On 18 July 2017 the Russell Kennedy Women’s Network was pleased to co-host an event with the Women in Government subcommittee of the Victorian Women Lawyers.
RKWN Host and Russell Kennedy Lawyer Riaza Rigby welcoming guests.
“Integrity in The Public Sector: Reflections on Anti-Corruption Initiatives, Gender, and Power” was expertly moderated by Joanna Austin, Principal Lawyer at the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.
The diverse panel was made up of impressive women: Doris Gibb, Acting Deputy Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor Anona Armstrong AM, Research and Research Training, Victoria University and Bonita Mersiades, former Football Federation Australia ("FFA") executive turned whistleblower.
Pictured from left to right: Bonita Mersiades, Doris Gibb, Professor Anona Armstrong AM and moderator Joanna Austin.
Professor Armstrong discussed her research into the consequences whistleblowers face for speaking out. She reported that all the subjects of her research had lost their jobs and consequently faced financial distress. Other impacts included being marginalised, bullied and suffering psychological trauma. Professor Armstrong concluded that while most whistleblowers felt that they were doing the right thing, they were punished for their actions.
This was certainly the experience of Ms Mersiades, who revealed that she lost her job as the FFA’s Head of Corporate and Public Affairs because she questioned its use of $50 million of public funds in its 2014 bid for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups. After being summarily dismissed, she said she was isolated from the football community and could not secure a job within the profession. She said the media called her bitter and twisted, incompetent (despite having received a top performance bonus only months prior to raising her concerns), and alleged that she had affairs with two of her former FFA bosses. After setting up an online business with a friend, the website was hacked and the server was brought down. Ms Mersiades was sued without her knowledge in a Swiss court for defamation, she also had her phone hacked, and her house was repeatedly broken into. However, the most distressing impact for Ms Mersiades was the effect of this on her family, which included her son being abused.
Despite all of the trauma Ms Mersiades was put through, she has reinvented herself and co-founded an organisation called New FIFA Now, which is seeking an alternative approach to the way football is managed.
The panellists were firmly of the view that management of an organisation and its culture are the most important elements for anti-corruption. Part of the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman is to educate Commonwealth agencies about changing their cultures to encourage complaints. Ms Gibb said if you are a leader, people are always watching you. She said it was vital for leaders to have integrity and to support any person who raises an issue. A culture of integrity must start at the top. On the question of how to handle “nuisance complaints” which might come from disgruntled employees, Ms Gibb stressed the importance of treating every whistleblower with respect, taking their complaint seriously and not thinking of any complaint as a “nuisance”.
Whether gender influences whistleblowing is not entirely clear. Professor Armstrong stated that in her research, gender didn’t appear to make a difference to the intention of the whistleblower, or type of whistleblowing. However, she did reveal that whistleblowers are often from lower levels of an organisation, and women are more likely to be employed in those positions.
Ms Gibb said that any person who identifies issues within an organisation they are engaged by should seriously consider whether they have the power to influence change or whether they should “vote with their feet” and leave without compromising their own integrity.
The RKWN thanks the VWL for allowing it to co-host such a thought-provoking event and looks forward to many more in the future.
To become an RKWN member, simply email email@example.com to be added to our mailing list to receive event invitations.
Last month we had the opportunity to attend the Victorian Women Lawyers’ (VWL) Members & Guests Evening at Miss Collins.
This year the VWL invited Darcy Vescio as the guest speaker. Darcy has been drafted as a female marquee player for Carlton Football Club in the inaugural season of the AFL Women’s Competition.
Darcy opened by telling the guests about the gender equality challenges she has faced as a female who wanted to play football.
Darcy told the audience about her background and how she started playing football with her brother at the age of five. She went on to talk about the experiences she had playing the sport and how her experiences were very different from her brother, as she often felt invisible and “couldn’t always celebrate with the boys”.
At age 14, the gender and discrimination issues emerged further. Darcy had to stop playing competitive football because she was no longer allowed to play with the boys. At that time, there wasn’t a team for females and so, “when I had to give up footy, I just thought that was it,” she recalled. Darcy was deeply disappointed, but didn’t realise that she should have had the same opportunities as her brother.
At the age of 18, Darcy moved from Wangaratta to Melbourne and started playing football again, but this time, with the Darebin Falcons in the Victorian Women's Football League (VWFL). During this time she only played as a hobby - she “blew off the idea of a national women’s league”. From this point, however, it didn’t take long for Darcy to make her mark. She went on to represent Victoria at a national level in 2013 and 2015. She was also drafted by the Western Bulldogs in 2014 and played for the club in exhibition matches, before the inception of the women’s competition.
So what started as a hobby, soon developed into winning premierships with the club in four consecutive seasons from 2013 to 2016. Darcy also won 'best on ground honours' in two of these matches in 2015 and 2016.
Darcy acknowledged these accomplishments, but also noted that despite how far women have come in terms of playing football, there is still a long way to go.
Darcy concluded the evening by saying that sport is a great vehicle for gender equality and that women playing football was not taking anything away from men – but rather, they should succeed together.
Learning and Development Advisor Cathy Kneller recently attended a two-day course with seven women, with the National Institute of Dramatic Arts.
The course was aimed at leading and communicating with authority and authenticity in the workplace. The course focused on the individual style of participants when engaging audiences through presentation and handling challenging situations in the workplace.
Participants were provided with the opportunity to explore challenging situations in a safe environment and to use practical strategies and techniques to take conversations, presentations or negotiations to the next level. Participants were also provided with feedback from expert voice coaches and actors over the two days.
Some of the techniques covered include - control of the pitch of your voice, making the most of your breathing, self-awareness vs. self-consciousness and physical presence exercises.
Overall, this course focused on influencing others in the workplace. Attending “Influential Women” has empowered participants to better understand their own communication style and adapt more readily to situations.
The highlight of the session for Cathy was the newly learnt 3-step technique ‘Cape, Crown and Headlight’. This technique is aimed to help the individual bring awareness to their own physical presence by imagining a heavy cape draped across their shoulders, placing a heavy crown on their head and supporting it and imagining a headlight in the centre of their chest and a bright light emanating from it. The cape assists with the centering and releasing of the shoulders, the crown allows the head to rise up to meet the crown and to elongate the spine and the headlight assists with an open and confident posture.
Find out more about NIDA events here.
On Thursday the 23rd of March, Russell Kennedy Law Graduate Chloe Hall had the pleasure of attending the excellent Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL) panel discussion on “Female Government Lawyers: Future Public Sector Leaders”.
