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Inspiring Lutheran Care women in the spotlight for International Women’s Day

Image says embrace equity International Women's Day in white writing against a purple background. The Lutheran Care logo appears in the bottom right hand corner.

Inspiring Lutheran Care women in the spotlight for International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day today (8 March), Lutheran Care is sharing insights and inspiration from some of the influential women we are fortunate to have working across our organisation. 

The voices we uplift today offer just a small snapshot of the many worthy stories from across our female team members; if only we had the time and space to share them all! You’ll hear from two dynamic leaders from our Executive Team and Board; a Foster Care Team Leader who is also a foster parent; a Family Zone team member who has a deep understanding of gender inequality from her former life in Afghanistan; and lastly, the colourful and courageous General Manager of our Op Shops.

International Women’s Day is a global movement to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and also a call to action for all people to demand and action gender equality. This year’s theme is Embrace Equity. 

At time of writing, women make up 84.4 per cent of Lutheran Care’s total paid workforce. Of our 240-strong team of volunteers, a total of 181 of these – 76 per cent – are female. The gender imbalance is somewhat unsurprising as women traditionally make up a significant proportion of roles in the Community Services sector and other ‘caring’ roles, perhaps in part due to the historical societal perception and expectation of girls and women as caregivers and nurturers.  

However, Lutheran Care continues to be an organisation that looks to promote women into leadership and key decision making positions, with a total of 82 per cent of our managers being women, including eight of our 11 Executive Team members and Key Leaders, plus the Chair of our Board. 

One of these senior leaders is Executive Manager Specialist Services, Karen Harvey. For more than 25 years, Karen has helped people change and improve their lives through her work with the non-profit sector, following a career as a women’s health worker and counsellor. Karen is also a proud feminist and a (rainbow) flag-flying member of the LGBTQIA+ community, who describes equity as “at the core” of who she is. 

Reflecting on this year’s IWD theme, Karen believes “it is crucial to speak out against oppression and advocate for policies and practices that promote equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of life and work”. Much work has been done to demand and progress equality for women and her LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters, including the ‘Yes’ vote that Karen says “completely changed” her life, although there is much work still to do. However, Karen is also hopeful that with continued activism and advocacy and the Voice referendum, more steps toward equality and the righting of wrongs can also be extended to First Nations people. 

Chair of the Lutheran Care Board, Sylvia Andersons, credits three strong female role models – her mother, auntie and grandmother – for instilling in her “the belief that women and men are equals, and therefore have the same potential to succeed”. With a background in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors and an Honours Degree in Immunology alongside a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Sylvia is guided by her Christian faith and driven to use her skills and experience to assist Lutheran Care to help our clients. 

Reflecting on the Embrace Equity theme, Sylvia says, “The world around us is rich in diversity and when we acknowledge this we not only embrace people’s differences but celebrate them”. 

“As a Christian, I always strive to reflect Jesus’ command to love one another,” Sylvia shares. 

“He did not tell us to love only those like us and in fact he met with those forgotten and shunned by society. 

“This is the epitome of ‘embracing equity’ and a wonderful life lesson for us all to follow.” 

Chief Executive Officer Rohan Feegrade says, “As it is International Women’s Day, it is important to hold space for and amplify the voices and achievements of women, so I will be brief”. 

“Our organisation was founded by a group of forward thinking and compassionate Lutheran women who identified there were people living in poverty who had fallen between the cracks of society and needed assistance,” he says.

“These pioneering women won support from the Lutheran Church and fund-raised to purchase a building on Prospect Road, which is where our Blair Athol services are still based today. 

“We are fortunate to have many women on staff and in our volunteer workforce, including our Board, who work extremely hard, genuinely care for the clients Lutheran Care serves and live our values of Compassion, Inclusion, Commitment and Social Justice every day. Thank you for everything you do. 

“Here are the voices of just some of the excellent and valued women at Lutheran Care. I thank them for sharing.” 

Image of Sylvia Sylvia Andersons | Chairperson, Lutheran Care Board

“I was fortunate to live with three strong female role models – my mum, auntie and grandma. They instilled in me the belief that men and women are equals, and therefore have the same potential to succeed.” Read more here.

Image of Karen Harvey Karen Harvey | Executive Manager Specialist Services 

“As a feminist, equity is at the core of who I am. I believe it is crucial to speak out against oppression and advocate for policies and practices that promote equality, diversity, and inclusion in all aspects of life and work.” Read more here.

Image of Babs Babs Deane | General Manager, Lutheran Care Op Shops SA

“No matter what your circumstances, pay packet, or address, I want everyone to feel welcome, respected and comfortable shopping in our stores.” Read more here.

Image of Shukria Shukria | Family Zone Family Support Worker & Volunteer Coordinator 

“I like to support women to gain their confidence to speak, especially for those who can’t raise their voices. I encourage them to speak out for their rights.” Read more here.

Image of Krystle Krystle | Team Leader Specialist Care, Lutheran Care Foster Care Services

“Embracing Equity for me means finding those gaps that would hold a person back from achieving all they can and providing supports that help them gain access to the same opportunities as others.”  Read more here.