Last Thursday, we kicked off our first Youth Forum for the year, “Young Women and Men: Driving Gender Balance Together.”
Gender inequality is simply not just a female issue, it’s a human issue which means there is an urgent need to educate both young women and men together.

As the third Youth Forum of its kind, we invited young women and men, teachers, parents and community organisations to participate in the discussion to empower and equip young women and men to understand the meaning of gender balance, think critically about gender stereotypes, realise the importance of positive role models and gain self-confidence and self-belief.

The Forum featured a panel of thought leaders including our MC, Daniela Ascone, who shared their views and generated discussion about how we can invest in our young people to succeed.

Embedded into our culture is the mindset that women are supposed to act, feel or behave a certain way and men another. We have a tendency to place people in categories based on their gender but one of our panel leaders and Co-Founder of The Man Cave, Hunter Johnson, believes it’s all about respecting the individual as he discussed broader LGTBI issues. “Gender is on a spectrum, it’s not either female or male.”

There are certain stereotypes about women in business that in order to succeed you must take on a masculine role. Challenging these stereotypes, Catherine Cervasio, CEO of Aromababy, encouraged everyone to “be your authentic self and who you are rather than relying on a specific male/female trait to be successful.”

While there are an abundance of equal opportunities for women, Robert Gillies, Young Australian of the Year 2015, emphasised the hardships that are still present in such opportunities. “There’s nothing written anywhere that women cannot become a surgeon, but that’s not saying how hard it’s going to be for her. She will need to be exceptional while facing harassment and discrimination in such a male dominated industry.”

Even before women enter the workforce, gender inequality is an issue that still exists in education and can become a deterrent for young women. Having just started her engineering degree, Jessica Tong shared her personal experience of gender discrimination at university. “I wanted to leave because I was the only girl and felt intimidated but I persisted… we need to persist, take the opportunity, be brave and have courage.”

In Australia we are fortunate to have a high level of access to education, however, young women in developing nations experience so many barriers to their education. According to Larissa Ocampo, Online Community manager at One Girl, “these girls will stay out of school for a week while they have their period due to lack of resources.” Something so insignificant to some, is at the same time preventing other women from their own education and we must respect that this issue spreads further with global implications.

Gender inequality exists in every single country of the world and research shows Australia’s gender gap is widening. Duke of Ed Victoria CEO, Anoushka Gungadin, believes that talking about these issue is vital to facilitating change and these discussions should start in the household. “Girls are earning 11% less in pocket money yet do more work around the house.”

Many people don’t realise the gender balance and discrimination can go undetected due to an unconscious bias. Now more than ever should we be thinking about the language we use, the role the media plays, stand up to others and maybe even call ourselves out.

Take a look at what’s happening around you, at home, or at school and don’t be afraid to ask others about their experience. We encourage you to continue to spread this discussion across more and more communities because standing against gender inequality starts with you!

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