The Women’s celebrates IWD

The Women’s Board Chair Cath Bowtell, Victorian Minister for Health the Honourable Mary-Anne Thomas, keynote speaker Jamila Rizvi and the Wo
The Women’s Board Chair Cath Bowtell, Victorian Minister for Health the Honourable Mary-Anne Thomas, keynote speaker Jamila Rizvi and the Women’s Chief Executive Officer Professor Sue Matthews at our International Women’s Day Breakfast.
2 March 2023 | Events | Staff

The message at the heart of the Royal Women’s Hospitals’ International Women’s Day Breakfast this morning (Thursday 2 March) was simple: we need to listen to the varied and powerful voices of women.

This was reflected in the speeches of the Women’s Chief Executive Officer Professor Sue Matthews, the Women’s Board Chair Cath Bowtell, Victorian Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure and Minister for Medical Research the Honourable Mary-Anne Thomas and keynote speaker Jamila Rizvi.

The event, which was last held in person in March 2020, was attended by more than 230 members of Melbourne’s corporate, community, government and health sectors.

Addressing the gender gap

Professor Matthews spoke about the gender gap that exists in healthcare.

“We know that when women have access to good-quality healthcare, we have healthier families and communities. Yet thousands of women and girls in Australia continue to experience health disadvantage,” she said.

“For example, delays in the diagnosis of chronic and debilitating conditions, a health system that doesn’t always listen and properly investigate, and funding structures that are often gender-blind. 

"Add to this, the fact that many women and girls still have difficulty accessing specialised women’s health services because of where they live, the language they speak, their age or the condition they may have – then the picture is very concerning.”

Professor Matthews said there are encouraging signs that the national conversation is shifting. Many women are speaking up about their experiences in the healthcare system, and those in positions of power are listening.

She spoke about the recently established National Women’s Health Advisory Council, the new hospital for women and newborns at Arden, the Women’s new public fertility service, and the Victorian Government’s election commitment to establish a Women’s Health Research Institute in Melbourne as examples of this.

Keynote speaker Jamila Rizvi spoke about her own health journey and advocated for women and healthcare workers.

The power of listening

Author, advocate and Deputy Managing Director of Future Women, Jamila Rizvi, who had her son at the Women’s, shared her moving health journey after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2017.

Jamila said her own experience highlighted the world-class care that we have access to in Australia, and paid tribute to the incredible healthcare workers that she has encountered, some of them in the room.

But she said her story also showed how important it is that women’s pain is not minimised or ignored.

“I am certainly not the only one who has sat feeling hopeless in a doctors’ office. Whether it’s autoimmune disorders that are attributed to depression, heart disease that was dismissed as anxiety or endometriosis ignored as ‘normal’ period pain, women repeatedly report their concerns aren’t always taken seriously,” she said.

“Being able to advocate for yourself is an essential skill for patients. But being able to listen to that advocacy is an essential skill for the best healthcare professionals.”

Guests at the Women’s International Women’s Day breakfast.

Celebrating our healthcare workers

The Women’s Board Chair Cath Bowtell paid tribute to frontline healthcare workers. She acknowledged their resilience, passion and dedication to providing the highest quality care for all patients at the Women’s through the pandemic and beyond.

She said International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women. But it’s also a time for “advocacy, action and anger” as we continue to work towards equality.

Thank you to our event sponsors: principal partner BankVic and supporting partner Hesta.