I’m a feminist, not exactly ground breaking news to those who know me. Don’t get me wrong, I love being feminine, I love pretty dresses and high heels (although at the moment I’m not allowed to wear them!). I have more handbags than most women. I shave my legs, at least when I think people might see them. I also love empowering women to be strong and take leadership roles. I want to see more young women realize that being assertive is not a bad thing, that being bossy is a compliment not a derogatory label.
Even now, two plus generations on from the bra burning feminist protests, we are still lagging well behind the fellows in our representation in leadership roles. Of our top 200 ASX companies less than 5% have women CEOs and our parliaments are still woefully lacking in women members. Our current federal cabinet has one female, The Hon Julie Bishop, who is minister for foreign affairs and deputy leader of the Liberal Party. Considering the current government ministry is 16% female and the sitting members are 22% female it is concerning that cabinet is only 5% female. As a paid up member of the liberal party this doesn’t bode well for my goal of becoming the first female treasurer!
This trend is repeated in my own community. Our local council has only two female councilors, 22%. The boards of our local hospital and private schools are similar. Our local community bank has only one female director – comprising 10% of the board! Yet according to the ABS the population of our shire is 50% female.
I wonder what the young women in our society see when they look around. What female role models can be found? I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan of Julia Gillard’s politics but I was proud we had a female Prime Minister. I was also appalled at the treatment she received. I don’t recall seeing male leaders subject to the same innuendo and discussion of their sexuality. Why is it our society tries to dewomanise strong women?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think men are all bad and out to undermine women, we do that well enough on our own without their help! Nor do I think women should be appointed to roles just because of our gender.My concern is that there are capable and strong women within our communities that aren’t being given the support and opportunities to sit at the table. Research has shown that organisations that have boards with a higher percentage of women perform better.
My aim in the next twelve moths is to work in my local community to help and inspire women to lean in and become leaders. As the amazing Carol Schwartz, AM said at a CPA luncheon last week “you can’t be what you can’t see”. I intend to stand up and by seen as a leader in my community, but I won’t burn my bras as they are expensive to replace.
If you too are feeling inspired to lean in, have a read of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Also have a look at Lean In, Ban Bossy, and our own Australian Businesswomens Network.