The event was moderated by Anna Robertson of the Victorian Bar, and featured Marlo Baragwanath, leader the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office, Joanne Smith of the Office of Chief Examiner, and Helen Fatouros, the Executive Director of Victorian Legal Aid’s Criminal Law Services.
(Photo credit to VWL. Pictured from left to right: Helen Fatouros, Marlo Baragwanath and Joanne Smith)
The panellists discussed the advantages and challenges that come from pursuing a career as a woman in government law. Attendees were given great insight into what inspired them to enter the public service as well as an account of all the extraordinary roles they have all held across their various careers. A interesting discussion was shared on some of the most gratifying areas of working in the government sector, including the opportunity to make significant improvements to the way ordinary people interact with the legal system, as well as the varied and diverse types of work available to government lawyers.
Attendees were given thoughtful advice on addressing the unique challenges women lawyers face in the workplace, and were encouraged to be courageous, take risks and seize the unique opportunities that present themselves throughout the course of a career. In addition, the panellists gave great guidance on how to overcome entrenched ideas about women lawyers in the workplaces, and encouraged us to always do our best and to let our work speak for itself. One especially useful take-away was the need to think of our skills more globally and how legal skills can be applied effectively in ever-increasingly broad contexts.
Find out more about VWL events here.
In recent years a national dialogue about family violence has taken place in Australia.
Many Australians are now aware of the high incidence of family violence in the community and the importance of an integrated response to reduce it. Family Violence Leave has emerged as a way for employers to engage in this response by providing organisational support to employees experiencing family violence¹.
The purpose of Family Violence Leave is to enable employees to take paid time off work to attend court appearances, legal appointments and to find accommodation. It also recognises the prevalence of workplace stalking in family violence situations.
Family violence clauses in enterprise agreements
Employers began introducing Family Violence Leave clauses into their enterprise agreements from 2010. By March 2016, more than one million Australians were covered by enterprise agreements containing Family Violence Leave clauses¹.
The Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission is currently considering whether Family Violence Leave clauses should be included in all Modern Awards, as part of its four yearly Modern Award review. While obviously this inclusion would significantly increase the number of Australians with access to family violence leave, the question for the Commission is whether inserting such an entitlement is necessary to achieve the objective of a fair and relevant safety net of terms and conditions in modern awards.
While Deputy President Gooley and Commissioner Spencer are yet to deliver their decisions, Vice President Watson delivered his on 27 February 2017. He recognised that domestic violence is a serious social problem but rejected the inclusion of the Family Violence Leave clause as part of the Modern Award safety net, saying that it “did not mandate an open, positive, considerate and collaborative approach”. He considered that the better approach was “to build awareness of the issue and to encourage a considerate, collaborative and flexible approach by employers and affected employees”.
With Deputy President Gooley and Commissioner Spencer’s decisions yet to be handed down, it remains to be seen what the final outcome will be.
Family Violence Leave policies
An alternative to having a Family Violence Leave clause in an enterprise agreement is to adopt a family violence leave policy, which can enable employees to request flexible work arrangements, access counselling services and/or develop a safety plan. The policy can also trigger a workplace conversation about safety measures the employer could implement to allow an employee to continue performing their duties safely and productively.
In May 2016, Russell Kennedy introduced its own Family Violence Leave policy. This policy is designed to support employees experiencing family violence by enabling them to continue to participate in the workforce and create a supportive work environment in which employees feel comfortable requesting assistance.
Under the Family Violence Leave policy, eligible Russell Kennedy employees may:
If you are considering introducing a Family Violence Leave policy at your workplace, the Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety team at Russell Kennedy can assist you. Please contact us if you would like to discuss.
Yesterday the RKWN hosted its Annual Breakfast for International Women’s Day 2017 with special guest Kristen Hilton, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner.
RKWN Host, Sarah Manly was proud to share with our wonderful audience the news that Russell Kennedy had launched its Gender Equality Strategy, focusing on four key areas: flexibility, gender composition, gender pay equity and leader and manager capability. The strategy is important to the firm as it sets a framework that will measure our goals and keep us accountable to our targets.
(Pictured: Kristen Hilton)
Our audience was truly captivated by Kristen from the moment she took to the stage. She shared her experiences as a female growing up in the Goulburn Valley town of Kyabram in a family of 5 kids, to travelling to Denmark as a teenager, studying law and working at a number of different organisations including a longer stint at Victoria Legal Aid. Appointed last year, as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Kristen shared with us some interesting and also some quiet shocking stories that the Commission regularly hears and deals with. She also shared with us the work she has been doing with larger male dominated organisations and how some of these institutions have been willing to look inwards and accept that they need to make sweeping changes.
A full house for this highly anticipated International Women’s Day event with Kristen Hilton.
It was a pleasure to spend the morning with such an inspiring woman on International Women’s Day and hopefully all of our audience left deciding how they will #BeBoldForChange.
Why do we need women's advocacy groups? What is the point of International Women's Day? These are some questions you might hear as we approach 8 March 2017.
So, let's have a look at the latest data. The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's latest report highlights the persistent and perplexing 16% pay gap where, among full-time workers, women earn 84% of a man’s pay on average. It says this is a "a point-in-time snapshot of a picture that has endured for decades. Twenty years ago, the full-time gender pay gap was 17%, with women earning on average 83% of a man’s pay." This is despite women's increased participation in the workforce and higher education.
We are currently witnessing significant change in the structure of the workforce. With the introduction of the NDIS, other consumer-directed care and the “gig economy”, where workers perform temporary "gigs" of work, through the rise of digital platforms such as Uber, Foodora, Deliveroo and Airtasker, we are seeing a significant shift to casual and contract work. For women who dominate the ranks of aged, disability and health care workers, and already tend to be lower paid, this is likely to further impact them.
At the other end of the spectrum, the report identifies a 26.5% pay gap for top-tier managers. In addition, it reports that where women dominate the senior ranks of a company, the gender pay gap actually widens.
It is undeniable that significant change is required and will benefit businesses. As Libby Lyons, the Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency puts it "The case for change is clear. Research shows that diverse work teams lead to better workplace culture, greater innovation and improved performance. And, the analysis shows organisations that increase their gender balance at the leadership level improve working conditions for women, as evidenced by lower pay gaps."
In the last 5 years the Russell Kennedy Women's Network has created significant change in its quest to connect, develop and empower women. In addition, Paul Gleeson, Managing Director & Principal of Russell Kennedy Lawyers recently signed the pledge to be a WGEA Pay Equity Ambassador.
