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Founder's Weekly 3rd Dec 2021: The silencing of Peng Shuai, a growling senator and dollar bills for Mr Yum

The silencing of Peng Shaui raises fears for athletes’ safety at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Fellow remarkable community,

I have been so inspired by all the women lifting each other up this week. 

I’m celebrating Mr Yum’s, Kim Teo's success in securing the largest Australian Series A funding round for a female-led company and her passion for driving gender equality in STEM as well as the female senators who have rallied to support Jacqui Lambe after she was targeted by aggressive behaviour in parliament. This is following the push for Senate to sit for more days in 2022 to ensure recommendations in ex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ damning report on sexual harrassment in parliament are fast tracked to protect female staffers. 

There has also been global praise for the Women’s Tennis Association’s decision to suspend tournaments in China over fears for the safety of tennis star Peng Shaui. 

Here’s this week’s wrap by yours truly!

Will women be safe at the Winter Olympics?

We join tennis stars around the world in commending the Women's Tennis Association’s decision to suspend tournaments in China and Hong Kong, amid fears for the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai.

The decision comes less than two months before the Beijing Winter Olympics, with WTO CEO Steve Simon revealing he is “greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022”.

On November 2, 2021, Peng posted an allegation of sexual assault against a top Chinese government official on social media.

She wrote: “Even if it is like an egg hitting a rock, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you.”

Peng went missing soon afterwards, her post was removed from the internet within minutes and discussion of her allegations has been censored in China. She has since resurfaced, but Simon said he has “serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation”.

Tennis superstar and WTA founder Billie Jean King said Simon's decision was "another reason why women's tennis is the leader in women's sports."

"I applaud Steve Simon & the @WTA leadership for taking a strong stand on defending human rights in China & around the world. The WTA is on the right side of history in supporting our players," King tweeted.

Simon issued a statement saying the Women’s Tennis Association recognised that Peng’s message “had to be listened to and taken seriously. The players of the WTA, not to mention women around the world, deserve nothing less.”

“From that moment forward, Peng Shuai demonstrated the importance of speaking out, particularly when it comes to sexual assault, and especially when powerful people are involved,” he added.

“She knew the dangers she would face, yet she went public anyway. I admire her strength and courage.

“The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.

“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.

“The WTA will do everything possible to protect its players. As we do so, I hope leaders around the world will continue to speak out so justice can be done for Peng, and all women, no matter the financial ramifications.”

Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has lashed out at the decision. He said: “We are firmly opposed to acts politicising sport.”

The editor of China's Global Times newspaper has accused the WTA of "coercing" Peng to "support the West's attack" on China.

Hu Xijin claimed concerns for her welfare were being aired by people who were "aiming to attack China's system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics", which are due to begin on February 4, 2022.

“They are opening a Pandora’s box,” he said. “They are betrayers of the Olympic spirit.”

The International Olympic Committee said in a statement: “We share the same concern as many other people and organisations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai. This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January.

“There are different ways to achieve her well-being and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centred approach to her situation. Since she is a three-time Olympian, the IOC is addressing these concerns directly with Chinese sports organisations. We are using ‘quiet diplomacy’ which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organisations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters.”

The IOC has been accused of defending China by accepting the video calls - victims say the calls are heavily monitored and those involved are told what to say, how to say it and even how to smile, making them, in effect, propaganda.

Peng’s situation is terrifying. It’s disappointing that the IOC has prioritised appeasing China over human rights. We stand with the WTA in calling for global leaders to demand an investigation into her accusations and ensure her safety.

I also fully support the WTA CEO’s impassioned message that powerful people should not be able to suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug. China must launch a full and transparent investigation into the case to ensure athletes and officials are safe at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Enough talk, it’s time to act on sexual harassment in politics

It is incredibly disappointing that reforms proposed in Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ report into parliamentary culture are unlikely to be implemented before the federal election.

The report was one of a series of investigations launched after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins went public in February with the allegation that she was raped inside Parliament House in 2019.

Jenkins’ investigation revealed that one third of staff surveyed had experienced sexual harassment, with most feeling powerless to complain. Young women reported being treated like “fresh meat” and one anonymous participant said it was the 'most sexist' place she had ever worked.

Jenkins’ review made 28 recommendations, including restrictions on alcohol, gender equality targets and diversity, updated codes of conduct for MPs and their staff, and new bodies to handle complaints.

Higgins tweeted: “These aren’t radical recommendations. It’s simply about bringing Parliament House in-line with every other workplace in the country.”

However, the Senate is only due to sit for a total of five days in the first four months of 2022, limiting the time for the passage of legislation for the proposed overhaul of the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act – under which political staffers are employed.

