International Women's Day

Thoughts on International Women's Day

by Jacqui Loustau - founder of AWSN

The theme of IWD 2018 is ‘Leave no woman behind, together we can empower women across the globe’

If you think about it, women in Australia are pretty lucky. It is accepted by our society that women can be educated, work and have a family. We have the luxury of education and choice. 

In the lead up to IWD, I want you to remember that there are so many women and girls around the globe that don’t have either of those choices.
I have sponsored a number of NGO’s in my life, volunteered with World vision and when I was young, I always wanted to go to a third world country to help people. However, after reading ‘Living Poor’, I changed my mind, as I realised that ‘help’ needed to be for the right reasons and not just to make ourselves feel better.
I felt useless that there was nothing that could be done to change the situation of so many women and girls that weren’t as lucky as myself. Then I went to a seminar run by the inspirational Chantelle Baxter. She talked about her background and her life-changing experience in Uganda and got everyone in the room reduced to tears.
She decided to do something about the 130 MILLION GIRLS AROUND THE WORLD who are denied an education and have no control over their life and started One Girl. The aim is to educate one girl at a time and by doing so, empowering girls and making a change. I urge all of you to take 3 minutes to watch this powerful video: (I still get goosebumps everytime)
This initiative proves that we can empower and help women across the globe. It’s about helping educating and empowering one girl at a time and not leaving any women behind.

The theme of IWD 2018 is ‘Leave no woman behind, together we can empower women across the globe’

Looking at women across Australia, made me think about my recent visit to a beautiful Country Women’s Association (CWA) home in Melbourne. The CWA was established in 1922 and has approx. 44,000 members, with a number of chapters and branches across Australia. Its aims are to improve the conditions for country women and children and to try to make life better for women and their families, especially those women living in rural and remote Australia. They help empower women by teaching them skills and giving scholarships. By providing a safe place to meet, discuss and support one another.
To run such a network for such a long time for such a worthy cause is inspirational. 

It made me reflect on our Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN), still at its infancy. We exist because the volunteers who work hard to run this informal network want to help connect, support and inspire other women in security. Some of us have been victim's of unconscious bias, some of us have been discouraged, some of us have been harassed, some want to meet like-minded people and advance our careers. We hope to help empower women across the security industry in Australia by giving them a voice and supporting them. The ways we are doing this is to encourage more women to talk at conferences/our events, to have a say through this incredible blog platform run by Amanda Turner, and to provide a safe place to meet with others in a similar situation. 
We have had feedback from members in Sydney and Melbourne tell us at the end of our events that they love that we are an open, diverse, supportive network and that they feel very welcomed. I really hope that this stays this way. As this is one way to help support and empower every woman wanting to work or get into security to stay ahead and not be left alone. Together our voices are amplified and are stronger!

This year, one of the AWSN aims is to help university students and those entering the security industry. We have already started to do this through the AWSN cadets in Melbourne. Our aim is to empower women to embrace a career in cybersecurity, by providing them with the confidence and knowledge to break down the barriers they may face. We break outside the box, and show the world that the best person for the job is the person with the right skills - not the right gender. 
This initiative started when Liz Bonny and Diane Loi asked me whether it would be possible for themselves and their female peers to learn technical skills from an industry mentor. I liked the idea, and on the 29th June 2017, it was decided to make AWSN Cadets a platform for tertiary female students interested in learning more about careers in cyber security. By empowering both Liz and Di to go ahead and run this initiative, I have really seen them truly blossom. By empowering the mentors to teach at our workshops, it has given them the confidence to present in other industry events.

I always say, that my idea of success is when the AWSN is no longer required, as women will be the norm in our industry and no longer need the support of this network. But given the history of the Country Women’s Association, maybe this won’t be the case for a while.

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