Tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day, which features the theme, #BalanceforBetter. Legalwise News Editor Caroline Tang asked leading Perth barrister GiGi Visscher to reflect on what the day meant to her.
GiGi Visscher will celebrate the day belatedly – on the weekend – with fellow barrister Maria Saraceni at a function which has become something of an IWD tradition amongst a network of professional women. At least a couple of hundred people attend Saraceni’s annual celebration.
“IWD is about celebrating women; lest we forget how far we have come. Maria’s function is a good way of recognising the day and also it’s a way of raising money for women’s charities. I usually go out of my way to ensure I can make it,” Visscher said.
“These days, we tend to forget how far women have come. I think, if one watches television shows like Mad Men, it can really remind us, especially younger women. I can certainly remember what it was like when I first started; there were hardly any women in the legal profession.
“In addition to being a barrister, I recently became a fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. Accounting was also a very male, chauvinistic profession when I first started; there were not very many women in that area back then.”
Visscher believes there is still much to be achieved for gender equality in Australia. “We still have a long way to go, but compared to what our mothers had to struggle with … it’s so incredibly important,” she said.
“And remember, it’s also International Women’s Day; there are many countries where women don’t have equality, which is just a tragedy. It’s not really a celebration in those countries: it’s an acknowledgement of how much work needs to get done.”
Visscher said she was fortunate to have grown up in a family where traditional male/female roles were less important; she was taught that she did have a choice. “My mother was instrumental in setting up the women’s liberation movement in WA: Anka Visscher with her girlfriend Elke Greig – Elke even more so, than my mother,” she said.
“Trust me, it did, absolutely rub off on me when I was growing up. The women’s liberation movement was always a very strong part of my upbringing. I was raised, from a very young age, to believe in equality of women and that’s probably why, when I was choosing my career, I did not really have any regard to what were male or female roles, because that’s just the way I was raised.”