Strength in sisterhood: HACCI celebrates women’s power on IWD

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By Mary Sinanidis.

A woman alone has power, collectively they have an impact. 

The power of the pack was palpable at the International Women’s Day (IWD) event organised by the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) on Wednesday, March 6.

HACCI event
A room full of influential women.

The room buzzed with prominent Greek Australian women who gathered to listen to Dr Angelia Grant, one of Australia’s leading macroeconomists: Australia’s G20 Sherpa, former International Monetary Fund executive director and Head of the G20 and Trade Policy Division in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Dr Angelia Grant
Dr Angelia Grant.

“I have often been one of the few women at the table,” she said, looking at the mainly female crowd. 

Here, she was among people who could relate. But she was not here to highlight discrimination, but to share her vulnerability – like the time she realised she was being underpaid when she read the Annual Report. 

HACCI event
Dr Grant addresses the audience.

“I was the head of one of the biggest divisions in the Treasury but was one of the lowest paid,” she said

“I think transparency is extremely important.” 

HACCI event
Dr Angelia Grant and Robyn Saranah with Flowers by Vasette.

The UN report this week made it clear. It will take 286 years to get gender equity, pointed out seasoned executive Robyn Saranah, leading the Q&A with Dr Grant. 

“What do you advise?” she asked.

Dr Grant referred to the book given to her by her mentor, strategic advisor Penny Sahini, about Joice Nan Kivell Loch, an Australian author, journalist and humanitarian worker who worked with refugees in Greece and other countries. Loch’s life story inspired Dr Grant when considering the best way towards gender equality. 

HACCI event
Dr Angelia Grant, her mentor Penny Sahini, and Robyn Saranah.
HACCI event
Dr Barbara Wilson and Penny Sahinis with their mentee Dr Angelia Grant.
HACCI event
Stella Avramopoulos and Penny Sahinis.

“There’s probably three things we need to do if we think about investing in women,” she said. 

“We need to invest in ourselves. We need to invest in each other. We need to invest in the system… We shouldn’t just invest in women, but everyone.” 

Dr Grant spoke of the benefits of mentorship.

HACCI event
Dr Grant and Soranah.

“I am a mentor for lots of women, mainly young public servants. Some are economists, but not all,” she told The Greek Herald, beaming with pride as she shared one particular story. “A young woman was at university when I started mentoring her, and now she is a junior analyst in the Australian public service.” 

Dr Grant may not have children of her own, but she feels a maternal connection with her mentees. 

HACCI event
Dr Angelia Grant and Robyn Saranah with Flowers by Vasette.

Her own mentors, Dr Barbara Wilson and Penny Sahinis, watched with pride as she opened up about what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated landscape.

Dr Grant said she draws strength from other women. 

“I get a lot out of being mentored and it hits different dimensions: partly confidence, partly people who understand you, partly friendship. And women connect you to other women,” she said. 

HACCI event
There were successful women at the HACCI event.
HACCI event
There were some men scattered among the women.
HACCI event
Stella Avramopoulos from The Good Shepherd.

Dr Grant told the audience to be aware that they are role models.

“I was on the IMF board and I got an email from a young woman in Saudi Arabia. She wrote, ‘I heard you are going. Can I take you out for lunch?’ She was insistent in taking me out for lunch,” Dr Grant said. 

HACCI event
Audience members engrossed by the conversation between Dr Grant and Robyn Saranah
HACCI event
Career coach Lena Coates asks a question about women and salary negotiation.

“She said that when I requested to speak [at public meetings] the women would message each other and say, ‘Dr Grant is going to speak.’ The woman said, ‘You’ve made me believe that one day I can be on the board of the IMF’.” 

She hopes to someday see this Saudi woman achieve this goal.

HACCI event
Dr Grant and students from Oakleigh Grammar.

Watching the talk were some Year 11 students from Oakleigh Grammar. 

“I was thinking of doing zoology next year but I also have two units of economics,” Natasha Kaniadakis said. 

“I’m enjoying it so maybe leaning a bit more towards being an economist after tonight. It’s very empowering to hear a woman in such a high position in the government. Our generation may make the gap close a little bit more.”

HACCI event
Fotini Kypraios addresses those present at HACCIs IWD event.

HACCI President Fotini Kypraios spoke of HACCI’s annual IWD event, currently in its 10th year. 

“I’m looking at you today, looking at the audience, as grateful as I am for the men who have come to join us here tonight, I lament that not more men join International Women’s Day events because it’s the men who need to hear the female experience and it’s the men who also need to influence change within their spheres at work, at home, and in their communities… Every step we take towards equality, we need to take those steps alongside men,” Ms Kypraios said.

She also took the opportunity of inviting guests to join HACCI’s mentorship program.

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