In London last week, former prime minister Julia Gillard reflected on her choices whilst in government. Speaking at the launch of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL), Gillard said she should’ve raised her gender earlier when she was prime minister.
Gillard is chair of the GIWL, and said that although men and women weren’t equally represented in parliament, the world of politics will remain the same once they are.
“We play our politics hard, we’ll still play our politics hard….So no, I don’t think we’ll wake up in this kumbaya world. I still think there will be lots of things to have a red-hot go about but we’ll have different personalities there,” she said.
Gillard also said that she should’ve made a bigger deal of her gender earlier in her prime ministership – because when she started mentioning it later on, it was seen as a political tactic.
“What I made a mistake about, was I thought that the maximum interest in the gender bit would be in the early days of when I was prime minister and then it would flatten out into a normal political cycle.
“What I actually found was, yes, there was a reaction when I first became prime minister but then as the government continued to govern and things got tougher, actually it got more gendered, the gendered insults became the go-to weapon, and because you hadn’t said anything about it all this time to then suddenly say ‘oh this is the gendered bit’, people would say ‘well you’re only saying that because you’re in trouble’ and so it got harder to pull it out,” she said.
The former prime minister also mentioned that her infamous misogyny speech in 2012 – against former opposite leader Tony Abbott’s motion to remove Peter Slipper as Speaker – came “from a place of cool anger,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
But Gillard also said that whilst the speech went viral and was praised around the world, it effected her differently within Australian politics.
“When I did call the gender bit it didn’t play for me well in politics which now with the remove of time and the ability to be more analytical makes me even more anxious to think of the ways that we can disaggregate the gendered bit for women in politics and women in leadership more broadly and shine a light on it and change it,” she said.
According to the GIWL, women only make up 23 per cent of national parliaments, and is starting to research real ways women’s leadership can be improved and put into practice – both in politics and other workplaces.
This can also be seen in other industries, particularly the media and communications industry, where just 26 per cent of news media leaders are women. Something needs to change.
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In her speech, Gillard also urged women who haven’t experienced sexism to take into account the data – but that she was confident politics would be easier “for the next woman.”
“I would have said across a lot of my political life, my life in the law before that, that I hadn’t experienced any barriers because of my gender. I thought for a period of time that we were going to be the generation that everything was going to be different…and look what I learnt along the way.
“Everybody learns some lessons from the experience with the first – I think politics did, the media did, the community did and I think for the next woman there will be a series of things that happened to me that won’t happen to her,” she said.