On Wednesday the 22nd of February Russell Kennedy's Canberra Office Coordinator Sarah Crowe attended the first She Leads In-Conversation event of 2017 with special guest speaker Yassmin Abdel-Magied. She Leads In-Conversation are a series of friendly conversational style events held by the YWCA of Canberra that provide Canberrans an opportunity to hear from influential women from a variety of backgrounds.
(Pictured: Sarah Crowe from Russell Kennedy and Yassmin Abdel-Magied)
Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a Muslim, Sudanese-Australian engineer, author, television and radio presenter and advocate. Yassmin works at the ABC while actively participating in community initiatives around multiculturalism and promoting diversity and inclusion in western nations.
Yassmin had quite a turbulent few weeks. Following her recent appearance on Q&A, Yassmin decided to take a step back from the public limelight after describing seeing herself on the front pages of Australian newspapers as being 'a bit much to take in'.
While Yassmin was talking about her life and her achievements to date it was easy to forget that she is only 25 years old. Yassmin's achievements include being a Board Member of the Queensland Museum, Founder and Director of Youth Without Borders, being on the council for Multicultural Australia and Queensland Young Australian of the Year.
Yassmin spoke about embracing and acknowledging your youth and acknowledging it from various perspectives while reinforcing that your time to be the old and wise one in the room will come, your current experience and perspective is valid.
Yassmin's confidence in herself was something to behold and highlighted in her favourite quote on confidence:
"Have the confidence of a mediocre white male and you can do anything!"
To find out about YWAC Canberra events, click here.
Some RKWN representatives and Russell Kennedy clients were lucky enough to attend the Business Chicks breakfast with Magda Szubanski.
It was a surprisingly wet and dreary February morning but walking into a room filled with energy, pink everywhere and Taylor Swift music was instantly uplifting! By 8:10 am Madga, who was hosted by the wonderful Gorgi Coghlan, had the crowd in hysterics with her micro-nap in front of the large audience, requesting that we all pronounce her full name, Magdalene Mary Szubanski correctly with a Polish accent, and instructing us to give the person next to us a “STRICTLY NON-SEXUAL” shoulder rub.
Magda then took the audience on much more serious journey through her family history, the challenges she has faced (and then the many successes) as a female comedian and her experience in publically revealing her sexuality. She is a highly intelligent woman who talked about courage and fear transcending generations, taking responsibility for the world and being a leader, and the importance of role models and informal mentors. She even treated the audience with taste of Sharon Karen Strzelecki and Esme Cordelia Hoggett!
Oh thanks Ms S, and Business Chicks for a brilliant morning!
On 6 April 2017, some RKWN members attended a Business Chicks Breakfast with one of the most admired role models and mentors for Australian women, the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO.
Picture courtesy of Susie Ho.
Dame Quentin Bryce is a woman of grace and poise. In her years as Australia’s first female Governor-General, she wrote no less than 50 letters a week to Australians from all ranks of life. She wrote longhand because she believes handwritten letters contain an intimacy that otherwise cannot be felt. Now, some of those letters from everyday Australians and her own hand have been published in a book simply called, "Dear Quentin - Letters of a Governor-General". Dame Quentin stated that in her role as Governor-General and through the letters, she saw the best of our country; resilience, strength and community compassion.
Dame Quentin is now an official mentor for women in business. She advised the Business Chicks crowd that women should take time to look after themselves and do things they enjoy such as engaging with music and the arts, as this can help build resilience.
Dame Quentin also spoke of how it is possible to break the 'glass ceiling' and achieve a balanced life by encouraging and supporting each other, believing in yourself and most importantly, seeking help when you need it. She spoke about understanding the value, strength and sustainability that comes from friendship and collegiality in sisterhood and the solidarity that grows from women supporting other women. Dame Quentin recommended that even throughout times of chaos, women should learn to accept offers of help, because relying on others for support can develop the most incredible friendships and assist women to achieve.
Dame Quentin then turned to the issue of domestic violence. This issue is of particular importance to Dame Quentin due to several esteemed positions she has held in the areas of human rights and equal opportunity, including most recently as the Chair of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence.
Dame Quentin believes family violence is a threshold issue and that there is a need for reform in the justice system, for instance, introducing the offence of near death strangulation. She added that there must be a change to cultural attitudes and behaviour to alleviate this issue. Dame Quentin said change starts with respect and that young men need to raise awareness with other men. In addition, she said that everyone should be ready to take a stand against the denigration of women by being pro-active. Dame Quentin suggested asking friends, family and colleagues if everything is okay if it appears that something is not right, rather than being a silent bystander.
Dame Quentin also spoke about her greatest role models and where she had learnt her life lessons. She said that President Barack Obama, Catherine Hamlin, Nelson Mandela and his wife Graça Machel were all good listeners who paid attention, were role models in their own fields and demonstrated peace and reconciliation. All things the world so desperately needs now.
Dame Quentin acknowledged that women still have a long way to go but that there are wonderful things to celebrate to help make women feel empowered. She referred to the Business Chicks network as one example - a 2017 network, where thoughts and feelings are shared, issues are talked about and confidence is built.
The RKWN committee looks forward to the next event where we can share experiences and further develop our networks.
Learn more about Business Chicks events here.
Last Thursday, we were joined by the eminent Dr Bronwyn King to celebrate the third and final seminar in the Woman’s Wealth series. Dr King spoke about her personal experience as a radiation oncologist and the inevitable impact ethical superannuation has made on her life.
Ethical superannuation describes a purposeful and conscientious decision to avoid investment in companies and sectors which are negatively screened and to not include them in portfolios if they make or sell certain products. The investment in tobacco is one of the products commonly invested in around the world that is now being challenged.
(RKWN Committee Member and Russell Kennedy Special Counsel, Kristen Westcott hosting the event)
Dr King is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tobacco Free Portfolios. Her work began when she realised from a chance discussion with her financial planner that her superannuation fund had elected to invest in tobacco as a default option. Feeling uncomfortable with her money being invested in tobacco, Dr King approached the superannuation industry and began to challenge the practice of investing in tobacco.
Tobacco Free Portfolios started by proposing to superannuation funds that tobacco was no longer a viable investment option; that the litigious nature of the industry and growing public awareness of the health impacts of tobacco was a significant investment risk that funds could not continue to rely on.
