CLC leaders: A personal view of the gender challenges women face

Queensland’s peak agency for community-led legal centres team has given its insight into the myriad gender challenges faced by women in 2021 via personal accounts from its all-women leadership team.

On Monday (8 March) the International Women’s Day 2021 theme of ‘Choose to Challenge’ asks people throughout the world to call out gender inequality and raise awareness against bias.

Community Legal Centres Queensland – headed by a strong team of women — provides support and advocacy for 34 independent, community-led community legal centres operating across Queensland.

Queensland’s community legal centres provide free information, legal assistance and referral, representation and casework, community education and advocacy for vulnerable clients and communities facing legal problems.

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, the CLCQ team – comprising Carly Hanson, Sam Cooper, Penny Sullivan and Louise Mullins – have written their own first-person accounts of the challenges they face as women or a gender issue they feel strongly about.

These are their stories:


Women in workplaces

Carly Hanson – Sector Sustainability Coordinator

Working in an all-women environment brings with it both benefits and challenges!

Over the past 13 years, I’ve volunteered and worked in three all-women not-for-profits, volunteered as a management committee member for an all-women organisation, and this year I’ve also joined an all-women government board.

These environments have enabled me to work flexibly (as there is a greater understanding of the many hats working women wear), as well as build strong positive working relationships (some of which have turned into long-term friendships) within a setting where I was never worried about some of the issues that are almost expected in an environment where men also work: sexual harassment, being passed over for a job or promotion because of unconscious gender bias, or simply being left out of important conversations, meetings or networks.

However, I have also experienced some of the more detrimental and even toxic sides of working with women: a more indirect and sometimes passive aggressive communication style, and a competitiveness and distrust between women in powerful or leadership roles (that has likely emerged from battling patriarchal systems and shattering glass ceilings for many years).

My view is that when we #choosetochallenge some of the unjust and inequitable workplace structures and practices that exist, and instead work together in a constructive, honest, open and intersectional way, we can strengthen and support women from all cultures, backgrounds and experiences, and make a real difference for women in the workforce.


Because of Her We Can

Sam Cooper – Sector Sustainability Coordinator

The 2018 NAIDOC theme means more to First Nations communities, in particular our young women, than we will ever be able to express.

We owe so much to the women who have forged the path for us. With that, increasingly in my work as a consultant, I am hearing more and more that there is a strange sense of blessed guilt that comes with being an Aboriginal woman in 2021.

From hundreds of years of oppression where the women in our families were not afforded the luxury of education, the ability to raise their own children in their homes and keep them safe, or be financially independent, there is an innate desire to achieve all that we are now able to achieve with the opportunities we are afforded.

We are so blessed to have had our paths forged by the incredible trailblazers and there is a sense of responsibility – that we must in fact have it all now that we can. The career, the education, the family. And the truth is Because of Her We Can. We can have it all, do it all and be it all – and we don’t have to do it all at the same time. Because of her we can.

I have a number of beautiful Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women as role models in my life who have seemingly cracked the code, women in this sector and outside, who have worked incredibly hard to hold the trifecta. Because of them I can.


First Nations women play an incredibly important part in our communities as role models, daughters, sisters, Aunties, cousins, mothers and grandmothers. They embody strength, perseverance and courage in the face of adversity.

This year, on International Women’s Day I remember and pay homage to them. To the women in my community who have fought hard for the opportunities I enjoy, who give me energy and life and hope, and someone to look up to and turn to. Thank you for being who you are in my life, and in our lives.

The shift in feminism

Penny Sullivan – Sector Sustainability Coordinator

A few years ago, back in the mid-2000s, there was a view gaining currency that feminism had achieved its goals, that feminists should stand down, that there was nothing more that needed to be done.

Plenty of young women I knew at that time didn’t want to name themselves as feminists. Remember Julie Bishop MP refusing to call herself a feminist? It was a dirty word in some quarters. My sense of frustration was profound – not least because of it how it diminished the vast contribution of the early feminists who had fought so hard, sacrificed so much, and upon whose shoulders we all stand.

And then, sometime in the early 2010s, a remarkable shift started happening… as women started sharing more and more on social media and began to carve out women’s forums and spaces on the internet, gradually and then suddenly feminism came roaring back. Now if you suggested that the fight had been fought and won, that women had achieved everything they needed to, you would be laughed out of the room (or at least should be).


This IWD, I’m so inspired by the courageous young women who are standing up to fight for what’s right in their own lives and for others, for those calling out inequality, injustice, systemic and gendered oppression, and the women celebrating amazing achievements around the world. Still a long way to go, but at least we are back in the fight! 

The responsibility of a mother to boys

Louise Mullins – Communications Coordinator

One of my responsibilities as a mother of two boys is being an advocate for gender equality.

My role is to educate my boys on the struggles that women face and the disparity between men and women. The path for my boys is already clear for them to achieve what they want to achieve, but if they had been born female then it might have been different.

I want my boys to grow into men who call out misogyny amongst their peers. I want them to snub gender stereotypes and ignore socially constructed gender roles in their households. I want them to see women as their equals and not as their enemies. I want them to treat woman with respect.

If they become bosses, I want them to be the ones that hire women, hire part-timers, encourage flexible working, promote women, pay women the same as their male counterparts and share in cleaning the office kitchen. If we don’t challenge the next generation then nothing will change.

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