ACT CDS celebrates International Women’s Day 2023

It’s International Women’s Day, and we are featuring some of the incredible women from scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator Return-It, who help make the ACT Container Deposit Scheme the resounding success that it is.

Read on to find out who has inspired them, what advice they would give to their younger self, and the changes they have seen that are breaking down some of the gender inequity barriers.

Tracy McLeod Howe, Exchange for Change Chairperson 

I always say, if you want to achieve something, then you must embrace the fear. When my kids say, “I want to do this”, or “I wish I could do that”, I say, “Well, just do it, even if you’re scared.” Everyone is scared when they take a chance on something. Fear is normal, and you just need to run towards it! 

Over the years, I’ve noticed a change in leadership in corporate, government and non-profits; there are more and more women breaking through barriers. In the past 10 years especially, I’ve seen more and more women in the room—and more women in the room being taken seriously.  

I’ve also seen technology enable a real democratic capacity for anyone to become involved. Social media means someone can get their message heard, regardless of background, gender or culture. It has become a way for young people to find a platform and be heard —someone like Greta Thunberg is now speaking at the United Nations.

Corinna Schubert, Administrative and Quality Assurance Manager, Return-It 

I’ve been privileged to grow up around some wonderfully strong women. Through them, I have seen more women working in traditionally male-dominated workplaces, such as science or engineering. However, I have still noticed an inequality between women and men, especially in management positions. We’re moving in the right direction, we’re just not quite there yet! 

The ability to collaborate remotely has greatly changed my career in sustainability. It has allowed me to connect with people from all over the country, sharing their knowledge and experience. It has also meant that I’ve been able to meet many more women in similar careers. I think the ability to share ideas with a broad community is integral to continued efforts to increase sustainability, so I feel quite lucky to have this option. 

I really admire Greta Thunberg and Jackie French. They are very different, but both are passionate about the environment and sustainability.  

Marta Scuccuglia, Community Engagement Manager, Exchange for Change 

My mother, Maria Concetta, is my personal and professional role model. She is the youngest and most rebellious of seven kids. She worked for over 45 years in the insurance sector, which remains a male-dominated industry in Italy. My mother loved her job – she was competent and brave. She had a high sense of responsibility and stood up for herself regardless of political and gender-based biases.  

In Italy, gender-based inequality is, in a sly way, embedded in society and culture. Women who fight the status quo, like my mother, are an exception. As a single woman arriving in Australia, I was moved by so many examples of women who worked to overcome gender-based inequality. From scientists to policymakers, from entrepreneurs to artists, women in Australia continue to inspire me through their work. I am glad to see that there is a steady change of leadership in the waste and recycling sector, which the industry can benefit from. 

Komal Singh, General Manager Operations, Return-it 

The woman who inspires me the most is my mum. She was taken out of education at a young age to do housework and married at just 17. When we moved to the UK from India, she was 40 and she learnt English within two years by attending evening classes. My mum is the smartest and kindest person I know, and she never had the chance to achieve her potential. She always taught me to be independent, have a career and never be afraid to go for what I believe in.  

In my lifetime I have observed growing awareness around gender inequality, particularly in relation to women in leadership roles and the pay gap. I participated in a Women in Leadership training program—the most incredible thing was sitting in a room with all the other women, hearing everyone’s perspective and cheering each other on to do more. 

I would advise my younger self to never settle—you can find a job that you love and that creates a broader impact at the same time. I am passionate about sustainability, and I am grateful that my work allows me to make a positive contribution not just to the environment, but local communities and partners. 

Nikita Nagpal, Acting Commercial Manager, Exchange for Change 

Traditional gender roles are no longer valid, and men are now dealing with new expectations. Fortunately, many men find it completely normal to take parental leave, do household chores and be the primary caregiver. I have been fortunate to work for a company like Exchange for Change which has a team of strong women in leadership. The CEO of Exchange for Change, Danielle Smalley, has inspired me. She has very strong ideals and is so approachable.  

Sustainability is a broad, relatively new field—and it is expanding. I encourage every young individual to be curious and ask questions about what role they can play. I also encourage them to seek experienced insights early and often—you don’t have to learn all the lessons alone. I have been fortunate to be part of an organisation where I have found many fantastic mentors. 

The ACT CDS is a partnership between the ACT Government, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator Return-It.