Challenging societal expectations of women

HDR student Yun Seh Lee spent her childhood growing up in a patriarchal society with designated roles based on gender, with clear expectations about the role a woman plays in a household.

College of Business, Government and Law HDR student Yun Seh Lee

“If you are a woman, you are supposed to grasp the knowledge of home-caring because one day you will be a wife then a mother (which surpasses all the other roles), despite how successful you become in your area of expertise,” she says.

For Yun Seh, International Women’s Day serves as a “wake up call to all sisters” to live whatever life they want to live.

“Women are more than just a wife or a mother. We shouldn’t be judged biologically and psychologically. We should be able to live and enjoy equal opportunity in every aspect of life.”

Yun Seh idolises her grandmother, who was born in 1920s Japan. She was a housewife and mother of 10 who lived through the turmoils of WWII. A product of her generation, Yun Seh’s grandmother served her husband and sons. What was left of her time and attention, sometimes very little, was left for her daughters. However, in her final days, her grandmother made a statement that rocked Yun Seh, which revealed how she overcame this generational bias.

“I remember she said in her native dialect ‘sons or daughters, they are all the same, and I am proud to have them’, and I was taken aback. It was a short and simple statement, but it showed that she had changed. She had finally seen the good of her daughters.”

Carolyn Dent, Lecturer in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences

As a Dietician and Nutritionist, Carolyn Dent is teaching the next generation of female nutrition/dietetic students how to improve the health and wellbeing of their communities. However, she knows a stigma exists around these roles, so she empowers her students to break out of these moulds.

“A lot of people believe that to be a good Dietician or Nutritionist, you have to be skinny and not eat chocolate. This view is so simplistic and damaging, and leads to weight stigma,” says Carolyn.

“People of all sizes can take care of their own health and wellbeing, and they should be able to train to be a Dietitian/Nutritionist and support others on their journey to health and wellbeing.”

HDR student Andi Agbejule, College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Andi Agbejule, HDR student and cancer survivorship researcher, is thrilled that women’s contributions and accomplishments are being celebrated, but she still witnesses the doubt and hesitance that is cast on their expertise and competence.

“As a result, women often feel we must prove themselves or they don’t feel confident enough to be able to share their thoughts or opinions.”

But Andi believes it shouldn’t rest solely on the shoulders of women to prove themselves, that as a society we should be doing more to encourage and support women’s voices.

“That why it’s important to regularly showcase the work and accomplishments of women, to highlight and normalise the expertise that women possess.”

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College of Business Government and Law College of Nursing and Health Sciences