Since beginning in 2010, the movement has played an integral role in the decision of over 30 Australian superannuation funds to divest tobacco stocks worth approximately $2 billion dollars.
(Dr Bronwyn King, Radiation oncologist and CEO of Tobacco Free Portfolios)
Dr. King is also the Project Manager for the Global Task Force for Tobacco Free Portfolios, which leads a global coalition of like-minded individuals and organisations from government, business and health sectors to encourage sovereign wealth funds and pension funds to go tobacco-free.
The audience was directed to the fact that tobacco has its own global treaty in the form of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This treaty has 180 parties and its objective is to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Despite being a signatory since 2003, Australia has continued to promote the tobacco industry through investment in stark contrast to the global reputation Australia holds in this sphere, having pioneered no smoking zones and plain packaging on cigarette packets.
Dr King’s presentation was a fantastic reminder for the women in the room to review their current superannuation options and to promote ethical investing through their own action.
Last week, Nicole Davidson joined us in the second seminar of our Woman’s Wealth series. Nicole spoke to a boardroom full of people eager to hear more about how they could unlock their negotiation skills and influence their own outcomes.
The seminar began with a discussion about the statistics around the gender pay gap and the unequal remuneration of women which occurs between industries and as a result of factors such as age, method of pay and role seniority.
Given the existence of a national pay gap between the genders of 17.3%, one of the contributors to this difference in pay was the confidence of women to ask for and negotiate pay rises. An unrealised point for many in the audience was the compounding impact that failing to speak up about pay rises or promotions served over time; the exacerbation of the pay gap continued the longer women avoided negotiating.
Nicole touched on some of the reasons women have tended to avoid negotiation including the social backlash that can sometimes result from women being assertive. Because negotiation is a process of influence and likability, a real barrier to women negotiating is the perception that they are unlikeable if they unapologetically argue their case. Nicole highlighted the unfortunate data that concluded negative correlations between women’s likability and successful traits like assertiveness.
Nicole also mentioned the belief systems that served to limit the possibilities women felt were open to them. Sheryl Sandberg said it best when she noted that it wasn’t that men were too self-confident; it was that women were not self-confident enough. Nicole advocated that refreshing negotiation skills could help women feel capable of asserting their wants and overcoming blockages to facilitate better outcomes.
One of the best pieces of advice given was to reframe your approach to negotiation. A good skill was to reassess how the other party would view the conversation and whether if you were in their position, whether you would regard the issue you are raising as reasonable. This strategy appeared to be an excellent way to conquer some negative thoughts about any ramifications you perceived prior to entering into negotiations, and to foster an appreciation of the other party’s interests.
Nicole wanted to inspire the audience with questions to ask themselves when considering entering into negotiation conversations; questions like:
(Guest speaker Nicole Davidson from CMA Learning Group and Sarah Manly, RKWN Co-Deputy Convenor and Russell Kennedy Principal)
Once in a negotiation, Nicole talked about utilising a technique which accentuates the relationships involved. The two main arms of this technique were to ensure that a legitimate reason for entering into the negotiation was aired and that you demonstrated respect for the relationship between you and the other party or organisation.
Nicole received several questions from the audience including a request for pointers on how to overcome positional negotiations. A good skill that Nicole imparted was to remain calm in difficult conversations like these and to challenge people’s reactions by questioning them on their position.
Overall, the evening was a fun and enlightening opportunity to discuss the real impacts of negotiation on women’s confidence and their remuneration, and how sharpening your negotiation skills could empower your ability to control what happened next for you. The motto of the evening was “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”.
Join us for the next event in the Woman’s Wealth series on 25 August 2016.
To register, click here.
If you would like a copy of Nicole's presentation, click here.
A joint initiative by the Victorian Women Lawyers and Russell Kennedy Women’s Network brought together a panel of special guests to talk about tackling sexism, sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace.
The panel discussed the issues facing female government lawyers in practice and the barriers that needed to be overcome to ensure a safe and open environment.
(Guest speakers from left to right: Catherine Dixon, Raelene Sharp and Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius)
As the Director of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC), Catherine Dixon has a unique insight into the pervasiveness of gender discrimination in society. Dixon talked about the subtle attitudes that shape how women feel at work, their confidence and work practices and highlighted the entrenched disadvantage that statistics reflect. The audience were told about the current 17.3% national pay gap between men and women, and the 50% less savings that women retire on.
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius discussed the challenges faced by Victoria Police in their response to the VEOHRC report reviewing sex discrimination and sexual harassment within the Force. Cornelius noted that making examples of offenders didn’t deter others from discriminatory behaviour and instead prevention required a study of the underlying drivers. The Assistant Commissioner reflected on the point that cultural change and leadership from the upper ranks was required to shift the accountability from victims to the organisation. A change in the response framework has seen a shift away from a complaints-based system towards a responsibility on organisations to review where their blind spots lie. Cornelius ended his time at the podium with a personal reflection that the aim is to make workplaces safe for his own daughter and the daughters of others.
Raelene Sharp continued the morning’s presentation with another perspective on the experience of female government practitioners. Sharp shared her observations on the legal industry and noted how, despite the protections of equal opportunity practices, unconscious bias was difficult to overcome.
An audience member questioned the panel on their response to the fact that the day-to-day sexism appeared never to be big enough to warrant a formal complaint but that it was the cumulative effect of these small quips or jokes that led to women feeling uncomfortable and isolated in workplaces. Dixon noted that the aim of her work was to change the bystander response such that it would be called out by colleagues, both male and female.
(VWL Committee Members, Bianca Paridaen and Tessa Plueckhahn presenting)
The panel confirmed that it was important to share and reflect on the experiences of women in the legal profession and that given the statistics; it was a harsh reality that a high proportion of women have or will face these issues that unfortunately continue today.
The event was filmed by the ABC for a 7.30 Report on sexual harassment in the legal profession and anyone who wishes to share their experiences are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Catherine Dixon, RKWN Committee Member Daniella Trimboli, Raeline Sharp and Luke Cornelius)
On Tuesday 17 May, I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast with Gloria Steinem and Tara Moss along with Russell Kennedy Women's Network Joint Deputy Co-Convenor Sarah Manly, at the Sofitel in Melbourne.
The event was a sell-out - and understandably so!
Gloria was interviewed by Tara Moss and they touched on a number of topics, from the resurgence of feminism ("I just had to wait for some of my friends to be born!", Gloria said of Lena Dunham and the new wave of enthusiastic young feminists) to controversy surrounding the word "feminism" to family violence.
Tara made special mention to former Australian of the year, Rosie Batty, for being a champion of change in relation to domestic violence.
One very inspirational message from the conversation was about supporting the women around you.
As you can see from the photo above, I had my copy of Gloria's new book "My Life on the Road" signed by the woman herself and I'm very keen to get reading!
On Friday 13 May, two RKWN committee members, Jessica Bourke and Riaza Rigby, joined 300 other aspiring women in a panel forum and Q&A session to discuss the leadership qualities women need to succeed. The event was hosted by the Layne Beachley Foundation “Aim for the Stars” which provides financial and moral support for girls and women in academic, sporting, cultural and community pursuits. The Women’s Leadership Forum was aimed at celebrating the efforts of those girls and women who had received sponsorship under the Foundation and to encourage a new wave of female leadership.
(RKWN Committee Members, Riaza Rigby and Jessica Bourke at the 2016 Women's Leadership Forum)
The Honourable Julia Gillard gave the key note address and focused her discussion on her experiences as a female leader and the unique challenges she faced as the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Julia spoke of the undeniable fact that gender perceptions were still a large factor in the success of women and how the complex issues surrounding gender equity could be tackled. As to leadership, Julia applauded the efforts of women assisting other women to achieve their ambitions, much like that of the role Layne and her Foundation were playing.
(The Honourable Julia Gillard pictured above)
The event was also an opportunity to hear from Dr Cathy Foley, Katrina Sedgwick and Megan Quinn who shared their “lessons learnt” on their leadership journey. Katrina Sedwick, CEO of ACMI, spoke on the power of mentors and that having a leadership strategy which involved partnerships, risk taking and a passion for your work, was key to building a successful career and life.
Dr Foley gave an entertaining presentation with hilarious slides about her numerous top tips on how to thrive as a female leader and was applauded when she noted that you should forego all housework! Dr Foley referenced powerful thought leaders from the past and remarked at how her aim was to help women, particularly in the science sector, to overcome the career plateaus faced after parenthood.
The Co-Founder of the successful online business, Net-a-Porter, Megan Quinn, spoke passionately about the need for unconventional leadership styles to be at the forefront of breaking through the glass ceiling. Megan noted that goodwill, diversity and constructive anarchy embody the ethos she lives her life by and that by emulating those women who inspire you can drive and nourish your potential to be a role model yourself.
Each panelist mentioned the great impact that a strong network of women to encourage your professional development made. The Honourable Julia Gillard noted that “the value of women who inspire you on your journey is huge” and the RKWN were proud to have been represented at the event as the Committee share the same mission for the women in our network.
(from left to right: Jessica Bourke, Layne Beachley and Riaza Rigby)
On Wednesday 27 April, the RKWN hosted an evening event with Behind Closed Doors. What a night it was connecting with like-minded women and being inspired by a young woman by the name of Holly Ransom.
Holly is the CEO of Emergent Solutions, a company that specialises in developing high performing intergenerational workforces, leadership and social outcomes. In 2012, she was the youngest person to be named in Australia’s ‘100 Most Influential Women’, and also became the world’s youngest-ever Rotary President. Her work with Rotary has played a key role in the global efforts to lift youth participation in the organisation, more than doubling engagement in the last five years.
In 2014, the Australian Prime Minister appointed Holly to chair the G20 Youth Summit, resulting in the first summit to secure its policy demands from G20 leaders. In March this year, Holly was appointed as a non-executive director of the Port Adelaide Football Club and is the youngest person to ever be appointed to the board of an AFL club.
Holly took the opportunity to speak about her varied and exciting career to date and to impart her perspective on leadership, entrepreneurship and mentors. Holly discussed how preparation and initiative are all you need to make your ideas happen and that leaning into discomfort is where one’s potential expands exponentially. Holly’s passion and enthusiasm for her work was an engaging treat for everyone there and the networking evening was a resounding success.
Holly was such an amazing and inspiring speaker who has had such an interesting career to date, I can’t wait to see what she tackles next. Holly talked about setting herself the challenge of facing something every day that she was scared of in 2015 and she loved the experience so much she has carried it into 2016. On a personal level, I have decided that I need to be brave and have put together a list of things that I need to confront – so here I go, time to face the fear head on, public speaking here I come.
Click here to view photos from the event.
Many of our readers will be familiar with Sheryl Sandberg’s 2014 book ‘Lean In’, which is credited with (re)starting the mainstream debate about gender in the workplace. We have just found that one of our members, Jacqueline Jago, published an article about Sandberg and her work earlier this year.
You can view Jacqueline’s commentary, Too girly for work? Sheryl Sandberg uncovers the costs for women who speak up, here.
Committee member Abbey Sutton delivered the following speech at the International Women's Day RKWN Morning Tea for staff:
International Women’s Day has been observed across the world since the early 1900’s and its official date is 8 March.
This year’s International Women’s Day marks 20 years from 1995 when the Fourth World Conference on Women, organised by the United Nations, adopted the Beijing Platform for Action.
This was signed by 189 governments and it set the agenda for realising women’s rights. The issues that this agenda sought to tackle were labelled “12 critical areas of concern”, these were:
It has been twenty years since the 189 countries recognised these key barriers to gender equality and pledged to tackle them around the world. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and more women as role models in every aspect of life, it is easy for some to think that women have gained true equality.
Yet the unfortunate fact is that:
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen”. We have been talking about gender inequality issues for a long time but it’s now time to start seeing more change. Of course it is always difficult to know just how to make things happen as an individual when the problems seem so big, but if you don’t know how to make it happen, the least you can do is support others who are making a difference and learn from, and be inspired by them.
Supporting Russell Kennedy’ Women’s Network and getting involved in the events is a wonderful help. Abbey said that from her personal experience the RKWN has helped her connect to other women who she knows can help her develop. The continued support of the Network by Russell Kennedy means that the RKWN can continue to do its part for women.
On International Women’s Day in 2015 it is important to recognise that there have been many achievements in the last 20 years. However, it is just as important to recognise that many serious gaps remain and it is clear that all the 12 critical areas of concern identified in the Beijing Platform for Action are still relevant today.
RKWN hosted a breakfast panel session which showcased three community-based organisations, East Timor Hearts Fund, Sacred Heart Mission and 3000acres. Rosemary Southgate facilitated the panel discussion, which was about the organisations and the work they do within our community, and how people can get involved in these organisations. Our panellists were Ingrid Svendsen, Inaugural Chair of East Timor Hearts Fund, Fiona Healy, CEO of Sacred Heart Mission, and Kate Dundas, Founding Board Member and Hannah Schwartz, Executive Officer of 3000acres.
The panel discussion was informative and inspiring. The panellists informed us about their objectives and the work they do within our community. They discussed how people can get involved in community-based organisations and the benefits individuals derive from being involved. Ingrid Svendsen listed some benefits, such as attaining or building personal confidence, getting broader and enhanced professional skills, building goodwill and having opportunities to do things we would not normally be able to do in our professional lives. Kate Dundas and Hannah Schwartz pointed out that getting involved in a community organisation immediately provides access to a broader and more diverse network of people.
Each organisation was at a different stage – Sacred Heart Mission is very well-established, East Timor Hearts Fund has been operating for 4 years and 3000acres had just had its first birthday. This mix enabled the panellists to give insight into the various phases (for example, start-up, building, solidifying and legacy phases) of a community organisation.
Many attendees approached the panellists and RKWN representatives after the discussion ended to find out more about the organisations, to exchange contact information and put each other in touch with people who have skills and resources to assist the organisation. Feedback from those attendees was that they had very much enjoyed hearing about the organisations and how they can get involved.
RKWN will host another community panel discussion in 2015.
RKWN hosted a well-attended and much anticipated seminar presented by Kelly Rothwell on the art of "Networking for Success". Kelly is a Senior Facilitator and Executive Coach at the Australian School of Applied Management and Women & Leadership Australia. Kelly offered her personal insight into the challenges people face in developing a network, commenting that people should not be limited in creating networks and remarking that "insight into what you are looking to achieve can come from anyone or anywhere". She cited research which indicates that the top 20% of all executives have very strong, diverse and particular networks.
We learned that there are two types of networks, namely:
Kelly suggested that people:
The room shedded their inhibitions by replicating the Wonder Woman power pose. The idea of expert poses came from Dr Amy Cuddy and how research indicates that people are strongly influenced by non-verbals. Kelly stated that we ourselves are influenced by non-verbals and power posing was central to the idea of "fake it til you make it". Kelly stated that two minutes of a power pose can send a message to your brain that you are confident, which meant people acted confident. This again highlighted the importance of mindset in our ability to network for success.
Kate Bartlett attended the Australian Women Lawyer's Biannual Conference in October. Kate had been selected to attend the conference as RKWN's delegate. Here are her refelctions from the event:
The conference provided participants with the opportunity to meet senior and influential women across the legal profession in Australia. The conference addressed many issues relevant to junior and senior practitioners, as well as proprietors of law practices. Session topics at the conference included the business case for diversity and the benefits of diversity, innovations in legal practice, how to build and retain a client base and social media opportunities and challenges. Kate established a number of connections with female colleagues in other jurisdictions and found the conference useful and enjoyable.
Christine Nixon APM delivered the keynote address at the conference. Christine had a number of suggestions about how we can get more women into leadership roles. The first was to identify systematic barriers that prevent women taking up certain positions or leadership roles in an organisation. Christine's address was inspiring and full of humorous anecdotes relating to this and other methods to achieve cultural change within our workforces.
One such anecdote was about a wall:
To be accepted as a cadet in the New South Wales police force, candidates had to run at a wall and climb over it. If they could not scale the wall, they failed the obstacle course entirely and were rejected.
Christine noticed that there were equal numbers of male and female cadet applicants, but only a very small number of women being accepted as cadets. So, Christine called the recruitment manager and asked him to explain to her why, although there were equal numbers of women applying to become cadets, there were still only very small numbers of women cadets.
His response was, "It is the wall". She asked him "What wall are you talking about?" thinking it was some esoteric wall. He said "The wall in, you know, the obstacle course". Christine said "OK, well let's get rid of the wall". He said "You can't get rid of the wall, the wall is the wall and the wall has been there forever and it is not fair to get rid of the wall". She said "We are getting rid of the wall". He again protested, this time suggesting that recruitment standards will slip if they accepted cadets who could not scale a wall.
Christine called a contractor and had the wall ripped down that very day. In her view, it was simple: it was very rare for a police officer to have to run full pelt at a wall and be able to climb over it by only pulling themselves up over the wall. While it was possible for some men, it was almost impossible for most women.
Someone leaked the story to the media and there was a lot of rumbling about slipping standards. Christine attended a media conference, with the wall, to explain why the wall needed to go. Looking out at the reporters from the podium that day, Christine knew that the reporters attending supported her view. The newspapers had, fortunately, sent all their bright young women to attend the press conference and, Christine says, they got it, they went back and reported that the wall had no real relevance to police training and that it literally was the wall that was preventing women becoming police officers in New South Wales.
Since then, with the same amount of women and men applying, there were now equal numbers of men and women being accepted into the academy.
As 6pm approached, the function room at Russell Kennedy was turned into a sea of the vibrant fuchsia hue as the RKWN commenced our first official fundraiser, a Pink Lady cocktail event for the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA).
The inspiration of RKWN Deputy Convenor, Marika Hubble-Marriott, this Pink Lady event had an excellent drawcard in guest speaker Maxine Morand, CEO of the BCNA.
The 100+ women and men arriving at the pink dreamland were greeted with a dazzling candy buffet that looked too good to dip in the tongs (well almost), enough balloons clinging to the ceiling for each guest to take one home, and the centrepiece for the evening – the pink inspired raffle with 20 prizes offering something for everyone.
Bright Young Things did a fantastic job of catering ‘pink inspired’ food. Their savoury twist on Oreos intrigued the crowds, while delicate pork buns were enough to make the most cautious foodie chase a waiter down for seconds. Most importantly, they ensured there was never a wait for your next glass of pink sparkling.
Marika introduced Maxine with a timeline of her accomplishments. From nurse to researcher, all the way to Cabinet Minister and finally CEO. Live tweeters around the room spoke of “happy noise and anticipation”. "I don't make to-do lists, I just do", was Maxine’s proclamation that will surely hold strong in the minds of everyone at the event. Maxine concluded with a moving video of 2014’s Field of Women which brings thousands of men and women together on the famous grass of the MCG, creating one giant Pink Lady. A glance around the room at this moment would have revealed subtle escaping emotions of those touched by the sentiment.
