White Women Have A Glass Ceiling To Break, Women Of Colour Have A Cement One

First Nations women on how International Women's Day can be more inclusive.

By Emily J. Brooks


First Nations women on how International Women's Day can be more inclusive.

By Emily J. Brooks

Feminist activist and writer Gloria Steinem once said that “the story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” 

And on Thursday night, four First Nations women sat on a Future Women x Witchery panel to discuss how fourth wave feminism can be more inclusive, as they were recognised for their own achievements.

Co-founder of Indigenous empowerment movement Tiddas 4 Tiddas, Marlee Silva, said International Women’s Day has been led predominantly by white feminism when it could be lifting up women of colour as well. 

“White women have a glass ceiling they’re trying to break, and women of colour have a cement one,” Silva said, echoing a commonly referenced phrase. 

We have to be intersectional with our feminism and, in turn, intersectional with our International Women’s Day.”


(L-R) Today reporter Brooke Boney hosted a panel discussion with Marlee Silva, Shannan Dodson, Leilani Bin-Juda, and Amy Thunig.

Silva was joined by communications specialist and advisor, Shannan Dodson, the first female CEO of the Torres Strait Regional Authority, Leilani Bin-Juda, and academic, writer, and host of the podcast Blacademia, Amy Thunig.

Thunig said that women have had it harder than men, but white women in Australia were historically given the honorary position of men, when it came to working with Indigenous women who were indentured servants. When we discuss equity and equality, from the perspective of indigenous women, white women are comparable to men “in terms of access and power and all of these things.”

“For an indigenous woman to succeed, well, we’re on stolen lands, we’ve got no generational wealth, many of us are the first in our families to finish high school, not because our families didn’t want education, but because we weren’t allowed any, because education spaces were literally utilised to steal our children, and then when they stole our children, they taught them to be servants,” Thunig said.

“That’s what education was for our immediate ancestors. And so for indigenous women to succeed… we actually have to work that much harder because we have generations of difference in terms of that work that’s been done.”


The panel discussed how fourth wave feminism can be more inclusive.

The academic and writer explained that indigenous women – and indigenous people generally – are not asking non-indigenous people to take responsibility for the stolen land and repeated massacres.

“We’re asking you to help us dismantle the systems that were built off of it, and that actively oppress us and our people today,” Thunig said. “So we’re asking you to be our accomplices in dismantling.”

Today’s entertainment reporter and proud Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman Brooke Boney, who hosted the evening, asked the crowd to check their own privilege this International Women’s Day and consider how we can better include women who don’t share our own direct experiences. 


(L-R) Future Women founder Helen McCabe with Brooke Boney and Witchery Representatives, Jennifer Petropoulos and Sara Veneris.

I often think about the people who are more privileged than me, but more often than that, I try to think about the women whose lives are a lot harder than mine,” Boney said. “So women in communities, women who are suffering in violent relationships, women who have disabilities, women who weren’t born as women, and quite often the statistics around their lives… they’re much worse for them.”

Each of the women sitting on the panel were nominated by notable First Nations women, as part of Future Women x Witchery’s campaign to recognise the work of Indigenous women. You can read more about their nominations and see the coinciding photo shoot here.

“It’s a pretty isolating thing to be an indigenous woman walking around a big city, and thinking that nobody’s got your back,” Boney said. “When you see a room full of people like this, it’s a pretty affirming thing.”


Location: Crown Residences at One Barangaroo Display Suite