Winner 2014: Libby O'Brien
Analyse gender equality in your community. Should more be done to empower women?
Author: Libby O’Brien
Community: Beaudesert, QLD
Could a place with so much potential be discriminating against women, one of its most significant resources? Beaudesert is a small rural town with a population of approximately 6,000 people. A welcoming town full of open-minded and friendly people, Beaudesert shows great pride in supporting local business, indigenous culture and young people.
Sitting down with my local council representative for Beaudesert, Jennifer Sanders, I expected to be part of a storm of male animosity, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As a councillor and public figure in the area of Beaudesert, Jennifer has spent much of her time working with her male counterparts in what appears to be a male-dominated role. Throughout her career she has had the opportunity to get to know many small business owners in the heart of Beaudesert, even naming the owners of every business in the main street. From her perspective, it was evident that not only were women thought to be just as equal to men, they appeared to be more eager to get involved in the business side of our community.
Although women have the motivation to become a business owner in Beaudesert, Jennifer revealed that most women are too afraid of taking on a professional position such as a CEO or politician. “Girls have never been taught that they have the abilities to one day become Prime Minister or someone important later in life,” Jennifer said. From personal experience, Jennifer believes that she missed opportunities when she was younger as she was unsure about her abilities. As she became more experienced, she realised that she was just as capable as a man and she was able to bring a new perspective on subjects that men just couldn’t comprehend. Of the six councillors on the Scenic Rim Shire Council, three representatives are female.
It is evident that in the community of Beaudesert women are not actively discriminated against by others. Rather, they are afraid of what people might think if they take on a role out of their comfort zone or go against stereotypical ‘women only’ roles. At the current moment, there are many incentives to get women involved in more activities in society. These include the Australian Small Business Champion Awards and the Rural Women’s Award. Although these reward women for their achievements, there appears to be no strong incentive to get rural women involved for the first time, nor are there many opportunities for women who have never given anything a go. Many people in our community have voiced their opinion on this issue, and a recent survey conducted by a Beaudesert State High school student found that 70% of the general public surveyed thought that more incentives should be introduced to encourage and empower women.
Though it is apparent that women in the Beaudesert area are not actively discriminated against, more should be done to involve women in areas that they have not traditionally been involved in. Access to strong female role models is imperative to breaking down gender barriers in rural communities.