender equality in the public service and by the end of the year, the Victorian government will have developed a Gender Equality Strategy.
Australia also recently made a G20 commitment to boost women’s workforce participation by twenty-five per cent. The report acknowledges that individual skills and experience will always play a role in leadership, however it also notes how structural and systemic barriers play a large part in how and where women work. While leadership can be seen as a set of skills that can be developed, emphasis must be placed on creating flexible working arrangements for the large percentage of women who are balancing work with caring and parenting responsibilities. With the right or rather, tailored, support, women will not only feel more valued in the workplace but will be more likely to take on leadership positions within organisations.
In order to achieve gender equality for all, we need to also examine how workplace policies and practices might apply to immigrant and refugee women specifically, particularly in sectors where immigrant and refugee women make up a large percentage of the workforce, such as aged care services.
These are just some of the issues being addressed as part of the PACE Leadership Program being run in collaboration with Southern Cross Care Victoria (SCCV). Based on MCWH’s existing PACE model (Participant, Advocate, Communicate, Engage), the program is specifically tailored for immigrant and refugee women working in aged care and will build women’s capacity to seek out and participate in leadership opportunities both at work and in their personal life.
By taking an intersectional approach, the PACE program acknowledges that there are unique obstacles for immigrant and refugee women, which often include settlement issues relating to employment, recognition of overseas qualifications, English language proficiency and caring responsibilities. The majority of workers (74%) interviewed as a precursor to developing the program described one or more systemic issues which led them to pursue a job in the aged care sector primarily because they felt they had limited opportunities elsewhere.
The PACE Program is one important component in improving women’s confidence to not only advocate for themselves in the workplace, but also to see their role in the workplace as important and valued. It’s equally important that workplaces are giving women opportunities to develop their skills and take the lead. By focusing on building immigrant and refugee women’s capacity through programs like PACE, workplaces can be better placed to support immigrant and refugee women become future leaders.
For further information about the PACE Leadership Program, please contact Monique Hameed, National Training Officer, email Monique@mcwh.com.au or call 03 9418 0915