By Jenny Morris, CEO of The Orijen Group
I have just returned from the 100 Women of Influence breakfast at Westpac and the anger in the room about the sexist treatment of Julia Gillard was palpable. No matter what your political persuasion, no-one would want to be, or have their daughters exposed to such personal, sustained, gender-based vitriol.
The gender equity changes achieved by the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s were driven by anger…anger at inequalities and anger at social injustice. Anger was and is energising and it provided the fuel to create a fairer and more equitable Australian workplace – changes that we take for granted today.
However, I have observed that over the subsequent forty years that rather than feeling angry, the next generation of women personalised and internalised their struggle. Young women believed that if they couldn’t make it, it was their own fault. They failed to see the systemic and cultural barriers which held them back. Anger was replaced by depression – an inward looking process which is de-energising. In part, this helps explain the slow progress in achieving gender diversity in senior levels within Australian organisations.
My first reaction when Julia Gillard stated that things would be easier for the next woman aspiring to lead the country, was “Who in their right mind would subject themselves to such abuse?”. But, after hearing the indignation and anger among the women I met today, I have a glimmer of hope that we can once again use this energy to engage women to stand up, speak out and lead change.