Fabiola Campbell lives in Melbourne, VIC. She runs Professional Migrant Women, an organisation bringing visibility and representation of professional migrant women to corporate Australia.
I was born here in Australia but my family moved home to Venezuela when I was very young. After I graduated, I decided to move to Australia because I really wanted to see the place where I was born. I came here on my own as an adult, as a professional, but with not very good English. I was a criminologist and I had been working in that area in Venezuela, but I wasn’t able to work in a corporate environment in Australia because of my language skills. It took me about three years of learning English and doing a Master’s degree to finally secure my first professional job.
At home we have family and friends, people we trust and who can give us emotional support. It’s a huge part of the settlement process that I didn’t have. But I also lacked professional networks. Nobody here knew my value and I didn’t know anybody who could open doors for me. I didn’t know how to network and how to find the people who could help me. The way I approached job searching in Venezuela was very different to how it is done here. I needed professional development – it wasn’t about my craft, it was about closing the small gap between being unemployed and getting a job.
One of the most difficult things was the transition of my identity. I knew who I was and what my potential was when I was in Venezuela, but when I came to Australia, that identity fractured and the things I perceived as strengths were not as useful. I ended up with a lack of confidence. It took me years to recognise the strengths I developed and to integrate them as part of the new me.
We know that many migrant women are in underqualified jobs. Professional migrants want professional employment, they don’t want to be entrepreneurs. At Professional Migrant Women, I help them progress in their career, advance in their field and give them the skills to develop as leaders from a culturally diverse point of view. One of the key things we do is remind them of their essence and their potential to contribute. We want them to know they have value for who they are and they don’t have to become something they’re not. We invite them to take space. The best we can do for ourselves is to be our authentic self and contribute from a place of uniqueness. As migrants, there is a need to blend in when, really, we stand out, we have an accent, or we look different. The only thing we want is just to be accepted for who we are and to be appreciated for that.
I started my business by putting an ad on Facebook and inviting migrant women to come and join me so that I could share some of the knowledge that I had developed over the years. A year and a half into that journey, I heard about Global Sisters through a friend. I learnt the structure that I needed for my business and was given opportunities to connect with people who were out of my network. Sister Pitch was big. It was very exciting and very scary, but it was what I needed to push myself forward – I learnt how to communicate my message in an effective way and how to present my ideas in a clear, concise format.
We help organisations tap into the talent pool of diverse women so they can flourish and add value to corporate Australia. We know there are many diverse people in all organisations but that diversity is not reflected at the higher levels of those organisations. We want to help them close that gap of representation so that we can have diverse women in all positions where decisions are made.
”We want professional migrant women to feel they have a tribe and can be who they are.Fabiola CampbellProfessional Migrant Women
The effect is that women put themselves out there, they are getting that confidence boost, but also that sense of having the right to be here. It’s not that they have to beg for a space on the table, it’s that they have a right to be on the table. They are making room for themselves but also for their sisters, and we are paving the way towards equality.