Cherieblair.org, 16 October 2012
Summers lecture, as well as articles by others prepared to articulate strongly feminist ideals, highlights a spirit of change in Australia.
The Australian Financial Review and Westpac sparked a recent national debate on the standing and treatment of women in Australia when they recognised exceptional women who are using their influence to improve business and society. It was, however, a difficult week for Australian politics as Prime Minister Julia Gillard stood up to the sexism she endured from the Leader of the Opposition in a speech that has echoed through Australian society and international media. A recent poll asking ‘has Julia Gillard been subjected to more personal criticism than a male Prime Minister would be’ showed that 61% of women thought she had been, as opposed to only 42% of men. Arguably, the nature and level of the personal attacks on Gillard by the Opposition, the media and the people have been vastly more influenced by her gender than previous criticisms of male Prime Ministers.
Anne Summers documented these criticisms in her 2012 Human Rights and Social Justice Lecture at the University of Newcastle, ‘Her Rights at Work. The Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister’ in which she discusses the industry of vilification, and the often sexually crude and offensive criticism that is intended to undermine Gillard’s authority.
Summers lecture, as well as articles by others prepared to articulate strongly feminist ideals, highlights a spirit of change in Australia. The 100 Women of Influence Awards, in the areas of public policy, board and management, social enterprise, innovation, philanthropy, diversity, business entrepreneurship, youth, local and regional and global leadership, recognises women of influence and identifies and celebrates women. Gillard also recently underlined Australian policy initiatives to help deliver an equal future for women. Australia has joined the US and other international partners in expanding economic opportunities for women and to increase women’s participation in politics and civil society, joining the Equal Futures Partnership as a founding member. She announced a 10 year, $320 million initiative, which will focus on improving women’s leadership and decision making opportunities, thereby increasing their economic potential and thus benefitting society and the economy as a whole. Other initiatives include taking steps to improve women’s representation in male dominated industries, as well as a target of a minimum of 40% women on Australian Government Boards by 2015, and finally, in the creation of a National Centre of Excellence to Reduce Violence against Women.