International Women's Day: YWCA brings women together
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International Women's Day: YWCA brings women together

When Claire Carton was thinking about coming back to work after her second child she began looking for law firms that would suit the way she wanted to work.

She couldn't find one so she started her own. She established Griffin Legal in 2009 with the aim of providing an alternative to the traditional inflexible law firms she had been working in.

Claire Carton couldn't find a law firm that suited the way she wanted to work so she opened her own.

Claire Carton couldn't find a law firm that suited the way she wanted to work so she opened her own.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

"In hindsight, how was I so bold," says Carton, now a mother of four children under the age of 12 and managing partner of one of Canberra's leading commercial law firms.

Carton was the keynote speaker at the YWCA's International Women's Day event Leading the Change: The pathway to gender equality on Wednesday.

Dr Skye Saunders, left, Jane Alver and Codie Bell at the YWCA's International Women's Day event.

Dr Skye Saunders, left, Jane Alver and Codie Bell at the YWCA's International Women's Day event.

Photo: Jamila Toderas
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She was joined by YWCA executive director Frances Crimmins; Dr Skye Saunders, associate professor at the Australian National University College of Law; Jane Alver from the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra; and Codie Bell, activist and comedian.

The YWCA released its report card on the progress the ACT government has made on gender equity since 2016.

Crimmins said the YWCA saw gender parity in the ACT Legislative Assembly and the development of an ACT Women's Plan in 2016 as positive signs, but added that ACT women were still waiting to see real outcomes from year one of the 10-year plan.

"It is concerning that the plan remains unfunded, with no clear targets or evaluation measures to track progress," she said.

But among discussion of the statistics, whether they be about gender parity, domestic violence, sexual assault, quotas or diversity on boards, heck, even the Scandinavian way of life got a mention, the one thing we can do is keep telling stories about women.

"I don't like attention but I felt it was important to tell my story because I know it is different," Carton says.

She was raised by university educated parents, one of 12 children, with six brothers and five sisters. She says her parents encouraged all of them to "challenge the norm", treating them no differently regardless of whether they were sons or daughters.

Carton has two of each and says she follows suit.

"Although sometimes the kids call me out if I'm being sexist, for example if I'm waiting for my husband to come home and mow the lawn," she says.

"Children are very lucky, they're growing up with less and less stereotypes with more and more people challenging the expected gender roles."

Saunders, Alver and Bell also told their stories. Bell's account of her alleged rape at the ANU touched a nerve; Alver spoke about how her mother was a role model for her, challenging stereotypes a generation earlier; Saunders recounted some stories she's heard during her research into sexual harassment in rural communities.

Carton also called out The Canberra Times for running a story about Liberal parliamentarian Giulia Jones, who's preparing for baby number six.

"When I read that story my instinct as a working mother was why aren't we hearing about Alistair Coe's children, what he does with them during the day while he's at work," she said.

"It's like we have to justify what Giulia does before we can let her into the workplace."

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But isn't it important that we tell these stories, just as Carton had told hers earlier in the morning?

"It is important we well stories about women, maybe we just need to think about the message they send."

Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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