IWD a chance to ‘come together to focus on the positives’

Morgan Liotta

28/02/2023 2:22:56 PM

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, current female leaders in the RACGP share what it means to them.

Headshots of RACGP female leaders
Clockwise from left: Associate Professor Charlotte Hespe, Dr Nicole Higgins (centre), Dr Sian Goodson, Professor Karen Price, Dr Christie Rodda.

The global theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity’, and with IWD fast approaching, several of the RACGP’s high profile leaders discuss with newsGP what the event means to them.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins
‘It’s been a really tough couple of years in general practice and there’s been a lot of attention drawn to really critical issues like funding and workforce shortage. But I also think it’s really important we step back at times and remember that we work in such a rewarding and valuable job.
‘We need to come together to focus on the positives in what we all do every day, too. More than half of our GP workforce are women and so many of them are out there doing amazing work for their communities. I’m really looking forward to IWD giving us a chance to come together to share and celebrate those stories.
‘IWD is also a great opportunity to bring some attention to the women who make up such a big proportion of our teams in general practice – all the nurses and admin staff and other support staff. Their work is an essential part of what we do and it’s really important that we acknowledge them.’
RACGP NSW&ACT Chair Associate Professor Charlotte Hespe
‘I am internally conflicted by IWD, saddened that we need to put aside a day to celebrate women, but thrilled to have a dedicated opportunity to celebrate unsung women heroes.
‘I am fortunate to be surrounded by awesome women in my home life, my work life – Glebe Family Medical Practice, Notre Dame University – as well as in my state and national role as NSW&ACT Chair.
‘This means I can daily celebrate the foundational leadership roles that women play in my life. But I love the chance that IWD gives us to champion the stories of women. 
‘IWD gives me permission to take a moment and celebrate their work formally. I love to hear stories about women who make a difference quietly and I would not otherwise hear about or have a chance to know.’ 
RACGP SA Chair Dr Sian Goodson
‘For me, IWD is an opportunity to celebrate women’s rights and inspire everyone to act to reduce gender inequality. It’s a day to celebrate strong female leaders, value the female role models we have in our society and in our profession.
‘I’ve recently been patronised by a male MP during a parliamentary hearing. It’s time to call out poor behaviour, even when it’s unintentional, and educate those in our society that still carry outdated, misogynistic ideas.’
RACGP Women in General Practice Committee Co-Chair, Dr Geetha Venkatram
‘My experience of life at every level – as a child, partner, parent, doctor, and leader – has been through the prism of my womanhood. It’s an inextricable part of my story and represents my greatest strengths and achievements. But it has also meant that societal and cultural norms have also been obstacles for me. 
‘On IWD I get to celebrate strengths that women from all walks of life bring through their unique experiences and contributions. I also get a chance to reflect on the challenges we have encountered on the way and find the inspiration to change things for the better.’
RACGP Women in General Practice Committee Co-Chair, Dr Pallavi Sharma
‘IWD is about reflection and gratitude for the women who paved the way and to acknowledge the struggles and traumas faced by women around the world today.

‘I thank the women who said, “You can”. As a woman in leadership, I mentor and empower other women to find their voice, to #EmbraceEquity. It is supporting women to have the opportunity to take the first step, the confidence to open or close a door and the voice to say, “This is what I need”.
‘This year I will be working on the Women’s Health Advisory Council to address inequity and inequality in healthcare. The council will address healthcare offered to women and girls when it comes to menstruation, reproductive healthcare and menopause, research as well as medical consent and pain management.’
RACGP Doctors for Women in Rural Medicine Committee Chair, Dr Christie Rodda
‘[IWD] is a day to reflect how far women have come and how far we still have left to go, to remember that girls do not have the right to education in parts of the world.

‘We need to encourage every woman to embrace their power, to challenge gender bias, inequality, to support each other, to believe in themselves and never to give up on their dreams.

‘I have been inspired by the women in my life – my grandmother, my mum, teachers and female leaders. I would like women’s voices to be heard, not overlooked and ignored. Women should inspire, speak out against injustices, lift each other up and cheer each other so that every woman has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

‘It should be a day dedicated to honour and recognise the achievements and contributions all over the world. Women should be empowered to bring in change and make a difference together. To emphasise their resilience, strength and inspiration, despite all of the challenges she faces with discrimination. Happy International Women’s Day.’

Immediate Past RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price
‘[IWD] is a day to stop and reflect on the progress we have made and the progress still to be made. I am so grateful that generations of women have contributed to where I am now. I can’t imagine being told I had to leave school, and who I could marry. If I did get educated, then not so long ago I had to give up my job if I married.
‘I see so much progress … from the younger generation but … of course, we still have progress to make. We need to liberate ourselves from a gendered role-assigned culture and gendered workplace. Biased conscious and unconscious role attribution is many times, even now, not recognised but taken as truth. 
‘For the future, our advocacy can be in local, state or national matters, and international matters, all of which have very specific needs. There is so much to speak up upon including the role of aggression and violence in human interactions, for equity, for justice, for accountability by us all and for the flourishing enablement of empathy which enables tolerance, growth, community and learning.
‘The other issue that I like to attend to personally is encouraging women to find their voice and stand their ground and to encourage dialogue where listening is prized as progress more than being a pause to wait to win the argument. 
‘I celebrate those who have gone before me and celebrate those changemakers who continue to change the world for the better. [IWD] is a fabulous day for the whole world to reflect upon the many contributions and concerns of women everywhere. Including those women whose contributions were taken from them or silenced or written out of the history books. Now we speak up.’
The RACGP is hosting two events to celebrate IWD:
Sunday 5 March
A High Tea will be held from 12.00 – 2.30 pm at the RACV City Club, Melbourne, with registrations closing on 1 March. Guest speakers will discuss leadership, influence and equity, and include:

  • Adjunct Professor Karen Price
  • Dr Mariam Tokhi
  • Dr Hannah Jackson
  • Dr Christie Rodda
  • Dr Sally Cockburn
Wednesday 8 March
The faculty is hosting an online leadership symposium from 6.30 pm. The session will include light networking followed by a panel session facilitated by NSW&ACT Chair Associate Professor Charlotte Hespe, featuring a panel of women who have tread their own path into leadership, who will engage in a conversation about promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace:
  • Susan Pearce, NSW Health Secretary
  • Geraldine Carter, Executive Director of NSW Treasury/NSW Productivity Commission
  • Fiona Davies, CEO AMA NSW
In-person registrations for the hybrid event can be made through the NSW&ACT faculty, and access for virtual attendance is detailed below:
Meeting ID: 965 8696 3506
Password: 687987
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