Nicole Sutton-Hay (2003)

Queen’s was a home away from home when I first moved to Melbourne to pursue tertiary studies. I came from a small rural community, and Queen’s provided an instant support network to help cope with that transition. Studying amongst such a talented set of peers who celebrated academic success also gave me the impetus to perform much more strongly at university than I think I ever could have done starting out solo.

Many of the people I met at Queen’s remain among my closest friends to this day, including my husband (Lachlan Hay Wyvern 2003) whom I met in first year.

Professionally, being able to discuss career change plans with Wyverns who’d already entered the international development sector helped guide my decisions on the type of roles and organisations that would best suit my ethos and skillset.

The changes for women in the past 20 years in Australia have been slow, but not insubstantial. Since my time at Queen’s Australia has seen its first female Governor-General and Prime Minister, decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria, and the launch of the much-lauded Women’s AFL. As a nation, we’re starting to consider the differential impacts on women of policies from the outset, rather than as an afterthought. There’s greater public awareness of the alarming rates of domestic violence and sexual harassment and assault against women, and amendment of legislation protecting abusers such as the law of provocation. There’s increasing acknowledgement of the disproportionate effect of mental load, the financial and career impacts on women having children, and the impacts on fertility for women who choose to put career first. Discussions of consent in relationships have matured, with far less tolerance for a ‘boys will be boys’ mentality, and earlier introduction to the concepts in schools.

That said, we’re still a long way from equality. The gender pay gap remains significant, women are significantly underrepresented in parliament and in corporate leadership, and women still shoulder a disproportionate share of caring responsibilities and housework.

Despite women first being eligible to enrol at the University of Melbourne in 1880, it wasn’t until 2018 that they first comprised more than 50% of the student body, and we’ve yet to see the appointment of a female Master at Queen’s or, to my knowledge, a building wing named for one, all of which reflects women’s historical exclusion from academic spaces.

I work in the philanthropic sector managing international development projects, predominantly in West Africa. Most of our work focuses on education, skills training, and healthcare, including a breast cancer awareness program trying to reach women in under-served communities around the world.

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