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International Women’s Day 2024 – investing in women!

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8th March, 2024

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress. Here at NSW Health Pathology, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, but there’s more to be done.

Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day 2024 is high­light­ing the need for eco­nom­ic empow­er­ment of women. Accord­ing to UN Women Aus­tralia, when women are giv­en equal oppor­tu­ni­ties to earn, learn and lead, entire com­mu­ni­ties thrive.

NSW Health Pathol­o­gy (NSWHP) has an envi­able record when it comes to equi­table rep­re­sen­ta­tion and employ­ment of women.

Over­all, women make up 70% of the work­force at NSWHP.

In almost every type of role in our organ­i­sa­tion of over 5,000 peo­ple, women are in the major­i­ty – from nurs­ing to sci­en­tif­ic and tech­ni­cal offi­cers, man­agers, and med­ical roles.

with title and logo

Our Chief Exec­u­tive is a woman. Her pre­de­ces­sor and the organisation’s found­ing Chief Exec­u­tive is a woman. More than a third of our Strate­gic Lead­er­ship Team are women.

But six months after being appoint­ed to the top job, Chief Exec­u­tive Vanes­sa Janis­sen says there’s still more work to do.

“It’s impor­tant we con­tin­ue to acknowl­edge the suc­cess we’ve had in get­ting equi­table rep­re­sen­ta­tion for women. The evi­dence is clear, when women are giv­en equal oppor­tu­ni­ty to earn, learn and lead every­one in soci­ety ben­e­fits. But we also know that women some­times don’t feel con­fi­dent enough to put them­selves for­ward and seek out oppor­tu­ni­ties,” Ms Janis­sen said.

“For those women just start­ing their careers in health, it’s vital for them to be able to see there are career path­ways to senior lead­er­ship and they can make a dif­fer­ence in their community.”

Although she nev­er had a set ‘career plan’ as such, Ms Janissen’s advice to young women is to seize oppor­tu­ni­ties when they arise in the workplace.

But she admits she prob­a­bly missed out on some chances for pro­gres­sion after the birth of her first child.

“The hard­est thing I found was in those years when I was start­ing a fam­i­ly. I can recall an instance where there was an oppor­tu­ni­ty at work, and I wasn’t con­sid­ered on the assump­tion I wouldn’t be inter­est­ed while rais­ing my child.

“I am a big believ­er in the idea that how we raise our chil­dren is a fam­i­ly deci­sion, not just the respon­si­bil­i­ty of women. There’s noth­ing wrong with peo­ple want­i­ng to take time off and step back from work. But we have to be care­ful to not put box­es around women or men when they are in those years or make assumptions.

“We also need to think about how we recog­nise the val­ue of old­er women in our work­force. Old­er women can expe­ri­ence dou­ble dis­crim­i­na­tion of age and gen­der. And we know that old­er women are retir­ing with two-thirds the retire­ment sav­ings of their male coun­ter­parts. We need to cel­e­brate the wis­dom and expe­ri­ence that con­tributes to mak­ing our health­care ser­vice world leading.

“Final­ly cel­e­brat­ing and lift­ing up women is a job for all of us. It’s not tak­ing advan­tage away from any­one. As the say­ing goes – a ris­ing tide gath­ers all boats. So too gen­der equal­i­ty, when we get it right, is good for every­one,” Ms Janis­sen said.

Why celebrate International Women’s Day?

We asked a few of the women at NSW Health Pathol­o­gy what Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day means to them.

Dr Stephanie Hales is the Asso­ciate Direc­tor of Inte­gra­tion Sci­ence at NSWHP’s Foren­sic & Ana­lyt­i­cal Sci­ence Ser­vice. She says hav­ing women rep­re­sent­ed equal­ly in the work­place helps to bring diverse per­spec­tive and ulti­mate­ly leads to bet­ter deci­sion-mak­ing and innovation.

