Fighting hidden sexism: findings from Tea Talks for international students

Miss Belle W.X. Lim1

1Council Of International Students Australia, Melbourne, Australia, 2Monash University, Parkville, Australia, 3Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Parkville, Australia

Waves of women’s rights movement, magnified by the global communication platform, has led to the emergence of multiple campaigns such as #MeToo and a heightened awareness across industries, social and family lives. Many international students in Australia are caught at the intersection between two different cultures at varying pace towards equality. The Tea Talk project presented by CISA and supported by Study Melbourne aims to clarify the experience and challenges female students face during this transition and improve their knowledge around gender equity. Through focus group sessions on topics from women’s leadership to gender violence, we explored the issue-at-hand, examined the facts and gathered ideas from participants (~30 per session), consisting of ~70% female international students and ~30% industry representatives. The discussions were noted for later analysis; surveys were collected from participants. Results indicated that participants are highly satisfied with the mode of delivery. In general, they found the topics stimulating, the presentations informative and the discussions enlightening. We found that international students generally hold entrenched ideas about gender roles. They are less likely to be aware of the negative effect of seemingly positive stereotypes, e.g. nurturing females. Students are also susceptible to victim-blaming culture in gender violence. We conclude there is a need for education and support to increase the awareness of gender equity among international students. They are also vulnerable during the transition to Australian culture. However, the participants are self-selected; this likely causes sample bias and therefore the findings cannot be generalized to the whole demographic. In this presentation I will be discussing the findings and mode of delivery.


Belle serves as the National Women’s Officer at the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) on the 2018/19 executive committee. She represents female international students studying in the tertiary sector in conferences, roundtable discussions, expert advisory groups and in the media. With a vision to empower female international students and advance gender equity in the space of international education, Belle has designed and delivered several initiatives including CISA Tea Talk and the upcoming Future Female conference. Her current projects also include ChangemakHER – a network of emerging female leaders that lead with a social cause.  Belle has obtained her degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences and honours as the recipient of Faculty Gold Medal and International Merit Scholarship at Monash University in 2017. She is currently working on her PhD in cancer research, focusing on the genetic predisposition of breast cancer

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