Greens women’s spokeswoman Larissa Waters has urged the government to schedule more sitting days next year to enable the recommendations to be urgently enacted.

“Part-time parliament is no good,” Senator Waters said.

Neither the Coalition nor Labor have formally committed to adopting all 28 recommendations, but have commenced consultation on the 456-page report.

“This whole parliament has this problem. And everyone in this building has this problem,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Labor women’s spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek added: “I anticipate there’ll be a lot of support for those recommendations. We’ll be talking to our staff about how to make sure that this report leads to the permanent change that will make this a better work environment.”

Why is it that after multiple gross public incidents our leaders are rejecting to fast track recommendations that ensure the safety and wellbeing of those in Parliament House?  

My team and I are exhausted, as I’m sure many of you are, in anticipation for action on this issue to ensure that the toxic culture of harassment ends. It comes from this question we’re all asking: when our politicians, leaders, advocates and senate can’t be kept safe, what validation/guarantee do we have as the Australian public that any of us will be safe in our own societies and communities? The answer is, we don’t. 

Harassment does not need conversation, it needs prevention through action. Leading by example is a responsibility, not a choice. 

Senator accused of growling at Jacqui Lambe apologises

It’s disturbing that a Liberal Senator has been accused of growling at Senator Jacqui Lambe in parliament on the same day as Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ damning report was released.

David Van has since apologised "unreservedly" for interjecting as Senator Lambie spoke, but denies he growled at her.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Labor’s Senate Leader Penny Wong have both confirmed they heard aggressive noises as Lambe spoke.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate given what has been handed down today to have growling noises coming from [that] side of the chamber - while a female member in this place is on her feet,” Hanson-Young said.

Senator Van later apologised in the Senate chamber for his “interjections".

“I acknowledge that interjections are always disorderly and also acknowledge that I was making interjections while Senator Lambie was asking a question during Question Time,” he said.

“I apologise to Senator Lambie…I commit to holding myself to the highest standards in the future.”

“I was just interjecting with a gruff voice and I think with the mask and everything, in all the noise that was going on, it was that” he told News Corp.

“It was in no way an animal noise or meant to be disrespectful to (her) in any sort of gendered way.

“I was not mocking her voice. I was doing an angry voice. I misbehaved and I'll leave it at that. It was just the heat of Question Time. It wasn't an animal noise. I've got a deep voice. With a mask on it came up.”

This is such a poor reflection on Parliament whilst they’re taking their time and dragging their feet trying to stamp out bullying and harassment.  

Mr Yum CEO savours milestone $89M funding raise

Just three years after founding mobile ordering and payments company Mr Yum, Kim Teo is on a high this week after announcing she has raised $89 million for its global expansion.

It’s the largest Australian Series A funding round ever for a female-led company, and the third-largest Series A in Australian history.

Teo said it was “humbling and exciting” to be a trailblazing female CEO in a space that has previously been dominated by men.

“There has never been a better time to be a female,” she said. “I wish it wasn’t newsworthy, but there’s still a disparity in participation and successful funding between genders. There is also a gap in talent across technical roles in startups. We want to encourage more females to join the industry, including engineers and founders.  At Mr Yum we have an even gender split across the founders and near even across the leadership team. But there’s more to be done, we’ll keep chipping away at it!”

Mr Yum was founded in Melbourne in November 2018 by Teo and her “partner in life, business and in capital raising”, Adrian Osman. It has become a global-leading mobile ordering, payments and growth platform. More than just QR code ordering, it encompasses a suite of features for operators, including payments, loyalty, marketing and customer insights.

“It’s been a wild ride!” she said. “Menus hadn’t evolved in hundreds of years, consumers are visual and want to understand what they're ordering, so Mr Yum was created with the simple idea of bringing menus to life with photos of every dish.

“We then expanded into allowing guests to order and pay on their phone by scanning a QR code, removing the administrative tasks in service like taking orders, processing payments and splitting bills. This frees up restaurant staff to create more magical guest experiences and deliver great hospitality, while increasing average order value by 20-40%. The platform has expanded well beyond ordering and payments - our goal is to build ‘the Shopify for restaurants’.

Teo said she hopes to be an inspiration to other women to follow their entrepreneurial dreams, especially in the STEM space.

“Encouraging females to take up STEM education is a massive passion of mine,” she said. “If there’s one impact I could make it is in females and tech meshing, and earlier.  We need more females doing computer science at school, graduating as engineers and building software and hardware. That’s when things will start to shift.  If it was 50-50 girls to guys graduating with computer science degrees, the whole tech world would change.”

Congratulations Kim, what an amazing trajectory you are on! Thank you for sharing your news with The Remarkable Woman - I can’t wait to see your company’s continued success on the world stage.

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