Fifty50’s Big Ideas Breakfast: Gender Equity by 2025 – supported by Great Ydeas

28 March 2018

Eliza Hughes

Eliza is the Communications and Marketing Officer at YWCA Canberra

Great Ydeas is YWCA Canberra’s small grants program, providing up to $2,000 to women to help kickstart a great idea for a business, community development project, or to support professional development or education and training opportunities. Applications for the 2018 Great Ydeas program are open until 6 April, and in the lead up to announcing this year’s recipients in May, we’re featuring some of our amazing past recipients to highlight what can be achieved through the program.

Francesca Maclean received a Great Ydeas grant in 2017 for her project, Fifty50’s Big Ideas Breakfast: Gender Equity by 2025. Here, she tells us about her experience as a Great Ydeas recipient, how the Fifty50 project came together, and shares her advice for this year’s applicants.  

If I never attend another feel-good women in STEM event, it won’t be soon enough. I am acutely aware of gender inequity in STEM – having lived and breathed it throughout my undergraduate and PhD. I have also made it my mission to understand this complex problem – and figure out some creative, innovative solutions. So, instead of adding more noise to the conversation, last year I decided to shift the focus away from platitudes and catchy soundbites to tangible, aspirational actions that individuals and companies could implement. With gender equality being predicted for in 187 years, I thought we should move the timeline up a bit too!

Fifty50’s Big Ideas Breakfast: Gender Equity by 2025 was born, and I saw the YWCA Canberra Great Ydeas Grant as an exciting opportunity to see my idea turn into reality. The Great Ydeas Grant was important seed funding that I leveraged to receive 10 times the amount from partners including EY, Arup, Department of Defence, ACT Government, and the Australian National University.

We held the breakfast at the Old Parliament House, with a (gender balanced) panel of big thinkers including Dr Llew Mann (Managing Partner, Swinburne Engineering Practice Academy), Kylie Walker (CEO Science & Technology Australia), Emily Campbell (my co-founder), and Dr Robert Care (Founder, Care Collaborative, and former CEO, Arup). My biggest takeaway? – ‘if the current system is broken, why don’t we create a new one?‘ Good point…

The YWCA Canberra Great Ydeas grant gave me two things: first, was the actual seed funding that I leveraged to gain industry, government, and academia support, and second, was the belief that my idea was worthy of support. This was a fantastic vote of confidence coming from such an impactful organisation as is YWCA Canberra.

This event was a game-changer for Fifty50 in establishing networks with industry, government, and academic organisations that we have built upon this year to expand our offerings to female STEM students at ANU. A key outcome was infecting people with the same drive and passion we have to see tangible change in the world. To do that, we facilitated discussions around tangible action items for the next 20 hours, 20 days, 20 weeks, and by 2020 – because then you can review, evaluate, and set bigger goals to reach gender equity by 2025! We developed an online platform for people to share their actions, and we really wanted our guests to leave equipped to take action – so our gift bags included high quality food for thought: Stop Fixing Women, Testosterone Rex, What Works, and Feminist Fight Club.

Using the success of the 2017 Big Ideas Breakfast, we hope to continue engaging industry, government, and academic partners to think big and be accountable through follow-on events – such as our Big Ideas Pitch Night.

To anyone applying for a 2018 YWCA Canberra Great Ydeas grant, I would say, dream big. My event ended up being so much bigger (and better!) than I had pictured when I submitted my grant application (a couple hours after submitting my PhD – it was clearly a good day!).

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