B&T’s Women In Media extravaganza is just 17 days away, and in case you’ve forgotten, our keynote speaker will be none other than former NSW premier and tireless women’s advocate Kristina Keneally.
B&T were lucky enough to catch up with her recently and today bring you part one of our wide ranging interview. To hear Kristina Keneally’s words of wisdom live and to salute a host of inspiring women in our industry, you can grab tickets to Women In Media here.
How would you describe your career so far?
A series of unpredictable, unplanned steps. Truly, it has been a winding path through media, politics, sport and religion. The only true consistency is that I have sought to live out my commitments to social justice and feminism in every job, and to find ways to shape public debate and lead people to a more fair and just society. And, of course, engage with people. I’m an extrovert. I can’t imagine a job where I sat in a room, not communicating or working in a team to achieve an outcome.
What have been some of your personal highlights throughout your career?
Serving as the first female premier of New South Wales is a role I am humbled and honoured to hold. But just as much, I am proud of the work I did as a minister and premier to fundamentally reshape disability services and deliver historic funding levels, to legalise same sex adoption and to get Barangaroo underway.
Of course, I never imagined I would be part of a team that has won a Walkely and a Logie in one year! The federal election in 2016 was a major challenge for news outlets, and I am so delighted to play a role on the Sky News team that provided award-winning live coverage of that eight week campaign.
Do you think gender equality in the workplace has improved or regressed over the last few years?
Visibility and awareness of issues of gender inequality has improved, and to that end, it is an overall improvement. But there is still very far to go when it comes to latent misogyny, the gender pay gap, the gap in domestic responsibility, the superannuation gap, the slow progress to senior leadership, and perhaps most distressingly, the lack of attention to how slow wage growth, underemployment, cutting penalty rates and the failure of successive governments to support flexible and affordable childcare is combining to make life really tough for women on low wages and single mothers.
Throughout your career, how did you deal with gender discrimination and what advice would you give to other women who encounter it in the workplace?
In my political career I was a member of a party that aggressively tackled gender inequality, including a decision in 1994 that 40% of winnable seats had to be contested by women. This challenged the party to work through the structural and cultural barriers that kept talented women from getting noticed and getting ahead. That’s not to say that on my way up the political ladder it was all roses and easygoing.
There’s no easy advice that deals with the array of ways that gender discrimination raises its ugly head, but it helps to know yourself, exude confidence (even if you don’t always feel it), play to your strengths and aggressively seek to build up skills in areas where you aren’t as strong. Good mentors and role models help a great deal.
In some cases, if a matter is serious, it must be reported and brought into the open. If the organisation isn’t ready to address it honestly and openly, it might be time to find a new place to work if possible. And if all else fails, remember that sometimes it is a blessing to be underestimated. I used to revel in it. If someone was ignoring or underestimating me because I was a woman, I was busy working out how to shoot past them and succeed!
Part two of our interview will run on B&T tomorrow.
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 below.