Women in Leadership is an initiative advocating for the rights of women, gender equality, and facilitating equal access to opportunities and resources for women as it exists for their male counterparts.
This initiative was launched in 2013 in the University of Sydney to serve as a platform for discussion, research, and promotion of contemporary issues related to women in leadership in government, business, and not-for-profit organisations in Australia, the United States, and all over the world.
History is replete with instances of women being at a disadvantage both socially and economically. They were considered as inferior to the men and relegated to the background. Over time, movements such as women suffrage and feminism have changed the perception of women in our society and made them more relevant. Today, the quality of lives for women in Australia and other western countries has improved greatly especially when compared to what happens in developing countries where cases of violence against women still happen at alarming rates and are even considered normal.
However, the struggles faced by women are still numerous and unique to them. One of the places where that is evident is in society and the workplace. The idea of women becoming leaders in politics and the workplace still faces many oppositions from society actively and passively, thereby making it difficult for many to reach their potential.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, Australia and the United States shared the lead for women’s educational attainment. In both countries, over 50% of university graduates. However, when it came to economic participation and opportunity, Australia and the United States fell to thirteenth and sixth respectively in the WEF ranking of the 134 countries surveyed. These rankings dropped still further, to sixtieth and forty-third, when women’s roles at the highest levels of political decision-making were considered.
There have been outstanding individual successes. In 2010, Julia Gillard became the first woman to be elected Prime Minister of Australia, and in 2013 Julie Bishop became the first female Foreign Minister. These achievements followed the appointment of Quentin Bryce as Australia’s first female Governor-General and of Gail Kelly as CEO of Westpac, one of the country’s big four banks.
In the US, the start of 2014 saw economist Janet Yellen assume leadership of the world’s most powerful central bank, the US Federal Reserve, at the same time that GM’s Mary Barra become the first woman to lead an international automotive company. In 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to contest for President, and that is a big leap for gender equality even though she lost. By 2020, Kamala Harris became the first woman to be Vice President of the United States.
The Women in Leadership initiative seeks to ensure that more women in Australia, the United States, and all over the world attain positions and reach their potential regardless of gender.