Behind the scenes: Women's Leadership Training

Women make up over 70 percent of our union. We talk with new Women’s Network Committee member Maree Nilson on her recent leadership training and joining the committee.

Maree Nilsen

Maree Nilsen

How long have you been a member of the PSA?
I’ve been a member for 13 years, that’s when I started with the Ministry of Justice. Basically when I became employed in the public service I joined the PSA. I have been a union member that entire time.

What prompted you to join the Women’s Network, and subsequently the committee?
I first attended the National Biennial conference last year. I was surprised by how much was being done by the Women’s Network and the talented women who were involved. I thought “I want to be a part of this”, so I put my name forward for the committee.

Has joining the Women’s Network committee had an effect on your working life? If so, what’s changed?
Absolutely. It has shifted my perception on my own work and career. I want to be encouraging other women in both personal and professional development. 
I had passion about women’s rights and equal pay before, but it’s been further installed by the support of the other outstanding women on the committee. I just get blown away when I go to meetings, the work they’re doing is an inspiration.
I’m better educated on union issues than I was before. Often when I talk to people they say, “If I had a problem I’d go to an employment lawyer”. But a union isn’t just about when you have a problem – they provide good working conditions. The good things we have are the result of the hard work of unions. 
I’ve been guilty of this thinking too – where you just pay your union subs and don’t think too much about what being part of a union means so it’s been fantastic to learn more.

The Women’s Network conducts leadership training around the country. You’ve taken this course, how has it benefited you and your work?
It was really good to hear other people’s stories and the challenges they had around professional development. We looked at the barriers that stopped women from progressing or applying for jobs and what we could do about it. I think everyone went away going “I can do this”.
It’s been an absolute benefit for me. I’m now thinking about what I can improve on professionally. I’ve spoken to my manager and am looking at changing things in my work environment and working on new projects. This was the inspiration from the course.

What do you hope the Women’s Network will achieve for women members this year?
Keeping equal pay topical is key because it just flows on to everything else. If you’ve got the income you deserve then it makes such a difference in your life.
The attitude is “We can help you, we will help you, it will be resolved”. We do have challenges like equal pay, but we’re there together in the collective movement, and we can make a difference.
I look at my friends’ children and I think, “We’re going to make a difference for those young women when they come into their working lives”. And we can make a difference. I’m determined to be a part of that.

Interview by Jem Yoshioka