One day powerful women will be ‘unremarkable’
Readers talk back
Must reads site wide
We love celebrating trailblazers: the first female CEO of a particular company, the first female governor-general, the first female prime minister.
But won't it be nice when the only trailblazers we celebrate are the trailblazers of the past? When women who make up 51% of the population are simply expected to fill 51% of the powerful positions?
That was the sentiment expressed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard this morning when she told an ACT Labor conference – slated as a breakfast with "powerful women"– that she looks forward to a time when women in politics are simply unremarkable.
And clearly, she personally gets it. "I don't wander around thinking of myself as a powerful woman, I think of myself as a prime minister," she said.
But she also knows the first she achieved is something not everyone was prepared for. "And yes being the first female PM also attracts some commentary of the negative kind and you know what I'm talking about," she said. "That is, I think, a byproduct of this generation of change."
Things can only get better from here because frankly we must have hit rock bottom.
There's still a strong sense that seeing women in power is remarkable, and the appointment of a female prime minister has brought to the fore some of the worst elements of misogyny we've seen publicly in recent years. Yesterday's disgraceful, sexist attack on the Prime Minister on Facebook showed just how low the debate can go.
Gillard said the "Destroy the joint" campaign proves that people are "prepared to come together for a vision of women being treated truly equally", and that it was encouraging to see men and women working together in support of such ideals.
She added that any negative commentary she's experienced has never detracted her from the "real delight" of being prime minister.
So what will a future where it's unremarkable to see women in powerful positions actually look like?
It could be a future where there's no longer a 17.5% gender pay gap, where there's no great disparity between the number of men and women in senior leadership positions and on boards. It could be a future where women are given more opportunities to stay in the workforce, to progress their careers and drive their own economic independence.
It could be a time when there are no so-called "cyber-bullying campaigns" against major radio broadcasters because there are no major radio broadcasters making offensive and misogynistic comments. Perhaps, in this future, a much greater number of these powerful broadcasters (or whatever their equivalent will be) are actually female. Revolutionary, I know, but not impossible.
More importantly, it could be a future where the "unremarkability" of women in power has flow-on effects for some of the most serious and devastating issues hurting women: high rates of poverty and domestic violence.
"We are not the trailblazers," Gillard said, pointing out that she prefers to give such a label to women like Joan Kirner and Carmen Lawrence.
Gillard may believe that, but I'm not sure the rest of us do. We need to have obliterated the trail before we can hope to see that it's "unremarkable" to have women in power.
This morning's breakfast was chaired by Jane Caro. Check out her excellent piece on the current state of women in power on Women's Agenda.