Finalist 2016: Chloe Zell, NSW

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Name: Chloe Zell

Community, State: Dubbo, NSW

School: St John’s College

Age: 17, Grade 12

Why is gender equality important to you and your community?

“Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game.  It’s about where we are and where we’re going.” –Nichelle Nichols.

In the ideal world, NASA Advocate and former Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols is right, science is a human pursuit irrespective of gender.  In reality, things are much different.

Science is one of countless pursuits impacted by gender stereotypes.  Gender inequality is an issue that many people face, particularly those living in rural areas.
Growing up in Dubbo, surrounded by farming land, I was encouraged to play with toy tractors and trucks just as much as I was dolls and unicorns.  This is not the case for many, and the unfortunate result is an overwhelming conformity to gender stereotypes.

While it might be deemed acceptable for a girl to play with toy trucks while she is young, turning truck driving into a career is deemed ‘unfitting’.  This is also the case with science, as girls get older they are encouraged to abandon their natural curiosity in favour of more traditional careers.

As someone who hopes to enter the field of science and engineering, the prospect of working in a male-dominated environment is daunting, and something that I hope young girls in the future will not have to face.

Females are already faced with a gender pay gap of 16.2% (Workplace Gender Equality Agency), without equal representation in all careers, women are being placed at a serious disadvantage.

Rural women are among those suffering from the consequences of gender inequality within our society.  Statistics indicate that while women make up 40% of the agricultural workforce worldwide, less than 20% of these women actually own the land they are working on.

In the Dubbo community, gender equality is an issue that receives little attention.  Some may suggest that this is because the community has largely achieved gender equality, however this is not the case.
Just 13 of 79 positions on the NSW Government’s Local Land Services boards are occupied by women, despite their significant contributions to the local agricultural industry.

Another example of unequal representation is within the Catholic Church.  The Catholic community is currently engaged in a debate over the allowing of female priests.  Many argue that promoting equality in the Church will promote equality in wider society.

They are right.  If we cannot even ensure that women gain equal rights in the workplace or equal representation in parliament, how can we expect gender equality to be achieved in our society.  As former Attorney-General Penny Wright stated, “Equality is a core democratic principle that underpins our society.”

Gender inequality is an issue that should concern everyone.  Things need to change.  I hope to be able to help change this; inspiring young girls to follow their passion, whatever it might be.