Fiona McIntosh grew up in the Queanbeyan/Canberra area. She has worked in the ACT Government for nine years in ACTEW, ACT Housing and the ACT Department of Education and Community Services. She has worked part time for three years as an adult educator in office computing with the Brain Gym. She completed a Bachelor of Arts from Canberra University (2000) with majors in business, management and communication.
Fiona currently works as a Senior Policy Officer with Youth and Community Services, which is the main purchasing area of community services in the ACT. She is currently on secondment with the ACT Council of Social Services to work on a needs analysis of homelessness in the ACT.
Interview with Fiona McIntosh
Do you think that there is an invisible barrier preventing women from reaching the highest level in your profession regardless of their accomplishments and merits?
Yes. For me, the highest level of achievement is to make a valuable contribution to the community, regardless of position or pay level. I believe the measure of a successful community is how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members.
If yes, why do you think this exists in your profession?
While departments have increased accessibility and industrial democracy in the workforce, I believe many still tend to overemphasise people's limitations and miss opportunities to engage others in a meaningful way. I have observed times when limitations are perceived about women and men who:
Don’t have a degree
Return to the workforce after a period of child rearing
Combine part time work and parenting
Have a disability or mental health issue
Speak with an accent other than well pronounced English (including diverse cultural accents and blue collar accents)
Is this barrier in your profession penetrable? How can the barrier be dismantled in your profession?
Yes. I believe if you put your heart and soul into your work, the rest will come. This needs a stockpile of patience and tenacity (which we all run out of from time to time). We can provide meaningful work opportunities by talking frankly about real problems, seeking and REALLY listening to suggestions from people (especially those affected most) and finding creative solutions together.
Do you consider yourself to have broken through the Glass ceiling in your profession? If yes, how have you done this?
No. While I, and those I work with, value my work, I don’t believe anyone breaks through the glass ceiling permanently. I believe each problem has a glass ceiling. I have been fortunate to work with and learn from people who care for vulnerable people in the community. I am inspired by their humility, compassion and belief in others.
In general, what do you see as the underlying cause that must be addressed to shatter the glass ceiling in corporate and public Australia?
I believe the glass ceiling exists in response to increasing internal and external pressures for organisations and individuals to be the best - not mediocre or weak. I believe many organisational cultures discourage groups and individuals to look for and admit mistakes and learn from them (ie be human). I believe solutions lie in a commitment to humility and creativity.