12 March 2018
The She Leads College Conference, taking place on Thursday 22 March, is a one-day event for girls in years 11 and 12, equipping participants with the practical skills and knowledge they need to become confident leaders. This year, we have an amazing line-up of inspiring young women who will discuss their pathways as trailblazers. Today, we chat to Laura Piscopo, a Trailblazer panelist.
At the age of 18, Laura Piscopo is a highly motivated young carer, Inclusive Education Assistant, and board member for leading disability advocacy organisation, Advocacy For Inclusion. Having experienced mental health issues, disability, and the associated barriers to inclusion and participation, Laura has become a passionate advocate for people with disabilities, and aspires to contribute to the disability rights movement through systemic advocacy. After leaving senior secondary education due to her ongoing health issues, Laura now holds a Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability), a Certificate IV of Disability, and currently studies a Diploma of Community Services (Case Management). Laura is also the winner of three scholarships, and is a dedicated Inclusive Education Assistant; using her adverse schooling experience and love for inclusion to support senior secondary students with disabilities and diverse learning needs to access an inclusive college experience.
Describe your leadership journey in 30 words or less.
All I can think of is “started from the bottom now we here”. Thanks Drake.
What was (or is) your biggest leadership challenge?
My biggest leadership challenge is prejudice against my age. There have been times where I am not taken seriously as a leader, worker or contributor because it is presumed I do not know the depth and seriousness of what I advocate for or the work that I do. There are a lot of cases where people seek to belittle me because of my youth and love for positivity. I also find it difficult to ask for support in some cases as there are people who will use that moment of fragility as an excuse to disparage me; it is deeply discouraging as I know that I am a highly competent individual who does not deserve to be discredited based on the fact I am 18.
Why do we need more women leaders, and what difference can women in leadership make in terms of Gender Equality?
In my opinion, the makeup of our leaders should be a representation of our community. If 50.18 per cent of the Australian population is female, then I think approximately 50 per cent of our leaders should be people who identify as women. The same goes for the representation of people with disabilities in leadership; if 1 in 4 Australians has a disability (1 in 5 when mental health issues are excluded) then around 1 in 4 Australian leaders should be people withdDisabilities.
What also makes sense to me is women having total control over women’s affairs, people with disabilities having total control over the affairs of people with disability and indigenous people having total control over indigenous affairs. I understand that my view is idealistic, but it’s not unrealistic. But it’s not just about meeting a quota. Having more women successfully occupy leadership roles will forever change our workplaces, our ideas of the workplace and our communities. Diverse teams solve problems faster!
For me, it all comes back to one of the taglines used in disability advocacy – ‘nothing about us without us’.
What book should every aspiring woman leader read?
I am a major fan of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (Game of Thrones) series by George RR Martin, and the empowering female stories it tells. It features a multitude of women who, despite facing sexism, misogyny and other adversities each work to positions of power and leadership!
Share with us the best piece of advice you’ve been given.
Take it one day at a time, and if that seems impossible take it one hour at a time. If you don’t feel like you can survive an hour, take it one minute at a time. If you can get through that day, hour or minute then you can definitely get through the next one.