Year 12 St Catherine’s School student Lan-Tian Yen-West says too many women have been silenced.

For over 125 years, St Catherine’s School has prepared its young women for life through education and encouraging them to be bold and contribute. The learning environment of this all-girls’ school is specifically tailored to girls’ needs and interests, allowing them to freely develop their unique capabilities and leadership skills.

The school believes in breaking down inequities surrounding leadership opportunities for women in society, and it was in this spirit that principal Michelle Carroll encouraged year 12 student Lan-Tian Yen-West to apply for the 2021 inaugural Menzies Foundation Emerging Leaders Fellowship program.

Lan-Tian was one of only 11 who were selected to take part in the program, Australia-wide. “Considering the many strong and interesting applications, I am proud and humbled to have been selected,” Lan-Tian says. “I am also thrilled to be associated with such an important national figure: Robert Menzies.

‘‘The program will allow me to put into action the skills I have learnt at St Catherine’s as the school’s Debating and Public Speaking captain and Swimming captain.

“Mrs Carroll is an excellent role model who not only leads our school academically, but who also encourages a sentiment of independence and strength within every student, which helps us to become well-rounded individuals.”

The Emerging Leaders initiative aims to understand young people’s responses to various ethical challenges and see how they would raise peer awareness of these issues and play a role in contributing to the greater good within society.

Lan-Tian’s answer to a question asked of applicants – What does inequity mean to you? – coalesces with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, #BreakTheBias, which offers the provocation to ‘‘Imagine a gender equal world … a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination …’’

“Inequity is when women like me are silenced,” says Lan-Tian, who has Chinese-Australian heritage. “In Australian history, far too many women have been silenced, especially women who come from minority backgrounds.”

Lan-Tian aims to address this inequity nationally and internationally and feels a sense of responsibility for others of her generation, especially for those who haven’t been afforded similar opportunities.

For my leadership project, I will be forming a global coalition of young female leaders who are dedicated to creating a better tomorrow,” she says. “My female role model is [American politician and activist] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is known for boldly and passionately addressing inequity, as shown through the ‘‘Tax the Rich’’ dress she wore to the 2021 Met Gala. I intend to adopt this passion … in executing my project.

“As an Asian-Australian woman who has been brought up between cultures and having just returned from an exchange in the South of France, I am in an ideal position to form global connections with other female leaders so we can all work on dismantling a system that continues to force women and other minority groups to be ‘silenced’.”

Lan-Tian’s advice for those looking to build their leadership capabilities is to: “Not be scared to put yourself forward; share your unique perspective on the world; and explore the theme of ‘servant leadership’.”

While the Menzies Foundation Emerging Leadership initiative aims to support an Australian and global ‘‘community of young people to engage with ethical challenges and build leadership capability’’, Lan-Tian says that by participating in the program she hopes to gain “a sense of satisfaction from having made an enduring and tangible contribution to the world in addressing inequity.”

The Age, Women In Leadership, International Women’s Day- Tuesday March 8, 2022