Strong, intelligent and equal: Celebrating western Sydney’s diverse women for International Women’s Day 2022

WSLHD International Women’s Day Health Forum facilitator Harpreet Kalsi with panelists Belinda Cashman, Dipti Zachariah, Bernadette Wykes and Jacqueline Dominish.

The strength, resilience and passion of western Sydney women was celebrated and on full display today as Western Sydney Local Health District hosted its first International Women’s Day Health Forum.

Chaired by Harpreet Kalsi, director of Aboriginal social change agency Cox Inall Ridgeway, the livestreamed forum featured a powerhouse panel of female leaders from across WSLHD:

  • Adjunct Associate Professor Jacqueline Dominish, director of Allied Health
  • Bernadette Wykes, Patient Safety and Quality clinical manager
  • Belinda Cashman, Aboriginal Health manager
  • Dipti Zachariah, Multicultural Health Services team leader

Chief executive Graeme Loy opened the proceedings and celebrated that women make up 73% of the WSLHD workforce, including 65% of managerial roles and 55% of the District executive.

The panel discussion covered an array of topics including specific issues that affect western Sydney women, the impact of COVID-19, work-life balance and the gender pay gap.

Belinda and Dipti discussed why Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse women are less likely to engage with health services, and what is being done to address the inequity.

“Migrant women may be more vulnerable due to a language barrier, lack of health literacy or even illiteracy, but there’s another barrier when they are not treated as equal or intelligent. That discourages them from seeking help,” Dipti said.

They’re strong, they’re intelligent and they’re equal.”

Jacqueline raised the issue of women supporting women, which sparked a discussion of how to handle workplace bullying and harassment.

“A landmark report last year found Aboriginal women are less supported and the group most likely to experience discrimination in the workplace,” Belinda said.

Discussion of the pandemic covered how working women were most likely to take on additional responsibilities at home and in their community.

“We have a very multicultural workforce, which is our strength because we first-generation Australians are good translators and bridge-builders,” Bernadette said.

“When the pressure was on, a lot of unexpected people stepped up and broadened my view of leadership.

Women were the leaders, the home-schoolers and the carers – they were the heroes and they deserve to be recognised.”

The discussion concluded with some important tips on looking after your social and emotional wellbeing, and each panellist shared their healthcare vision for the women of western Sydney.

Watch the full discussion: