Margaret Medcalf, Jenni Curtis, Elizabeth Jean Heenan, Dawn Butterworth, Victoria Kerfoot, Kylie Forth, Diane Davies, Tenille Bentley, Cynthia Dixon and Brenda Robbins. Picture: The West Australian/Nic Ellis

They are the female trailblazers who have pushed for change, excelled in their chosen fields and inspired people from across the State.

From a former State archivist to a migrant and refugee advocate, these are the 10 extraordinary women who were yesterday inducted into the WA Women's Hall of Fame.

Tough start gives Tian drive to achieve

The Hall of Fame, part of the annual International Women's Day celebrations, recognises the achievements of inspirational women from across WA.

Three inductees spoke to The Weekend West this week to share their views on the issues facing women today and how far we have come.

Culshaw Miller Lawyers special counsel Elizabeth Heenan has campaigned tirelessly for many years to improve conditions for women in her field.

A mother of two with 38 years experience as a legal practitioner, Mrs Heenan has twice made partner and is the former president of the WA Law Society.

She gave birth soon after starting her legal career in 1976 and was faced with the issue of negotiating flexible work hours at a time when paid parental leave did not exist.

Mrs Heenan said flexible work practices were important for women but were still not being adopted by some employers.

"There is an unconscious bias and there can still be an attitude in firms of 'oh we never know when people are here'," she said.

Mrs Heenan used the example of a Commonwealth Government department that still refused to allow people to work part-time in management or litigation.

"I encourage young women not to give up," Mrs Heenan said.

"It is all possible - you just can't have it all, all at once."

Early childhood educator Dawn Butterworth has worked with children and families for more than 40 years and was named WA Volunteer of the Year in 2013.

As the former president of the National Council of Women WA, Dr Butterworth has encouraged and motivated many women to reach their potential.

She said women lacked workplace mentors in the past because they were often put into highly competitive workplaces with little chance of promotion.

Dr Butterworth believes gender equity has come a long way over the years, particularly in health and education.

She said it was important parents, particularly mothers, realised how essential they were to their children's education from the day they were born.

"Some parents still have the opinion that education is something that happens at school and is the sole province of teachers," Dr Butterworth said.

"We have to let mothers know how important they are and assist them to educate their children using everyday experiences."

Another inductee with a passion for early learning is Indigenous Parent Factor program co-ordinator Jenni Curtis.

Mrs Curtis set up the program in WA about four years ago to give Aboriginal parents the skills they need to ensure their children are school-ready.

The program teaches parents about the importance of early learning to improve their children's chances of a successful start to school.

Mrs Curtis said education and health were the biggest issues facing Aboriginal women.

"If we can get those two things working together, I think our indigenous women will be more empowered and have more of a chance at life," she said.

"There is a saying from a great man that says education is the key to success. Every time I run a workshop, I break that up and say early education is the key to success."

People from all over the world will today celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women as part of International Women's Day.

The West Australian

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