South Asia celebrates its women
This year the South Asia Austrade team took a sledge hammer to bias in support of gender parity. The 2022 United Nations theme for International Womens Day, ‘Break the Bias’, invited a charge headed by the South Asia Women’s Network (SAWN). Three days of oversubscribed events profiled the fabulous business women in the region and made a clear call to take action for equality.
Three formal events over three days profiled business leaders from wine to health, education to finance and the entire team of women in Austrade in the region joined in the activities in Mumbai. The focus remained tightly on support of India - Australia bilateral trade and economic ties, and brought to the fore the critical impact of female leaders in our close and expanding relationship.
The first event, a Sip & Learn Australian wine workshop was curated to expand awareness and understanding of Australia’s world class wines in a key expansion market (Australia is India’s leading source of imported wine and the market is growing quickly. Providing a women’s-only event was a fabulous way to open up the product for India’s women).
Bringing a group of 50 people together after two years of online social activity really was something to see – add some fabulous South Australian wines and a brilliant sommelier and it was guaranteed to be a smash. Sonal Holland is India’s only Master of Wine and a fabulous coach on wine. She took the group through a series of blind tastings and battled increasingly to be heard as the guests took up the challenge to understand the wines and their nuanced differences and laughter and conversation built.
The following day at the Australia India Business Exchange (AIBX) event we brought together around 130 key business leaders (of all genders this time) for a fabulous dinner (of course, featuring Australian wine, lamb, pavlova and lamingtons). Head of Austrade, South Asia, Catherine Gallagher kicked off the event with an impassioned call to action for gender parity – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it has a real and central role to play in the economic development of our nations.
Catherine handed over to Master of Ceremonies Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner Monica Kennedy to get an energetic panel discussion underway. India’s new Deputy Head of Mission Sarah Storey led a no-holds-barred discussion that began with the personal career stories of four influential females in Indian business. Questions from the audience had to be stemmed after 15 minutes to make way for the Maharashtra State Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development, Ms Yashomati Thakur, who drew the group to thoughtful consideration of how far we have to go and how far we’ve come, pointing her discussion to her own small village that the opportunities for change that will require focused action.
Tired, but bouncing with optimism the SAWN team finished off the program with a workshop on the theme of building fortitude. The SAWN team includes all female staff in the region and our two male Champions of Change. The session was at times emotional and at others hysterically funny as the excellent female facilitator led the group through strategies for building fortitude and using fortitude in successful career and personal decisions. Amongst stories of first-in-family female university attenders, overcoming disability to success Austrade South Asia’s female driver and office assistant, Savita, revealed her own powerful story of building fortitude as a young disadvantaged woman with few options in New Delhi. Read about Savita’s story here.
International Womens Day week in South Asia was a turning point for Austrade’s women in leading action in gender parity in the region. The series of events asserted Austrade’s ability to bring together business people for focused business relationships while contributing to the critical social themes of the moment. A fabulous week in South Asia for women and for business!