For everyone Women’s Focus: Why are we still defending women-only spaces?

  • By Kerry Green
  • This article was published more than 8 months ago.
  • 29 Jul 2023
Wil Stracke speaks at the annual WorkSafe conference.

As the 2023 AEU Women’s Conference approaches on 19 August, we are hearing the annual cry of “what about men?” reverberating throughout some education workplaces.

Register for the 2023 AEU Women’s Conference here.

There’s nothing more infuriating than having to counter this argument year after year. But how can we turn this into an opportunity to promote greater allyship and solidarity?

I find the LEAP framework helps me stay calm and find the right words in this challenging situation. Let’s take the oft-made comments: “Why do we need a Women’s Officer in our workplace?” or “Why do we need a women’s conference?” The  LEAP approach goes like this:

L = Listen to the comment.

E = Explore: Find out what’s really behind the comment and make sure you fully understand it. If the arguments are: “This workplace is already full of women who get paid the same as men” or “Men need to be able to get together, too”, some follow-up questions might help dig out what’s behind them. For example, ask: “What is it about women-only spaces that makes you feel uncomfortable?”

A = Acknowledge: This can be the hardest step! Acknowledge their position, usually through a statement such as: “OK. So, let’s talk about how we can work together so that everyone can benefit.”

P = Propose a way forward: Try to shift their thinking. Explain why women-only spaces are needed and why we need allies in order to make progress. For example:

Women remain disadvantaged in the workplace and more broadly for a range of reasons, even in female-dominated professions. They are also statistically far more likely to experience domestic violence or sexual abuse.

When women have a forum for sharing their experiences with other women it helps them express themselves and feel heard. As women feel empowered, they develop the confidence to be part of the solution for themselves and other women and girls.

We need AEU men to move from passive allies to active advocates willing to actively dismantle the unfair systems and biases that prevent gender equality. Would you like to be part of that?

Remember to take a deep breath, turn statements into questions, and avoid arguing.

Truthfully, I still find this difficult. But, if I practice often and prepare for every meeting in which this is likely to come up, it becomes easier and easier.

Strong Women, Strong Voices is this year’s AEU Women’s Conference theme. Join us for a day of solidarity with the sisterhood from all sectors.


Strong Women, Strong Voices is this year’s AEU Women’s Conference theme. Join us on Saturday 19 August at the Victorian branch office for a day of solidarity with the sisterhood from all sectors. We’ll be focusing on staying healthy at work with an exciting keynote and panel discussions.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Wil Stracke, Assistant Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, feminist and TikTok influencer.

We will look at some effective responses to the challenging questions mentioned above, based on the LEAP strategy, and tried and tested by mighty AEU women. I encourage you to write them down, keep them pinned up somewhere accessible, and consciously prepare to use them as needed. 

Want more information and resources about women-only spaces and the role of allies? Simply email or contact me on 0425 291 339 to chat further.

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