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Meet the women behind the Sydney Women’s Fund

“We came together with a vision to improve the equity, quality of life and sense of belonging for all women and girls across greater Sydney”

Launched in 2008 as a sub fund of Sydney Community Foundation, the Sydney Women’s Fund is a voice for women and a force for change. Created to help local grassroots charities that support women and families, the Fund aims to increase gender equity and opportunity.

Over the past 15 years, the Fund has continued to go from strength to strength, with ambitious plans for the future. Read on to find out more about the women behind the Fund.

Wendy McCarthy AO is one of the founders of Sydney Community Foundation and co-founder of Sydney Women’s Fund. Wendy is an educator, activist and trailblazer for women everywhere.

“It seems to me that the best decisions are made when both males and females make them together and share the responsibility. We do need to remember that women hold up half the sky.

Lucy Brogden and I decided together that it would be a really good idea to have a Sydney Women’s Fund. We thought about what could be attractive to investors as a foundation and we came up with the idea of the Fund. It has become part of my heart and soul.

There was a general commentary when we approached people that we would want to support women’s investment and the status of women throughout the extended Sydney area.

The primary aim is improving the lives and opportunities of women in Sydney. It’s very dear to my heart to improve the wellbeing and status of women. I’m looking for simple 50/50 solutions – my life has been a fight for gender equity.

Women want to feel safe in their communities and safety is about violence and physical assault, but it’s also about financial equity. So under that big heading of safety, I want women to have access to money and to feel safe in the streets and in their own home.”

 

Lucy Brogden AM is the co-founder of Sydney Women’s Fund and has a strong commitment to helping others and building stronger communities. She is also Director of Be Kind Sydney and Former Chair & Commissioner of the National Mental Health Commission.

“My good friend and mentor Wendy McCarthy and I came together with a vision to try and improve the equity, the quality of life, the sense of belonging for all women and girls across Greater Sydney. That vision came to life through the Sydney Women’s Fund and I’m so proud of the fact that it goes from strength to strength every year.

As a woman I’m driven to fight for the empowerment and equity for my gender, but more broadly in the context of Sydney. It really struck me about 20 years ago that there’s not one Sydney – there are many Sydneys.

There are people who live with great comfort, great security, great access to all their needs, but there are women who don’t have access to health care, don’t have somewhere safe to sleep, don’t have a community in which they feel connected to raise their children. And to me that is just wrong.

We have so much to offer in this city, but not all of us have the same opportunities. And so really the opportunity around gender for me is that we come together and create equity for all.

I think one of the most satisfying things we’ve achieved through the Sydney Women’s Fund is to see great models of place-based work. Communities know what they need, they know what the answers are and through the Fund we’ve been able to connect with the resources to resolve that.

We had this incredible woman one day that came to us and said, ‘look at this form’. It was a blank school form and it was hard to know when she was showing us until she said, ‘I can fill in my occupation. I’m the first person in three generations to be able to put a job on this school form. I’m putting this on the fridge to show my kids.’ And at the end of the day that is what we’re all about. What a wonderful thing to be part of someone’s journey, to see their confidence come up, the opportunities fall open before them because they’ve taken that one brave step.”

 

Georgina Byron AM is the Chair of Sydney Women’s Fund and CEO of The Snow Foundation. She is passionate about philanthropy and creating more caring and inclusive communities.

“My most satisfying achievement being involved with the Sydney Women’s Fund for 12 years is seeing it growing to a higher profile and a more impactful Fund that really sets the evidence base for the inequities of women in Sydney. And also how it connects donors to women that really need it.

Women are the centre of families, the centre of communities. They do a lot of unpaid work – the lion’s share of unpaid work. The jobs we lean into are lower paid, and I just feel this fierce determination that it is not right and we need to change it.

I’d love to see women more valued in their paid work. I would love to see more women in positions of leadership. I would also love to see more leadership of women. Just 6 percent of CEOs are women in the ASX 300, and around 10% are chaired by a women – how would that change if women were at 50 percent? What would the outlook be of those corporations in terms of sustainability, thinking about our future and environment?

Practically, on the ground, I’m also proud of contributing to the set up credit loans in the Canberra community for women wanting to leave abusive relationships. It’s a small interest-free loan that enables them to leave that relationship and have the confidence that they have money to pay their everyday living costs.

There is a better understanding and a greater movement for giving via a gender lens. And so rather than just saying let’s give to homelessness, let’s give to scholarships, refreshingly more are saying ‘ok I want to give to homelessness and scholarships but how many women and girls are on the receiving end of that?’ It’s been 12 years at the Sydney Women’s Fund and 5 years as Chair but I still feel that burning desire to do more so women feel equal, valued and safe.

To donate to the Sydney Women’s Fund, please visit the website www.sydneywomensfund.org.au/donate-swf

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