In September this year the Women In Male Dominated Occupations and Industries (WIMDOI) conference returned with a bang bringing together 192 women from over 20 unions.
Created 25 years ago, WIMDOI is an important collective that brings together women who work in male-dominated industries. Sometimes these women are the only women in their workplace, so coming together helps them realise they are not alone. WIMDOI aims to empower these women, and many participants go on to become delegates, union leaders and politicians.
Key themes of the two-day conference included discriminatory policies, the importance of personal protective equipment and the lack of suitable amenities for women in many workplaces. Other themes were about improving superannuation and parental leave, helping more migrant women access the correct TAFE training to have a career in male-dominated industries and making clauses in agreements more inclusive for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The ETU Women’s Committee gave a presentation on the ‘Nowhere to Go’ campaign, which aims to improve access to amenities in the electrical trades, particularly for women. Too often bathrooms are too far away, unhygienic, locked, or without basics like soap, toilet paper, a sanitary bin and running water. We want health and safety laws in this country to mandate minimum standards for workplace amenities to ensure they are regularly serviced, accessible, suitable, and open – for every worker.
Director and founder of the Touched By Christopher Foundation Patrizia Cassiniti talked about safety on the job and emphasized the importance of speaking up when you see something that’s not right. We’re all responsible for making sure that we all come home safely at the end of the workday. The women also visited the workers memorial site and thought about those lost in workplace accidents.
Aunty Pat Anderson gave a moving and inspiring speech about the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. She spoke about her experiences as a First Nations woman and was welcomed by the New Zealand sisters who sang a welcome in their own language. Minister for Women Senator Katy Gallagher spoke about what the Albanese Federal Government is doing for women. Australian writer and activist Van Badham spoke about online bullying which has morphed into the incitation of gender-based violence and the danger this causes to society.
Participants then workshopped issues together to share ideas and solutions for addressing workplace problems and later the women joined a protest march to support the general service officer workers who are some of the lowest paid workers in Canberra.
“WIMDOI challenges these incredible women to step up and make things better for those coming after them as well as the importance of supporting one another,” said CEPU SA State Assistant Secretary Jess Rogers.
ETU member Hannah Watts found the support and networking the most valuable part of the two days.
“It’s really refreshing meeting ‘your people’. You get to connect with other people having a similar lived experience to you and build up a support network of people you can shadow or mentor.
“It’s also a really good opportunity to network with other women outside of your own union and your own industry. We all have so much in common.”
She hopes more women will be able to join for the next WIMDOI conference and keep the group growing.
“It’s such a positive experience. If you’re thinking about coming next time, do!”