5 Minutes with Australia’s Young Women of Influence | Ashleigh Streeter
Each year the Australian Financial Review presents its list of the leading women influencing Australia’s culture, economy, law, politics and society. This year more than 10 young women were named in the list. We wanted to find out who they are, how their work influences and relates to young people’s experiences of employment and transitions, and what visions they hold of young people’s futures in Australia.
Ashleigh Streeter | Vice President of YWCA
1) What do you think is the most important issue young people in Australia face today?
2) Why do you think this is an important issue for young people?
Gender is a power structure that continues to guide so many aspects of our lives – our work, the opportunities we get access to, the pressures and expectations placed upon us, the way we interact with systems and the way systems interact with us.
Everyone has a sense of gender, and patriarchy impacts everyone across the gender spectrum – including men. Until we dismantle this power structure, we cannot experience true freedom or equality and will continue to experience issues such as the gender pay gap, a high rate of male suicide, and the erasure of gender diverse and trans persons.
3) How does your work impact young people and their futures?
I am a passionate advocate for gender equity. Through my work as the Vice President of YWCA Canberra, I support one of the largest feminist organisations in the ACT in providing services for and supporting the leadership of young women.
I run an online social media campaign with the hashtag #shesourchange to celebrate the work of young women and gender diverse persons who are challenging the status quo. I’ve previously worked to promote and support the inclusion of young women in Australian politics and am in the process of organising a pilot program to support the better inclusion of young women’s voices in public decision making.
I strongly believe that young people are leaders in their own right, but if they are not supported in their leadership journey, and if we’re not actively challenging systems which exclude them and don’t see their value then we will continue to exclude, and exclude the needs and ideas of, an important segment of our society.
Through my work, I am focused on building young people up and disrupting systems that don’t inherently see their value. I want to show that young people are capable, passionate and should always have a seat at the table.
4) In your own life, what ideas or experiences have you found most influential in developing skills for the work you do?
All of my most influential experiences have been ones in which I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone, in which I’ve challenged the status quo and in which I’ve learned through making mistakes.
I’ve been very fortunate to hold a number of leadership roles in which I’ve been able to work with young people. I’ve run teams badly, run events where no one has turned up, entered partnerships with people whose values differ from my own and have spent a lot of time spreading myself too thin.
But it is through these experiences that I’ve learnt, and grown comfortable with, my leadership style. I’ve also put myself forward for opportunities well outside my comfort zone and learned that when you back yourself, it pays off.
5) Looking towards the future, what would you keep, change and create to make education or workplaces better, fairer or more relevant for future generations?
Keep: The progress we’re making in implementing measures such as flexible work. It is so important to allow people to balance their commitments, including family, health conditions and their extracurricular passions.
Change: I think we can change a lot of things we do with recruitment and promotion. There are many ingrained attitudes about ‘doing your time’ and what a leader looks like which overlooks the value that young people and people from diverse backgrounds can bring to the workplace.
Create: I would love to see spaces and cultures which celebrate all persons, and which are genuine in their allyship. Some workplaces are further along than others, but we still have a very long way to go.