Staring down stereotypes – we all need to #BreakTheBias

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By Fiona Bridger, Research and Writer, Achieve Australia

This year the theme of International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. This theme is very important for women because lots of women get affected by bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. At one point in a woman’s life, they will face stereotypes, and discrimination in workplaces, communities, schools, colleges, universities, and more.  

Women just want the world to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive. 

International Women’s Day is an incredible way to share stories from amazing women from around the world who have faced all types of challenges and adversity. This year’s theme, #BreakTheBias, means to me personally that women with disabilities can live without fear of judgment of people saying something or looking at them weirdly.  

I have been discriminated against many times when seeking employment, especially in the arts field because of my disability. One time, I had an interview at an art gallery when I told them that I had a disability they immediately told me that I was not suitable for the job. I asked them why, and they responded by saying that my wheelchair wouldn’t fit into the art space. I was disappointed at the company as I would have been great in this role and a dedicated employee. Initially, they looked at my credentials and saw that I was fully qualified for this role, however, they couldn’t look past my disability. They missed out on hiring a great employee.  

My hope is that future generations of women with disabilities do not face the same discrimination that I have. And that employers learn to see past people’s disabilities and see them for who they are. I have been stereotyped by others as unequal because of my communication aid and people’s incompetence to understand my speech. There are lots of myths about people with disabilities, such as we can’t have sex, relationships or live by ourselves, or that we are not into contemporary fashion, or enjoying cocktails. These myths are very wrong because people with disabilities can do basically everything that other people do.    

Currently, however, I am working for Achieve Australia, and I love it! They don’t discriminate or stereotype my disability, instead, they highlight it. Working for a company that doesn’t stereotype or discriminate against my disability greatly improves my self-esteem and self-confidence.   

My hopes are that in the next generation, we look past a person’s disability. This will allow us to see who they really are and enable them to succeed. Women are inherently very strong, especially women who have a disability, they have to overcome challenges on a daily basis. For the next generation of people with disabilities I would like to send you a message that you have got the power to do everything in your hands and you have got the choice and control over your life without people telling you what to do.