Advancing workplace equity – IEU women’s events

This year has seen a range of successful IEU regional women’s events across NSW and the ACT. The most recent gathering was held at Penrith on 21 October with Blue Mountains area community activist Susan Templeman as guest speaker.

One of the country’s most experienced media and communication coaches, Susan started on Radio 2GB’s breakfast program, before moving to the Canberra press gallery in the mid-80s as 2UE’s federal political reporter. In 1988 she worked in New York as a foreign correspondent, and then in London for the Austereo Network, while also being news editor at London commercial radio station LBC.

Susan shared some of her insights into communication styles and forum participants had fun practicing some strategies that could be used in interactions at work and at home. (The styles are based on the work of US therapist, Virginia Satir).

While ‘levelling’ is the most balanced communication style where words, body posture, tone of voice and facial expression come authentically together for honest communication, the varying styles of ‘placater’, ‘blamer’, ‘computer super-reasonable’ and ‘distractor’ are also widely employed.

These four styles are less effective because they are defensive mechanisms that allow people to protect feelings rather than to communicate realistically and honestly. Susan emphasised the importance of becoming conscious of physiology and body stance for communicating in both neutral and challenging situations. She indicated that taking control of body language helps speakers to choose words that lead to enhanced communications.

In a wide ranging discussion of equity issues following Susan’s input, the Penrith forum strongly supported the IEU’s campaign to protect access to the Federal Government’s 18 week Paid Parental Leave scheme and also supported the right to short blocks of long service leave in the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese.

Planning is currently underway for the 2016 Women’s Conference to be held on 19 August at the Mercure Sydney. Associate Professor Pep Serow, coordinator of the University of New England’s Nauru Teacher Education Project has already accepted an invitation to speak at the conference.

Dr Sheree Gregory from Western Sydney University, whose specialist area is women, equity and diversity, has also agreed to speak.

Proposed Women’s Conference workshop areas include positive staff relationships, financial wellbeing for women, anti discrimination law update, reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, as well as supporting students’ mental health.

The IEU thanks its members for their commitment to workplace equity and inclusion and looks forward to providing further details in 2016 about Women’s Conference and other events such as International Women’s Day in March.

Pam Smith
Assistant Secretary Convenor Women in Education Committee