Forty-plus degree temperatures could not keep delegates—including Centre members Kate Shacklock, Georgina Murray, Elliroma Gardiner, and Higher Degrees Research (HDR) students Jessica Blomfield (pictured right), Mahan Poorhosseinzadeh and Vishal Rana—away from the G20 International Dialogue on Women in Leadership held at South Bank, Brisbane on the 16-17 November, 2014. With welcomes from Professor Ian O’Connor, Vice Chancellor Griffith University, and The Hon. Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, delegates were encouraged to focus conversations on action and progress. The inclusion of a target in the G20 communiqué to reduce the gender gap in the workforce by 25% by 2025 (which will bring 100 million women into the workforce) was a hot topic for all speakers in the opening sessions.
Griffith University’s own Chancellor, the Hon. Leneen Forde AC (pictured left), told interesting tales of her younger years as a lawyer, receiving much less pay than male counterparts doing exactly the same job! In a sign of dramatic changes having since occurred in pay equality, the audience drew breath in disbelief! Winnie Byanyima (Chief Executive, Oxfam International) was a highlight from the first evening. She argued that women’s participation in work is a human rights issue, not an economic one, but commented that if making it an economic issue is what was needed to get it on the global agenda – then ok! There was a heated debate around quotas for women in leadership roles as Michaelia Cash (Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) outlined the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) position on quotas in parliament. She claims that women should be elected based on merit, not gender. The opposing argument (which the crowd seemed most in favour of) was that quotas create the opportunity for women to be elected based on merit, made memorable by one delegate commenting “if you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably on the menu”!
Day two saw seven panels and three keynote speakers. The panel on ‘Women in politics and government: alliances, strategies and power’ was particularly excellent. Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter (President and CEO, The New America Foundation) and Professor Jane Halton PSM (Secretary, Department of Finance, Australian Government and the highest ranked woman in the public service), advocated for flexible working conditions and mentoring. Professor Slaughter sparked many Tweets (#IDWL14) when she declared that men who take the role of primary caregivers are breaking boundaries in gender equality along with women in leadership roles.
A key theme to emerge from all discussions was the need to shift social norms around gender, with many speakers affirming that women’s participation in leadership roles creates a symbol for broader social norms and change. Delegates were also urged to remember the varying contexts and conversations of gender equality across cultures and development. The final session closed on a positive note, with agreement that while much has been achieved for women in leadership and in the workforce, there is still much more to be done.
WOW members’ and affiliated HDR students’ attendance at the Dialogue was sponsored by Griffith University and the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing (WOW).
Story by: WOW and Department of Employment Relations and Human Resources HDR student, Jessica Blomfield, and WOW member, Associate Professor Kate Shacklock.