With the raffle draw looming, guests flurried for last minute tickets and refills for their empty glasses. Marika was like a hot-pink Santa Claus announcing name after name of the lucky winners. We would like to sincerely thank the generous people and businesses who donated prizes: AusCellar Door, Bright Young Things, D&D Milk, Fred and Ginger Catering, Galit Cohen, Grosvenor Hotel, Her Majesty’s Florist, Marriner Group, Pure Baby, Ribs and Rumps, Riordan Power and Electrical, SuperSprint, The Body Shop and Unifour Corporate Suppliers.
As the last pink ladies (and the pink gentlemen who support them) left with lolly boxes and prizes (if they were lucky) in hand, the BCNA and RKWN celebrated our fundraising efforts. And so, it is with great pleasure that we announce the total funds raised = $3,747.85. Thank you to everyone who supported us and participated in making this event an outstanding success.
See pictures from the evening in our Photo Album
On 14 August, RKWN hosted another DEVELOP seminar on Advance Care Directives.
Sabine Phillips presented an informative overview of Advance Care Directives, their legal status and the key issues that arise when interpreting and giving effect to those Directives, which generated lively and interested discussion from guests. Useful links to template Advance Care Directives gave the audience examples of the types of questions we should be asking our parents, and even ourselves, when thinking about future health and personal care. Some guests even recounted stories from their personal and professional experiences where the directives could have (or had already) assisted in ensuring a person’s wishes are considered. Our guests left the seminar grateful for an informative and entertaining perspective on the topic.
DEVELOP is the RKWN breakfast seminar series. DEVELOP focuses on professional and personal development topics of interest to women and includes presentations such as financial planning and superannuation, advanced care directives for aging parents, wills and estate planning, flexible work practices and property investment. The next DEVELOP seminar is on 15 October 2014 and will be presented by Libby Pallot, Principal at Russell Kennedy. Libby will discuss flexible work arrangements. More information on our Events page.
On 31 July 2014, the RKWN celebrated its third anniversary with a cocktail evening. RKWN Committee member, Carly Price, recalls the night:
There was a great turnout of clients, contacts and RK staff to celebrate the occasion and hear from Victoria's recently appointed Ombudsman, Deborah Glass OBE. Guests were treated to an expanded account of Deborah's varied career first-hand, with details beyond those in her double page spread in The Age.
Deborah commenced her career in law in Melbourne, before moving abroad. While originally intent on travelling, Deborah found herself doing what most do when living in Switzerland and began working at Citicorp Investment Bank. Deborah then made the move to Hong Kong where she was appointed to the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission. London was next to catch Deborah's eye and she commenced work there as Chief Executive of the Investment Management Regulatory Organisation, which later became the Financial Services Authority. In her longstanding role before being appointed Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah was appointed to the UK Police Complaints Authority and later became Deputy Chair of the reconstituted Independent Police Complaints Commission of England and Wales. Deborah's journey through these different roles (and countries) was attributable to a variety of factors – geographical shifts, a desire to work in public interest and then opportunities that arose when taking time out and volunteering.
Having now returned to Australia after working abroad, Deborah has realised how much gender is still an issue in Australia, particularly in leadership roles. This was not an issue that Deborah similarly experienced in the United Kingdom or Hong Kong. Having said this, Deborah still recounted moments where she was the minority in an otherwise male establishment. Deborah spoke about how she seized opportunities when they arose and asked for what she wanted. She gave the example that when she was asked to continue in a role beyond her initial 6 month contract, she said she would only do it if she was appointed to the Board. So they appointed Deborah to the Board. Everybody incrementally has a role to play in gender equality, according to Deborah. Whether it be putting yourself forward or mentoring others, we all have a role to play.
Returning to Victoria, Deborah is excited about the new role as Victorian Ombudsman, or perhaps more appropriately Ombudswoman. Deborah is drawn to the constitutional independence of the role and is focused on working towards social justice. Being the first female in the role, Deborah rightly questioned – did it really take 40 years to find a woman for the job?
Signing off for the evening and speaking to our own aspirations, Deborah encouraged audience members to 'Put yourself in that role. Put yourself at the table'.
Read more about the night and see some photos, here.
On Thursday, 19 June the RKWN hosted another well attended breakfast seminar in the DEVELOP series - Wills and Estate Planning for Women.
Daniel Kelliher, Russell Kennedy's wills and estates specialist, gave an informative presentation, which was interspersed by challenging questions from, and lively discussion with, the audience. Daniel explained the importance of making a will and the often undesirable consequences of intestacy. Daniel highlighted the need for regular review of wills in light of changing life circumstances and considerations to keep in mind when appointing executors. Various aspects of estate planning and trust succession were also discussed, within the context of wealth management for women, the respective positions of Gina Rinehart and Janet Holmes á Court were discussed.
DEVELOP is the RKWN breakfast seminar series. DEVELOP focuses on professional and personal development topics of interest to women and includes presentations such as financial planning and superannuation, advanced care directives for aging parents, wills and estate planning, flexible work practices and property investment. The next DEVELOP seminar is on 14 August 2014 and will be presented by Sabine Phillips, Principal at Russell Kennedy. Sabine will discuss advance care directives to enable women to plan for the unexpected so that they can be treated the way they expect or can fulfil the wishes of a relative or friend. More information on our Events page.
The Russell Kennedy Women's Network was delighted to be asked to host the Behind Closed Doors Connexions event in May. Emma Doyle, renowned professional tennis coach, was the guest speaker for the evening, delivering an interesting presentation about how coaching on the sports field translates into coaching and leading a team in a corporate/professional environment.
Here are some of the key themes from the evening as observed by Kate Bartlett, RKWN Committee member:
Emma's presentation focussed on communication styles and strategies of leaders and the importance of knowing your "players". What she said about coaching strategies and how they translated easily into a corporate team environment resonated with the audience of senior women professionals that these events are designed for.
Emma spoke about knowing your players' personalities, their communication styles and their playing/performance styles, and how this was the key to knowing how to get the best from your players. You need to know what your players need, and most players need to know that they have an important role in your team and that their contribution is appreciated.
Her presentation went on to point out that with exceptional players (high-performers) you need to provide growth opportunities within the team or you risk losing them. The return on your investment in exceptional players is huge because those players will go on to be tomorrow’s leaders and they will give back plenty to your team and your organisation.
There were very useful and practical tips for how to provide feedback to your players and how to get the most out of them depending upon their personality, communication styles and performance styles. The audience really enjoyed Emma’s presentation and there were many follow on questions after the presentation ended.
The event provided a large amount of time for networking between RKWN's and BCD's networks and some Russell Kennedy women have made lasting connections with people they met at the event.
