Leadership and recognition

Image via thebumpwa.org.au

Image via thebumpwa.org.au

Immigrant and refugee women make great leaders. We have come across so many amazing women over the years through our PACE (Participation, Advocacy, Community, Engagement) women’s leadership program. So many of these women have ‘what it takes’ to lead. However, a recent study by the Australian Human Rights Commission indicates that key leadership positions across business, government and tertiary education remain a tightly held bastion of Anglo-Celtic homogeneity.

Despite the fact that approximately 32% of the Australian population has a non-Anglo background, only 23.4% of business CEOS and a little under 20% of our Federal parliamentarians come from this group. Within the public service and universities, the leadership includes only 17% and 15% respectively of people from non-Anglo backgrounds. Federal cabinet fares even worse, with only 12%. When we break these figures down further, we note that representation of people from non-European backgrounds is dismal: only 5% of business leaders, 4% of federal parliamentarians and 1.6% of top public servants. None of our federal ministers or university vice chancellors are from non-European immigrant backgrounds.

The AHRC report makes a strong case for inclusion and equity in leadership, noting that the practice of redefining leadership and advancing diversity brings benefits to all. These are extremely important points to make, but it is disappointing that the report, while bringing visibility to the issue of inclusive leadership, does not sort the data by gender as well as cultural diversity, and therefore renders immigrant and refugee women invisible.

The report rightly states, “what gets measured gets done”. An intersectional approach to data collection, that records gender as well as cultural background in leadership, would mean that more would get done to build immigrant and refugee women’s leadership, not just that of men. We could develop a sharper analysis and therefore deliver more targeted and inclusive solutions. There is no reason why our work to bring about gender equality cannot complement and intersect with our work to build racial equality. Australia’s immigrant and refugee women have already displayed many leadership qualities in meeting the challenges of migration, we now need to provide opportunities for wide-spread and formal recognition of their leadership abilities.

The good, the bad and the silent

Women in Bangladesh marching to spread the word against violence, April 2012. Photo courtesy of UN Women Asia & the Pacific on Flickr.

Women in Bangladesh marching to spread the word against violence, April 2012. Photo courtesy of UN Women Asia & the Pacific on Flickr.

The fact that Victorian police attended more than 50,000 family violence incidents in 2011 – 2012 is no cause for celebration. But, according to their Annual Report, the dramatic rise of 43.3% in the number of reported family violence related assaults should actually be seen as a positive, because “it indicates greater confidence and willingness on the part of victims to report such incidents”.

Given some of the truly shocking statistics on violence against women in Australia, the police may have a point. In a recently published report the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reminded us that almost every week in Australia one woman is killed by her current or former partner, often after a history of domestic violence. If an increase in reporting leads to a decrease in family violence then count us all in — particularly considering that one in three women has experienced physical violence and that three quarters of these assaults occur in the home.

But hang on, are we all in? Are we all counted? The statistics are shocking but, on some subjects, they are also silent. One of the key issues raised by the AHRC Report is the number of barriers migrant and refugee women face in reporting their experience that place them outside the reach of ‘mainstream’ services. Lack of awareness that the violence they are experiencing is unlawful, fear of consequences for their community or for their place in it, fear of authority, racism and a lack of culturally and linguistically accessible information and services are all factors which make reporting among migrant and refugee women an even greater issue. Without reporting, the real statistics on violence against migrant and refugee women, and on women in Australia as a whole, remain mere speculation.

Women’s confidence and willingness to report is one side of the story. Structural and policy mechanisms that support more vulnerable women to report is the other. Both make up the whole picture that, combined with our old friend prevention, will pave the way for a future free of violence against women. That will really be something to celebrate.