Back when I started my eMental Health Project Officer role at Flinders, I was introduced to Kellie Cathcart from the University of Newcastle (UON). She had headed up the development of the online counselling service at UON and had broken new ground in using blogging as a tool for talking to students about health and wellbeing. It was her work that inspired me to start this blog.
Kellie no longer works at UON but I continue to strip her brain of good ideas through mentorship. One of those good ideas was for her to contribute to the blog [I suspect she misses posting to the UON Blog]. Below is her first post. Make her feel welcome.
My raw heart by Kellie Cathcart
Like any good writer I have spent hours thinking about what to write and staring at the blank screen in front of me after I agreed to write this piece for Gareth’s Blog. You see he has been writing and talking with students about resilience and in a conversation with him a few weeks back I agreed to work on a piece based on some resilience work I’ve been doing with a few clients recently.
It started as one client but snowballed that week when I saw two others in somewhat similar situations. My intentions were to write about how I worked clinically in building the communication skills of these clients, focusing on the different ways in which we communicate and the difference between aggressive, passive aggressive and assertive communication styles. I was going to write about the assertive communication tools that I use clinically that can help you resolve conflict, manage tricky situations, but also build your confidence. What a great post that would have been! However, seeing three clients struggle with a similar issue, I think it is time to write about the underlying issue in an attempt to change the situation altogether.
You would have had to be living under a rock or completely off the grid this past year to not hear about the stand that the stars of Hollywood are making so that women have an equal voice in the industry (it gave rise to the #metoo movement). It is a great start but Hollywood is not the only industry where this type of campaign is needed. There are several male-dominated industries that women enter into where they can find themselves in situations where they are not treated equally.
Take the young woman studying engineering who finds herself being asked on dates by her classmates and then called names when she says no. What about the woman in construction management who dates a colleague and then when it goes wrong she loses her job because she can’t face going to work anymore because everyone is talking about her. Or the female doctor who keeps getting passed up for promotion because she is a mother and isn’t “committed” to her job despite putting in more hours than her male counterparts.
These women find themselves asking for help with how they can change other people’s behaviour and when I tell them they cannot change someone else; their only option is to change how they think about and respond to the situation, I feel a deep sadness. A sadness for the women, a sadness for the world we live in where these situations still occur, and a sadness for human kind when despite generations of women making advances in so many industries, we have still not been able to affect change great enough that these women don’t have to face these situations.
I think Garth Brooks sang it best when he sang “The Change”. He wrote about helping just one person, not to change the situation, but so that the situation would not change them. You see that is what I do, I help one person at a time deal with situation they find themselves in. As time goes by though it isn’t quite enough. Now I want to do more. I write blog posts like this so that I can try and reduce the number of people who find themselves in those situations in the first place.
So this goes out to all the male readers of this blog. If you are a male in a male dominated industry or area of study, I’m calling on you to be the person that makes that field a safe and welcoming place for women. Don’t just stand by and watch examples of gender discrimination happen around you. Stand behind your female colleague or students, supporting them and sending the message that discrimination on the basis of gender is not acceptable. Don’t become the problem, and don’t let the historical mistakes of your industry repeat themselves.