I would like to share some of my recent reading about women in leadership. The first was an article in August 2013 edition of The Monthly. Cloe Hooper wrote about time she spent with former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard not long before her demise. Hooper travelled with Gillard for about a week in various parts of Australia and PNG. The article gives a great insight into Julia Gillard's character and the way she went about her work. Hooper comments that she saw the types of prejudice Julia Gillard faced, about her partner,her voice,clothes and many other aspects of her female being.
During one discussion, Julia Gillard made a comment to Hooper in reference to what she saw as a growing dialogue that "politics was too hard for women". ""Don't let our own dialogue about ourselves, talk ourselves out of our ability to do this". Julia's response rang familiar bells for me and, when added to some recent experiences, made me think about the issues facing women in power and those who might strive to achieve.
I, like many, have just finished Lean In by Cheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook. I also, some time ago, saw a TED talk by Sandberg in which she articulated many of the ideas she later wrote about in her book. The book, though criticised by some, gives a really good insight into issues facing women. She gives a number of sound pieces of advice I really liked and agreed with. The first, which talks to women think about having babies, but which I think applies to any body is "don't leave before you leave", the idea that you turn off, start thinking about the baby or the next job or whatever can be really damaging because you lose focus and perhaps miss opportunities. The second piece of advice is "make your partner a real partner", someone who supports you, encourages you and isn't put off by the fact that you may earn more money than they do. The third piece of advice is "take a seat at the table", meaning step up, have a go, have some confidence in yourself and don't be put off by the critics. The fourth is to "toughen up" and realise the world might not always be fair.
I had the great delight of being part of the launch of the Griffith Review 40, Women and Power edited by Julianne Schultz and Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World, edited by Jane Caro. Both books are insightful and encourage women not to be put off by criticism and not to lose confidence in themselves.
Lately, when I talk to different groups of women of all age groups, I am asked "what is the point?, it's just too hard for women to be in positions of power and in politics."
My response is "many women are successful, they do achieve great things, yes, they do get criticised but they have given it a go and done it their own way". That's really what counts.
I would also suggest that the critics, in many cases the noisy old men of the media, are just about finished. A turning point was the Destroying the Joint Facebook page which demonstrated that you now, through social media,can take on those old critics and win. Perhaps a new generation of commentators and journalists might allow us to see and hear different views that reflect the diversity of the Australian community rather than the 60 and 70 year old white males who have dominated the airwaves and the opinion pages for so many years. Hopefully, their time is up.