By Professor Robin Stonecash, Head of Gold Coast Campus and Dean and Head of School of Business and Tourism at Southern Cross University
In the early 2000s I attended a function where Anna Bligh was the guest speaker. The then Queensland Deputy Premier recounted a funny story about a colleague who needed to speak with her. People were starting to talk because Ms Bligh had appeared on the front page of a Brisbane newspaper under the headline “Ms Rising Star”. The colleague said in hushed tones that people were saying she was “ambitious!” as if that were the worst thing you could say about a woman. As we know Ms Bligh succeeded Peter Beattie as Premier in 2007 and went on to lead Queensland for five years.
More than a decade later and people are saying that Julie Bishop was somehow flawed because she dared to believe that she, too, had what it took to be leader of the Coalition government and Prime Minister of Australia. In 2019 women are still not supposed to be ambitious nor to want to demonstrate their leadership skills. We have made great strides for the equality of women but we have a long way to go.
So what can we do to get more women into leadership positions? In my School at Southern Cross University, I encourage women to apply for leadership roles, to apply for better positions, to think of themselves as leaders. I coach them and mentor them. But most importantly, I encourage women to think of themselves as leaders and not to say they don’t really care about the title or the money. I tell them to admit to ambition. And I encourage men to imagine a woman when they think of a boss, a leader, a manager, a mentor. There are big, national policy things we can do, but sometimes the small things matter just as much. Like saying, “Yes, I’d like that promotion, that leadership role. And I think I’d be good at it for the following reasons”. And for both men and women to say “You’re absolutely right – you would be good at it”.
As long as women are still made to feel bad for wanting the top jobs, we will have gender inequality. So for International Women’s Day, tell your daughter that she can aspire to be anything she wants. And tell your son that he should be proud to work for a fine leader – that she’ll be strong, fair and he’ll learn something from her.
International Women's Day 2019
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