We Are Women

Had another coffee this week with my male friend - he from my previous article 'Coffee chats in the diverse, digital and dichotomous world of 2016' about International Women's Day. He told me that he listened to the radio until 12noon on Wednesday 8 March and then had to turn it off as it all 'became a bit much.' What became a bit much you may ask?
Was it the fact that the ABC decided to field all female hosts on its radio and TV programs for the day (except on Q&A where Tony Jones is apparently irreplaceable)? Or the fact that many media stories were about women - in business, in leadership, in technology, in science, in politics...?
It was an interesting comment from a white Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual male who understands and supports the rise of the feminine agenda in business and beyond. In this instance I was inclined to say "tough" or "get over it," because for so many years all we heard was male voices on ABC radio and TV, all we saw were men in suits dominating the power pages of the newspapers and the only people we reported to were men. And in some sectors and in some cultures this is still the case!

In Australia the leadership of our ASX200 companies is blindingly white and male. There are more or equal numbers of men named Peter, John, Andrew and David serving as CEOs of the ASX200 than there are women and few, if any, are ethnically diverse.

So surely one day in 365 in which women are publicly celebrated is not too much to ask?

Later the same day I gave an address to the Lyceum Club in Sydney in which I spoke about the critical importance of role models. I started with my head mistress at NEGS, Dr Jan Milburn -  coincidentally a member at the Lyceum Club - and moved through to our first (and only) female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. The impact that women who are visibly able to be seen in leadership roles across all sectors of society have on the impressionable minds of younger women is significant and must not be under-estimated.

There are those who decry the movement of women into power as tokenism or not worthy of celebration as these things will happen as a 'matter of time'.  Aside from a reminder that a token is defined as, "a thing serving as a visible or tangible representation of a fact, quality, feeling etc." it is naive to assume that the so-called level playing field delivers an equitable outcome for all. How do the men called Peter, John, Andrew and David get to be CEOs? Why not the men called Zhang Wei or Reyansh? Why not Jane or Sally or Sarah - all common female names?

There was a lot of role models in the room at the Lyceum Club. I am going to introduce Heather Rossiter, author, scientist and traveller. She told me a little of her life history - living in Oxford and working at the UK Atomic Energy Authority, moving to the USA after being offered a job at the US Atomic Energy Commission and travelling and researching extensively in the Middle East and North Africa. Now a published author. There were others like her in the room. Women on whose shoulders we stand today.  

Finally, it is worth remembering that IWD is a day of celebration, not a day to thumb our nose at men or to pick fights with organisations and people who are aiming for the lofty goal of an equitable society. The words of Helen Reddy's immortal song 'I Am Woman' which became an anthem for the women's liberation movement are worth revisiting:

"I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'Cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again"

The version pulled together by Judith Lucy in her final edition of the 2015 program All Woman is worth taking a moment to listen to:  https://youtu.be/T7qTxbPv7tE

Salutations to women everywhere on the occasion of IWD 2017.


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