When Chiou See Anderson was asked to take on the role of the Vice-President of the National Council of Women of Queensland 10 years ago, she naively accepted the role without really appreciating what the role demands. She served two years until her business, developing Elements @ Springwood retirement community, began to dictate her priorities.
“I was so busy with getting my village off the ground whilst assisting my Alma Mater in Singapore establish a Canossian retirement home, that I didn’t feel I had the ability to adequately fulfil my responsibilities, let along be the next President in two years’ time,” Chiou See said. “In hindsight, I also don’t think I was quite ready to honour the history and heritage that the NCWQ was and is today.”
Today with Elements @ Springwood fully complete with 123 villas and home to 190 seniors, Chiou See has more time on her hands to dedicate to defining and advocating for, the opportunities for women present and emerging. She accepted the position as President of the National Council of Women of Queensland in 2019 and on November 29 this year, she will take on the additional role of President of the National Council of Women of Australia.
After an absence of seven years from the Council, Chiou See spent some time reacquainting herself with the NCWQ after her NCWQ Secretary, Sandy Smith, gave her a book titled “Respectable Radicals” which documented the history of the National Council of Women of Australia from 1896 to 2006. “I wanted to understand how and why the National Council of Women came into being, who we were and more importantly, I wanted to map a path forward for a different way to move with current times,” she said.
“We are an advocacy group and affiliate organisations are our members. Our remit is to advocate and lobby for change on behalf of women. I wanted to use my business acumen and connections to lobby for Queensland women to benefit them and their families.”
There have been numerous changes to-date. Front and centre to her leadership vision was the need to transform the Council to encourage working women to contribute social capital on a platform that enabled and empowered them. “We have transitioned into a society where women receiving tertiary education is now the norm. This in turn means higher workplace participation which leads to time-poor women balancing careers and families,” she said.
Over the past 12 months, Chiou See systematically transformed NCWQ into a new age organisation that embraced cloud-based accounting, storage systems and meeting platforms. Other committee members jumped in with social media expertise and actively use LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook to promote the council and engage with members. Memberships have increased as her vision gains traction with a younger cohort who enjoy the networking and empowerment opportunities the NCWQ provides. Chiou See has broadened the network of organisations they deal with to tap into important issues for women.
One of those issues Chiou See has been fighting for, is to achieve state government funding for a program to educate young girls and boys about endometriosis and pelvic pain. In May 2021, the Federal Government committed $5million over four years to match state government funding for the Periods, Pain and Endometriosis Program (PPEP – Talk).
Chiou See said the program could be life changing and something she was determined to see rolled out in Queensland schools. The fact that NCWSA and NCWWA have been successful in lobbying their state governments to co-funding the PPEP-Talk programs has further motivated her to ensure that Queensland is not left behind. Last month, Chiou See helped pave the way for the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia to hold promising negotiations with the Queensland Office of Women, Queensland Departments of Health and Education to introduce PPEP into Queensland Schools in 2022.
Once Chiou See takes on the National presidency, she wants to focus on helping find opportunities for women to progress in their careers, to have choices and to find that sweet spot – a healthy balance between respect, achievement and mental wellbeing. “I think for too long we have been talking about equal opportunities for women but in the context of taking opportunities away from men,” she said.
“I believe we should be focused on creating new opportunities for women, not worrying about what men are doing, that is what will equal the playing field.” Chiou See wants to advocate for women and their families which includes their partners and children. She said looking at women and their issues in isolation was not the solution.
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