Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says male corporate Australia has a big role to play in reducing the well-established gender divide.
Gillard commented on this as she presented to a packed audience, via Zoom, at an event hosted by WA Business News in Perth earlier this month to promote her latest book ‘Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons’.
The book, co-authored by former Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, captures the voices and experiences of professional women around the world.
Throughout the discussion, Ms Gillard reflected on her own experiences during her time in parliament and shared insights and advice from women featured in the book.
Major contributions include anecdotes from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, former United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May.
When asked about the best way forward, Gillard says men need to champion the change.
“Men get listened to,” said Ms Gillard.
“If a man points out sexism people will take that more on board,” she says, whereas, a woman where there is an underlying conflict of interest.
“Is she doing that because it’s sexist or is she doing that because she’s trying to get an advantage out of pretending that it’s sexist?”
In an interview with ABC radio Melbourne, Gillard continues to discuss gender discourse.
“A man who shows emotion won’t necessarily have people conclude that he’s a sort of weak person who’s not coping, in fact they quite like it, the fact he’s showing emotion against gender stereotypes.
“If [women] come on too strong people will think they’re a bit of a bitch. If they’re too empathetic and caring people will think they’re not tough enough to lead.” Gillard continues, describing the corporate climb as a narrow pathway for women to navigate.
This pathway is largely the motivation behind the book which serves as a roadmap for women who seek leadership roles but might hesitate about its reality.
One underlying message was clear: progress and equality are not linear. Sexism won’t be here one day and gone the next. Rather, it is a construct that needs to be dismantled with constant pressure and perseverance.
“We need to pick up our game,” Ms Gillard told attendees.
That we do.