Since 1986, the Victorian Rural Women’s Network (the Network) has been supporting women in rural Victoria to access the kind of training, support and networks they need to take on the leadership challenges they see around them. In the past three years alone, the VRWN has supported 44 women to participate in world-class training programs that build their leadership skills and confidence – which has a ripple effect far beyond just these participants.
Even with these successes, not many would disagree that there is still a lot of work to be done. Recent events in Australian public life have reinforced that there is still a long way to go to dismantle the structural issues that limit women’s contributions in many spheres – from the domestic, to the highest offices of the land.
We know real shifts will require structural change at every level – some of which members of the Network are actively contributing to in their own communities and industries. While we continue advocating for and modelling real change in ways large and small, how else can we create opportunities for those who are just stepping in to take up the baton?
The importance of support from women who are more established, connected and experienced counts for a great deal in the lives of women just taking their first tentative step. No doubt many of us have benefitted from and continue to enjoy the support and encouragement of those who are a few steps ahead of us.
Something we CAN do, is put our hands out to the next generation of women who are just beginning their careers, and their leadership journeys. Perhaps that’s sitting down with someone who is just like you but still finding their way as a leader – but perhaps this is extending an offer of help to someone who comes from a different background or experience than you. Who knows what you might learn! Giving these emerging leaders a head start – with the benefit of all the hard-won lessons of those who have come before – is a great way to build momentum, and ultimately grow a movement of powerful, connected rural women.