We’re closing in on this year’s Women In Media event, held at Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse, with the gala dinner just a few Fridays away. Yes, Friday 1 September is the big night, and you can get your tickets right here.
And for a bit of added inspiration, read on for part two of our interview with keynote speaker and former NSW premier Kristina Keneally.
The 3% Conference Australasia (which runs in tandem with B&T’s Women In Media) has shone a light on the low level of female participation at the c-suite of business, and not just in the media industry. What are the first steps to changing the ratio in a broader sense?
Targets and quotas are essential. The usual argument against quotas is that, somehow, they prevent people with ‘merit’ from getting the job. If an organisation only hires on merit, and it hires mainly men, the leadership of that organisation must believe that men are far more meritorious than women.
What quotas and targets do is force organisations to change their systems and their biases and look for merit in places they’ve not looked previously. Candidates of merit come in all genders and backgrounds. Sometimes an organisation needs a direct mandate to do things differently and to find these people.
In terms of female participation in the upper echelons of the workforce, what are you seeing in the modern context that both pleases you and concerns you?
I’m pleased to see initiatives like the Male Champions of Change, or targets for management positions in some of our big corporations, or the Women in the MBA program that Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) is delivering.
In my role as director of gender inclusion at MGSM, I am concerned by the number of women who tell me they are reluctant to do a MBA or invest in their career because they look upward and see little evidence that women can get ahead, or they decide to invest in their husband’s education over their own because, as a family, it will have a better pay-off. At an individual level, it is a rational decision. Depressing, but rational. At a societal level, it’s significantly detrimental.
Lastly, who are the most inspirational women you’ve come across over your professional career and why?
I admire both Julia Gillard and Penny Wong for standing firm, confident in who they are, and advocating clearly and confidently for the values in which they believe. Jana Wendt is a hero: I had the privilege of being the subject of one of her profile pieces, and I found her honest, engaging, intelligent and a magnificent writer.
As a journalist she has the perfect combination of emotional and intellectual intelligence, brilliant judgment, and a serenely calm demeanour. I’m also grateful – so grateful – for the likes of Sandra Nori, Clover Moore and Janice Crosio – women who were pioneers in the New South Wales parliament, coming through when only a handful of women had ever been elected and paving the way for my generation.
Kristina Keneally sits on the council of Opportunity International, an organisation that supports local microfinance organisations that provide innovative financial solutions to empower people, create small businesses and build vibrant communities. You can learn more about their work in the video above.