March 4 Justice: Business leaders take to the streets, demanding the government sets a better example for women’s safety at work

Women's rights rally

The March 4 Justice event in Perth. Photographer: Mia Tarantini.

As March 4 Justice events get underway across the nation with protesters calling for an end to gendered violence, business leaders are picking up placards and taking to the streets while encouraging their employees and peers to do the same.

The movement comes in the wake of historic rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter, and a lack of action from the government to address this; as well as after Brittany Higgins’ allegation of an attack in Parliament House when she worked there.

According to Girl Geek Academy co-founder and chief Sarah Moran, this is largely about getting the government to step up in terms of workplace safety for women.

Moran speaks to SmartCompany from Canberra, where she’s been printing posters and placards in the run-up to the city’s march.

Girl Geek Academy co-founder Amanda Watts has also designed an array of posters and social assets for others to use and share. She and the rest of the team are marching in Melbourne and inviting others to join them — from the school kids they run workshops with to their business accountants.

All of this means taking time out from running the business itself. But, for Moran, this is her business. Girl Geek Academy is designed to help women, so to not show up for the work around that would be “a bit rich”, she says.

“If I turn up to take their money, and I don’t turn up to stand up for them, I don’t have a social licence to operate in this space.”

It’s also all about being connected. Supporting women in tech is easier if you have business and mentoring connections with other women in other sectors.

“I borrow the knowledge of my sisters,” she says.

“I’m learning — this is my professional development day.”

Girl Geek Academy co-founder Sarah Moran at March 4 Justice in Canberra, with journalist and presenter Jessica Rowe. Source: Sarah Moran.

Even so, so much of the conversation comes back to the safety of women in the workplace. Business owners and employers have something of a responsibility to show where they stand and to support the women within their business.

This time last week, countless businesses were sharing International Women’s Day content.

These kinds of displays and events “don’t mean shit if you don’t back it up by doing the work and changing your workplaces to support women”, Moran says.

She stresses that one of the key asks from the women marching today is that the government implement recommendations from its own body around safer workplaces, in its own parliament.

“When the country’s highest level of leadership doesn’t have a safe workplace, how can we expect them to be responsible for creating safe workplaces for us everywhere?”

This should be the workplace setting the best example for others. And a lot of women don’t go into politics “because we know how bad it is”.

Moran is not the only Aussie woman in business taking a stand today. Melbourne business owner Kaye Stirland tweeted an image of her van, kitted out for camping, as she embarked on a road trip to Canberra to join the march in the capital.

Managing director of innovation commercialisation consultancy Gemaker also said in a tweet she is financially supporting any team member who wants to attend a march, “but would otherwise be financially disadvantaged by doing so”.

But, Moran is also calling on men to show up as allies, because this isn’t only women’s work to do.

Already, she’s been in contact with Labor MP Tim Watts, who asked if he could show up and support women, and whether that’s what they want.

“That is exactly what I want,” she says.

Men in politics and in business have power here. If they show up to the March 4 Justice, it shows they’re willing to take additional steps and can be relied upon to support women in the future, too.

“All men have to do is turn up and listen. That is not a hard ask,” Moran explains.

“Just show your face.”

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Aspera Manus
Aspera Manus
1 month ago

What we are seeing now is a symptom of a larger problem, namely that of respect and discipline. The old adage of “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is now more relevant than ever. Bring back good discipline and corporal punishment in schools – teach young boys that there are consequences to their actions.