Women in Super hosted our Annual General Meeting and 25th Anniversary Celebration a couple of weeks ago, at Foys Arcade in Melbourne. As well as having Debby Blakey, CEO of HESTA, speak about their long-standing support of WIS, we were also honoured to have Helen Hewett join us, one of the original four founding members of Women in Super.
She told the story of how it all began:
Helen was at the 1993 CMSF Conference with Mavis, where there was only a handful of other women delegates. At the dinner, most women sat on one table. They were mostly dressed in black or dark colours and they blended into the crowd of dark-suited males. That night, two things were decided: 1. that they would never again wear dark colours to such a function, and 2. that they would have breakfast together the following morning. They arranged for some of the breakfast buffet to be served in another room, and this really became the first women’s breakfast.
Before they left the breakfast, they agreed that the women from Melbourne would meet at a small French Cafe at Southbank for breakfast in May (1993). There were 4 who attended: Mavis Robertson, Sherridan Lee, Shirley Clarke and Helen Hewett. Before they left, they agreed that they would meet again the following month, and each woman would bring at least one other female colleague who worked in the super sector. They called themselves Women in Super, and the four original women were referred to as the founding members. It was important to the group to encourage young women to be involved, so breakfast was deemed the most approriate meeting time, because it needed to be cheap, as most employers would not pay, so the organisation was entirely self-funded.
These monthly breakfasts continued with each attendee bringing at least one other woman with her the following month. at the same French cafe for a year or so, until the group became so large they had to find a bigger place, better equipped for a speaker, and breakfast was replaced by lunch. WIS developed state-based activities outside of Melbourne, following a national meeting which was held around 1997.
It was incredibly special to hear Helen tell this story in this, our 25th year of being the voice of women in super, as we collectively took a moment to reflect not only on how much work there is to be done, but also how far we've come since four women decided to have breakfast together.
To see some photos from this event (and others) please visit our Photo Gallery.