WEHI celebrates International Women's Day

WEHI celebrates International Women's Day

9 March 2021

Dr Kudzai Kanhutu delivered WEHI's 2021 International
Women’s Day address.

WEHI was honoured to welcome infectious diseases specialist and Deputy Chief Medical Information Officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Dr Kudzai Kanhutu to deliver our 2021 International Women’s Day address.

As well as her recognition for her clinical expertise throughout the past 15 years, in 2019 Dr Kanhutu was identified as a Superstar of STEM and was last year named in the Top 10 Australian Chief Information Officer list.

Addressing WEHI’s staff and students via online streaming, Dr Kanhutu explored how her experiences as a clinician, researcher and patient shed light on broader issues of gender inequality and cultural discrimination in healthcare.

Dr Kanhutu canvassed issues around systemic discrimination, noting that in Australia the COVID-19 pandemic had disproportionaly impacted those from lower socio-economic migrant and refugee communities.

Dr Kanhutu also offered some pointed words on the business case for diversity and inclusion in workplaces.

“Decisions about diversity and inclusion should not be based on improving productivity. These decisions should be based on fairness and equality,” she said. “That is the rationale that will resonate most with people.”

Inclusion across medical research, delivery and outcomes

WEHI director Professor Doug Hilton AO – who is also a member of the Champion of Change Coalition – said WEHI was committed to addressing the barriers for women, particularly those from diverse cultural backgrounds.

“As well as a day to recognise and celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements, International Women’s Day is a call to action to accelerate gender equality. This can only be achieved through collective action and shared ownership by individuals and organisations,” he said.

“We are committed to strengthening and extending our gender equality work to better include and address the experiences of women from minority cultural backgrounds. We are conscious of working to ensure our clinical trials and consumer programs are more representative of the Australian community, and exploring how our research can better address health inequities.”

Professor Hilton said the 2021 International Women’s Day UN Women theme of ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’ celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is important for us to celebrate the acts of courage and determination by women locally and around the globe who have contributed their skills and knowledge towards the recovery efforts in response to COVID-19.

“I want to specifically acknowledge the WEHI women who have demonstrated unwavering leadership and made remarkable contributions during the pandemic across research, clinical work and our workplace response to COVID-19.

“There are many extraordinary women to celebrate here at WEHI who have made exceptional contributions, not only to our science and professional services work, but also in promoting gender equality both within WEHI and in the broader community.”

A long road ahead

Professor Hilton acknowledged there were still many changes needed to improve gender equality.

“While I am proud of WEHI’s long-standing commitment and investment in gender equality and the progress we have made, I am sobered by how much more work there is to do, here at WEHI, across the medical research sector, in universities and throughout the Australian community,” he said.

“Our blueprint for future work is our four-year Gender Action Plan (GAP). An important focus of our GAP in 2021 is to undertake a project to understand and address the unique barriers faced by women from minority cultural backgrounds. We want to do everything we can to support these women and the next generation to succeed.”

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