Women (being supported) in the Workplace

Ruth Cromer using the new website, “Women in the Workplace” 

This story – like so many – starts in the day of a typical support worker – overworked, putting out spot fires, rationing the time she was spending with clients and desperately attempting to help others similarly burdened and unable to carve out any time to explain issues and answer questions of people who were moving into the workforce. Tara Shekede had spent 15 years working in disability services as a worker and manager. She realised the problem wasn’t that she couldn’t teach clients the vital skills they needed to survive in the broader community . . . it was that she lacked the time, opportunity, and space to spend the time with the people she was working for. “There are great resources out there,” she says now, “but it takes 20 clicks and an hour’s research to get them. I thought there had to be a better way to help people find work.”

Now there is.

Shekede decided she needed to create one herself to help people with, particularly, intellectual disabilities help themselves. Today, with the assistance of a grant from the Prime Minister & Cabinet, she’s creating a key she hopes will unlock the workplace to people who were previously unable to properly access the opportunities that come with work; doors that are slammed shut to so many people who might lack the knowledge of how to behave in an interview or, later, in the work environment itself.

That’s why today Shekede’s launching meplusmore, a website dedicated to assisting women in the workplace which became, of course, the obvious name for the program.

It’s an accessible program designed for women with disability – although you don’t need to be disabled to find it helpful. It’s aimed at ensuring they understand not just their rights in the workplace, but how to ‘fit in’ in these environments.

The website has 12 easy modules, incorporating video and challenges leading participants through their learning process. Points are awarded as learning objectives are achieved and, as Shekede says, “Who doesn’t like a star?”. There will be a private Facebook group which will provide a safe place for those who have further questions that they may be reluctant to share publically, all working together to create a positive environment for people seeking to enter the workforce.

It’s a monthly program that can be started at any time and includes topics such as best practice in getting a job and how they should be treated in the workplace to things such as consent. sexual harrassment and navigating challenges. People who have completed this course should be equipped to avoid making mistakes that may accidentally cause danger in the workplace, especially for women with an intellectual disability who may not have been taught these important lessons. The program will provide clearly differentiated streams of learning surrounding how to get a job, safety, consent, harassment, performance, and routine to help women with intellectual disabilities thrive within the workplace.

“It comes at a time where soaring numbers of women have bravely put their hand up to speak of their experiences, and with the programme targeted to improve outcomes, I believe this will have great results for the women in our communities,” Shekede says.

It’s not the first time Shekede’s worked to slip the right people into jobs they’ve been properly trained for. A graduate of the Masters Program in Public Health at NSW University, her previous job was with Jewish Care where she found “customised employment” for her clients. Now, however, Shekede is thrilled to be creating a new site that she believe will transform lives.

“Work is such a vital part of our lives. Why should people with disabilties be prevented from having the best chance at accessing it?”

 

Nic Stuart

Nicholas Stuart is an author (Kevin Rudd, an unauthorised political biography; What Goes Up, behind the 2007 election; Kevin Rudd, 2007 - 2011) and columnist with the Canberra Times. He was the ABC's Indochina Correspondent when he suffered a significant head injury in a car crash in Bangkok.

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