Phoebe Jarvis from Harry and Jay Designs. Photo: Harriet Jarvis

Posted by & filed under Arts & Entertainment, Featured Arts & Entertainment.

By Rita Bratovich

International Women’s Day (IWD) becomes more celebrated each year, with organisations across the globe hosting events, running campaigns, and creating initiatives aimed at attaining pay parity, equal opportunities, and improved social conditions for women. This year’s theme is Balance For Better (#BalanceforBetter) advancing the message that equal gender representation enriches work and social environments. 

Arguably, it was the #MeToo movement, highlighting egregious sexist behaviour in the film industry, that was the catalyst for what some people consider a current “fourth wave” of feminism. It galvanised women in film, spawning organisations such as Dame Changer, a collective of professional film industry women mid-stream in their careers, who have aligned with other industry bodies to implement change. Founding Member and producer, Heather Oxenham, says the disparity is particularly evident in what have long been considered masculine jobs.  

“Women are finding it much more difficult to rise up the ranks in the traditional technical areas. Roughly, out of 230 registered directors of photography, there are about 10 accredited women.”

She puts it down to mindset and entrenched systems. 

“Some of the patriarchal structures have prevented women’s progression and success,” she explains. “We try to address some of those barriers in terms of opening up opportunities and building commercial skill sets.”

Changing the male-dominated infrastructure, however, is not part of the agenda. Dame Changer is more about promoting visibility and awareness that will allow projects for women to be created. 

Membership is restricted to women who have established careers and a level of achievement in the industry, but Oxenham acknowledges the importance of male participation.

“We have very high profile men supporting us and who believe in what we’re doing,” she says. 

Dame Changer was launched last year on IWD with a special event and this year they are again recognising IWD by holding a forum that features a panel of high profile industry guests.  

“At the event, we have women representatives from different areas, different key sectors. So we have a female director of photography, we have a leading female editor, we have Gillian Armstrong, director, we’ve got female composer – and I think there are very few female composers in [screen]. Then we’ve got an actress, and we’re going to deep dive into some of the challenges they’ve discovered and talk about how we can build our resilience and what’s important moving forward,” says Oxenham. “And celebrate success, because […] we don’t celebrate our successful women enough.” 

Discussion will be followed by a Q&A session. With regard to the theme, Balance For Better, Oxenham says:

“We haven’t even got a seat at the table yet, so that’s what we’re trying to do is get a seat at the table.”

Rene Russo owns and runs Hypmotive Hub in Marrickville, a creative space that provides retail, exhibition, and workshop opportunities for emerging and local artists. She’s running an evening event on IWD featuring four female artists and designers who’ll be there to share their stories and show their works. 

“Our event is a celebration to mark the occasion and we’re addressing this year’s theme, “balance for better”, by forging positive visibility of women, and to celebrate women’s achievements within our niche which is retail, unique art and design,” says Russo. 

The featured artists are: Grace Huie Robbins, a local Inner West artist who up-cycles and repurposes graffiti paint agate into wearable pieces of art; Marika Svikis, an emerging jewellery designer, who experiments with and delivers a unique range of rings and pendants utilizing 3D printing technology; Helen Nehill, a unique artist who uses fine-liner pen and stream of consciousness to depict underwater menageries, interstellar space and strange beasts; Maddy Rowley, an emerging jeweller intrigued by patterns in nature, who launched her first range last year, relics and rock pools.

Marrickville is a culturally and demographically diverse suburb with a fairly open-minded community – something Russo acknowledges and appreciates. In terms of the wider world, she believes there is still much work to be done. 

“The aim of IWD is to achieve full gender equality, so until that is actualised it’s important to continually campaign to raise awareness in order to make progress. Art has the power to influence and educate.”

Sandradee Makejev has had to deal with a few gender barriers forging a successful women’s clothing store, St Frock, in the competitive retail fashion sector. 

“In my early career I would come up against gender bias regularly in the workplace, which was disappointing but only made me work harder to prove a point,” says Makejev.  “At St Frock I created an environment where young women could excel and empower each other in e-commerce, in leadership positions that were usually held by men.” 

A big part of Makejev’s success is her canny use of Instagram. She has a significant following, with fans as keen to see the latest merchandise as they are to read the witty one-liners she frequently posts. During the week of IWD, she is using her account to highlight lesser known Australian women whom she admires. 

“It bothers me that so many young women can not name inspiring Australian women that are making a difference for future generations so we wanted to feature them on our Instagram stories this week.

Two of my favourites are Kate Morris, the Founder and CEO from Adore Beauty, who regularly challenges and calls out corporate Australia about [unbalanced boardrooms]. The other one is Lisa Wilkinson who was brave enough to walk away from her role at Today to make a stand on the pay gap with her male co-host. Both these Australian women are inspiring and we need to support and celebrate them,” she says. 

Makejev believes IWD is a potent platform for recognising women who drive change, call out injustices, and continue to challenge the status quo. It is helps unify women over a common cause. 

“I’m a big believer that diversity and inclusion drives innovation in the workplace. Without limiting ourselves to a single cultural view the St Frock team celebrate our differences, and problem solve through collaboration together.”

International Women’s Day Celebration. Mar 12. Event Cinema, 500 Oxford St, Bondi Junction. $38.01–$127.69+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.damechanger.com

Hypmotive – International Women’s Day. Mar 8. 155 Marrickville Road, Marrickville. FREE but must RSVP. Info:  www.facebook.com/hypmotive

St Frock, 18 Union St, Pyrmont. Info: www.stfrock.com.au or www.instagram.com/stfrock