The RKWN is hosting another Connexions networking event at Russell Kennedy for Behind Closed Doors on 16 September 2014. Find out more on our events page soon.
On Thursday 1 May, the Victorian Women Lawyers screened The Jammed, a film made in 2007 about human trafficking and the sex slave trade in Melbourne.
Several Russell Kennedy representatives attended. RKWN Committee member, Abbey Sutton relays the themes of the night:
Writer and director of The Jammed, Dee McLachlan said she was inspired to write the film after discovering the sexual exploitation of women that occurs under the noses of many oblivious Australians. While the film is not a documentary, it was influenced by court transcripts and actual events. It was a confronting film, leaving many viewers shocked, outraged and wondering what they could do to help.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion about human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Australia. Panellists included Dee McLachlan, Andrea Buck (producer), Fiona McLeod SC and Professor Susan Kneebone. The panelists made it clear that not much had changed in the seven years since the film's release other than some changes around the availability of visas for victims of trafficking. However, it was revealed that one requirement for a visa is that the women must give evidence against the trafficker – which can put their family in danger – and the fact that the trafficker must be in Australia, means that many of the women are still ineligible for visas and spend time in detention centres.
The film and panel discussion told of how women are sold into sex trafficking and that some women come to Australia voluntarily with the belief that they will be able to make money for their families back home. Once in the hands of the traffickers, the women are told that they have a large debt to pay off and their passports are taken from them. These women become trapped in appalling conditions and become victims of rape and daily abuse.
Inspired to use her legal skills after watching a similar film about trafficking when she was a young lawyer, Fiona later acted in a landmark case for compensation and negotiated changes to the law for trafficked persons. She explained that many of the women she works with come to her through NGOs. In answer to the audience questions about how we can help, we were told that, as lawyers, we can write "really good" letters to politicians. We can also think carefully about how we use our buying power and we can support the Red Cross, which does a lot of work supporting victims of human trafficking.
More information can be found here.
On Thursday, 13 March, RKWN held its third annual breakfast to celebrate International Women's Day (IWD). This year's IWD theme 'Inspiring Change' called for "challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change". Victoria's Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, was our guest speaker.
Commissioner Jenkins explained her role with VEOHRC, her involvement with community organisations, her experience as a corporate lawyer working in workplace relations, discrimination and equal opportunity, as well as her experiences raising a family and working and her upbringing in a family living on an orchard in Templestowe.
In her presentation she spoke about the fact that despite drastic changes in the workplace, to the law and to our culture during her lifetime, there is still significant disparity in equality between men and women; not just at work (for example, unequal pay, unequal opportunity, discrimination and sexual harassment), but also in the social and private spheres of our lives and our society.
Observing that in the late 1960s, the law required that a woman be paid only 75% of the wage of her male colleagues, she highlighted the gender segregated jobs at the time where women were expected (and in many cases, required) to resign their jobs when they married. At the same time, it was not uncommon for families to pass on inheritance only to their sons. "Our cultural norms are changing, but there is still much work to be done."
Speaking about a recent study, Commissioner Jenkins named 'unconscious bias' as the culprit for women and men perceiving women who are mothers as up to 15% less likely to learn and perform than their colleagues. This and other common unconscious biases will only be removed if lasting cultural change is achieved.
Finishing up, the captive audience was left with three simple steps that we can all take to change the cultural norms that perpetuate gender inequality:
1) be aware that unconscious bias exists and to act when you recognise when it may be operating to someone's detriment (for example, ask questions about a person's reasoning for a decision when you think that it is affected by unconscious bias)
2) speak up. Bystander action is incredibly important in changing disruptive and corrosive cultural norms (for example, racism, sexism or harassment)
3) get men involved in the fight to change workplace culture, as well as general cultural norms that adversely affect women, because such norms affect men too and, without men, change will not happen or will not be sustainable
Attendees at the breakfast made donations of new toys to child and family welfare organisation, Berry Street. Commissioner Jenkins has actively championed this not-for-profit organisation in her capacity as a longstanding board member. Berry Street supports children and families who have experienced abuse and neglect.
To find out more about Berry Street or to make a donation, please visit their website.
EMILY's List is a non-profit organisation that raises money to facilitate the election of progressive women candidates to state and federal parliaments. Although independent, EMILY's List is associated with the Australian Labor Party and supports women who pledge their commitment to its core principles of: Equity, Diversity, Choice, Equal Pay and Childcare.
RKWN committee member, Kate Bartlett, had the pleasure of attending this evening event and noted some of the key themes and observations of keynote speaker, Anna Bligh:
Anna Bligh, former Premier of Queensland was introduced by the former Premier of Victoria, The Hon. Joan Kirner, AM. Bligh delivered an entertaining and engaging keynote address in which she explained why it matters for our community, our economy and our democracy to have women represented in higher numbers in our parliaments.
Bligh said that, in the early days of her time as a member of parliament (both in opposition and in government), the parliament was a very male-dominated workplace, not just in the chamber, but also in committees, in caucus and most other forums. She became Deputy Premier in the Beattie Government and recalled Premier Beattie, after leaving one of a series of boardroom lunches with industry leaders, revealing to her that he had never noticed that there were no women at these lunches until Bligh was there, and then the fact was inescapable. Bligh noted that she, and her few female colleagues, could feel a tipping point approaching when there were more women in parliament. When there was a critical mass of women in the parliament, it was immediately noticeable, and she observed then that the decision making body had changed. The presence of a number of women in the cabinet room changed the culture of the cabinet and Bligh became less conscious of being a female minister and felt that she could just be what she was – and be perceived as what she was – a minister.
Bligh discussed her belief that there are cultural changes ahead, flowing from Australia having had its first female Prime Minister. Young girls have now seen a woman in the top job and now know that it is possible. She does not share the view that after the prime ministership of Julia Gillard, fewer women will be likely to seek out the top job, stating that bad things that happen to (or are said about female pioneers) will happen less to the next female and the one after that.
Bligh compared the barriers to women attaining positions of power to a brick wall. After one woman gets through, she will have broken bones, and be bloodied and bruised, but there will be a small crack in the wall. The next through the wall might only be bloodied and battered, but the crack will be bigger. And so on it will go until the crack is a hole and after a few more women get through the hole gets bigger until it undermines the structure of the wall and the wall tumbles, never to be effectively rebuilt.
EMILY's List also launched its report, 'Impact Analysis – Legislative and Policy Achievements of EMILY's List women in power – Federal Parliament 2007-2013' at the event.