International Women’s Day – Interview with one of our Support Workers

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Purple background.

A young female support worker raises her left hand in the pose for the I Choose To Challenge theme of International Women's Day 2021.

The text next to the image says "#ChooseToChallenge means... challenging the limits people assume  I have as a woman. From the word challenge comes change."

The International Women's Day logo is in the bottom left.

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, we spoke with women from across our organisation about their role, how being a woman has affected their career, and advice for other women looking to enter a similar role.

Effie Akinyi, Support Worker, Supported Living

You are a Support Worker at Nexus. Is this role what you always wanted to do? How did it change?

When I started working as a support worker, I was doing it for survival and to meet my visa requirements. I was happy to continue working as a casual support worker then, once I met my requirements, go and do something else.

As months went by, I realised I’ve got transferrable skills that I can use to “fill in the gap” at Nexus – both for my professional development and for the organisation. It was a battle for me, and sometimes still is, between wanting to advance in this industry to become a resourceful and knowledgeable professional, or look for a job related to my University qualifications.

I sought advice from my family and a couple of my work colleagues. One of them said, “Effie, you are always great at whatever you decide to do. Whether it’s small or big, you always give it your all. It doesn’t hurt to give it a try and if it fails, at least you tried.”

I expressed interest in taking on additional duties to my direct supervisor, and he started informally training me. The head office then asked my supervisor to give me formal training. Despite the challenges of the role, I’m happy I took the advice and challenged myself . I was recently put in an Acting Team Leader role and would like to continue advancing and becoming the best at what I do.

Do you think there’s a stereotype associated with women in Support Worker roles?

Yes, I think there’s a stereotype that it is a woman’s job or that women would be better at it. As a support worker, you are required to be empathetic, compassionate, passionate, nurturing and caring. You are expected to do chores like cleaning and cooking. These are generally characteristics associated with women.

What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman looking to take on a similar role to yours?

I’d advise them to make sure that they have the right skills, qualifications, desire and motivation required to do the job. If you do something that you are passionate about, you will get greater job satisfaction and perform at higher standards.

I would like to teach women out there that they can be leaders. As a woman from a diverse culture, I have learnt to integrate both my culture and the Australian culture and find a balance. I have faced challenges of social and industry norms throughout my career. I want to be a role model to women and let them know that it is possible to be who they want to be. Hopefully we will see women continue to aim for even higher roles.

What does the 2021 International Women’s Day slogan #ChooseToChallenge mean for you in your work life?

To me, #ChooseToChallenge means doing things beyond my capacity/limit and challenging the limits people assume I have as a woman. As Kenyan marathon runner Kipchoge Keino said, “No human is limited”.

From the word challenge, comes change.

Which women have influenced you the most in your life?

My mum has played a big role in my life. She taught me to be ambitious, hardworking, humble, and passionate about everything I do (whether big or small).

I also admire Michelle Obama – I love her confidence, assertiveness and ambition. I love that she teaches young girls that they can be whatever they want to be if they put their mind to it. She teaches them to love themselves and appreciate themselves and be proud of what they have achieved.