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International Women’s Day celebrated in Albany with Great Southern Women’s Leadership Forum

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The panel discussed the International Women's Day theme of 'Break the Bias'.
Camera IconThe panel discussed the International Women's Day theme of 'Break the Bias'. Credit: Kasey Gratton

The Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry held its annual Great Southern Women’s Leadership Forum on Tuesday, coinciding with International Women’s Day.

Two inspirational keynote speakers gave presentations — Cara Peek, co-founder of the Cultural Intelligence Project, and Elizabeth Lang, founder and chief executive of Diversity Focus.

Attendees also heard from two panels of prominent Great Southern women.

The Break the Bias panel, inspired by the 2022 International Women’s Day theme, was chaired by ACCI chief executive Lisa Smith.

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The women shared their experiences of coming up against different biases throughout their life.

Southern Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Asha Bhat came to the event in a traditional Indian dress to make a point about unconscious biases.

“I wanted to see how many of you have started to form opinions when I just came in the building,” she said.

“Breaking the bias is about calling out biased behaviour and practices.

“Calling it out is the key, but it can take a lot of courage to call out the bias.”

Ms Bhat shared instances of discrimination she has faced as an Indian woman living in Australia, and discussed the inherent bias behind push-back she has received for working in an Aboriginal corporation.

“If people of colour don’t get the entry through the door, how can they be managers or CEOs or leaders?” she said.

Fellow panellist Albany MP Rebecca Stephens recounted the arc of her career, from starting a hairdressing business and working as the mayor’s personal assistant, to her current role as the Member for Albany.

Ms Stephens also gave advice on starting a business to the many businesswomen in attendance.

“Give it a go, but don’t be afraid to ask for help and spend that time investing in yourself to learn those skills that you don’t have,” Ms Stephens said.

Denmark Arts project manager Kaiya Ashworth shared her perspective on age bias and her experiences of often “being considered too young to be doing what I’m doing”.

Word Candy copywriter Martha Barnard-Rae tasked the audience with questioning the biases they come across in their lives.

“All of our work is to challenge the assumptions that make us uncomfortable, and go ‘why am I uncomfortable with this?’” she said.

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