At Creative Women’s Circle we know the work women do is valuable and deserves recognition. And not only the paid type, it is also all those unpaid hours which need to be celebrated and championed – whether raising a family, volunteering for a good cause or contributing hours to the creative community.
The Australian Honours System is one way that our Government celebrates such achievements, through awarding medals for achievement and distinguished service. In 2018, extraordinary women like Liz Ellis, awarded for her support and advocacy for young women and contributions to netball, the late Betty Cuthbert, awarded as an advocate for research into a cure for multiple sclerosis and her distinguish athletics career and Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, the eminent tennis player, all received Appointments as Companions (AC) by the Governor General.
Although this list of high achieving females is impressive, the reality of the Order of Australia is that since 1975, only one third of the nominations for all categories have been women and only 30 women overall have received appointments. The creative sector is also quite underrepresented, with only a handful of architects being nominated in the history of the awards.
One of our core values at the Creative Women’s Circle is empowerment and we take our mission —to champion, support and connect women, very seriously. Early in October, Samantha Jayaweera, our new President and myself, attended the Recognition Matters co-design workshop held by the Department of Premier and Cabinet and Office for Women. Here we heard the disturbingly common statistics about the systemic undervaluing of women in our society. As I write this, the media is reporting six deaths of women to domestic violence in the past seven days. Gender inequity is not only desperately unfair but also life threatening.
Upheavals in the structures of our society need to be made before any changes can be affected. Nominating more women for an Order of Australia might seem meagre in the grand scheme of things but, the narrative surrounding women needs to change from vulnerable to empowered for these behaviours to change. We believe that having a 50/50 ratio of female nominations in the Australian Honours System is one way of doing this. As Emily Lee-Ack, CEO of the Office for Women, said at this workshop, “If you’re not advancing equality, you’re reinforcing inequity.
At CWC, we believe that creative women make an impactful and important change in our community and that (unlike Wayne from Wayne’s World) we are worthy of recognition in this platform. So we challenge you to think about who, in your sphere of influence, deserves this and to put them forward for an Order of Australia. The process is surprisingly easy and you can band together with friends and family to complete the form.
It’s a common belief and harmful social norm that women often shy away from applying for jobs if they don’t meet all the criteria. Sadly, this mind set extends to other forums for achievement and recognition like Order of Australia nominations. Let’s start to change this by thinking about the strong, talented, generous women in your life that you could nominate in these categories. The criteria on the four categories are very simple, for example:
· The Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) is for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or humanity at large.
· The Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) is for distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or humanity at large.
· The Member of the Order of Australia (AM) is for service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group.
· The Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) is for service worthy of particular recognition.
So, gather a group of CWC friends, brainstorm a nomination and make it happen. After all, we all make valuable contributions and deserve the recognition.
Jane Connory is a PhD candidate at Monash University, and is working towards a gender inclusive history of Australian graphic design. She has been a practising designer and illustrator in the advertising, branding and publishing sectors, in both London and Melbourne, since 1997. When she’s not teaching at Monash University you’ll find her being the National Head of Communications at the Design Institute of Australia.