A woman smiling, standing in front of a sign reading 'Centre for Forensic Medicine'.
Dr Stephanie Hales, Asso­ciate Direc­tor Inte­gra­tion Sci­ence, Foren­sic & Ana­lyt­i­cal Sci­ence Ser­vice (FASS).

“I have had some amaz­ing boss­es (both male and female) and men­tors who have per­son­al­ly sup­port­ed my career and been cham­pi­ons for the role of women in lead­er­ship. This has been crit­i­cal in giv­ing me the con­fi­dence to take on new and chal­leng­ing roles through­out my career,” she explains.

“I have been extreme­ly lucky to have had a real­ly strong female role mod­el in my life with my mum – a whirl­wind of ener­gy who ran her own busi­ness, vol­un­teered at sev­er­al organ­i­sa­tions, and was a cam­paign­er for women’s rights. I have also had a fam­i­ly who always told me I could do any­thing. This means that when I have faced bar­ri­ers (as you inevitably will do in life) it has allowed me to chal­lenge these, see them as tem­po­rary set­backs, and to remain pret­ty resilient.”

Rho­da Kip­tanui is NSW Health Pathology’s Head of Diver­si­ty and Inclu­sion. She says Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day is a reminder of the impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion and issues that women share around the world.

A woman wearing glasses and a blue and white shirt smiling.
Rho­da Kip­tanui, Head of Diver­si­ty and Inclusion.

“I am grate­ful to the ear­ly teach­ers in my life who paid atten­tion to my learn­ing needs and opened the doors to the pow­er of lit­er­a­cy and numer­a­cy; the basic keys to under­stand­ing what is hap­pen­ing around us.

“My advice to women, and oth­ers, is that it’s okay to be dif­fer­ent or have sim­i­lar needs to oth­ers. Pos­i­tive change hap­pens when more women have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to grow and progress. If you are a woman (or a man) who has had any of these oppor­tu­ni­ties, please look back and sup­port the next cohort com­ing after you.”

Rebec­ca Haack is the Man­ag­er of our Camp­bell­town lab­o­ra­to­ry and believes Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day is a great time to recog­nise those peo­ple who bring joy and inspi­ra­tion to our work­ing day.

A woman smiling.
Camp­bell­town Lab­o­ra­to­ry man­ag­er, Rebec­ca Haack.

“I start­ed in NSW Health Pathol­o­gy as a trainee. After hav­ing my first child I came back and worked night­shift at the Roy­al North Shore Hos­pi­tal lab­o­ra­to­ry for sev­er­al years, which suit­ed our fam­i­ly,” she said.

“I then trans­ferred to Liv­er­pool, which was clos­er to home and worked part-time, even­tu­al­ly being pro­mot­ed to a Senior Hos­pi­tal Sci­en­tist posi­tion. When I was ready to go full-time, I moved to Camp­bell­town as the lab man­ag­er. I have nev­er felt my oppor­tu­ni­ties were lim­it­ed due to work­ing part-time or being a work­ing mother.”

Dr Bente Talseth-Palmer is Research Strat­e­gy Lead at NSWHP. She says it’s a day to acknowl­edge and cel­e­brate the incred­i­ble achieve­ments of women but also to raise aware­ness about the inequal­i­ties women around the world still face.

A woman smiling, sitting on a balcony with a city view in the background.
Dr Bente Talseth-Palmer, Research Strat­e­gy Lead.

“This is why we still need women quo­tas on boards and high­er posi­tions. Women who choose to have both a career and chil­dren are still dis­ad­van­taged in career pro­gres­sion, and it would be nice to close these gaps fur­ther,” she said.

“About a decade ago I was lucky to meet a won­der­ful men­tor, Jen­nifer Leslie, a char­tered accoun­tant and a cer­ti­fied Finan­cial Plan­ner with 15 years of board-lev­el expe­ri­ence, who shared her incred­i­ble jour­ney and wis­dom with me – show­ing that hav­ing both a career and chil­dren is possible.”


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