Julia Gillard on women’s leadership: ‘If you want to change the society, educate a girl’


There’s a general consensus within the Australian corporate community that there is a need to get more women into leadership positions.

In 2014, 40% of the boards of ASX listed companies didn’t include women, females only made up 3.5% of Australian CEOs and with a significant gender pay gap.

And before you switch off thinking “feminist issue”, it’s not. It’s a leadership issue.

This idea was clearly pointed out by former primer minister Julia Gillard last week.

She said, if you want the “best possible people” as leaders then you need equal representation of them. That means 50% men and 50% women.

Speaking at the NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards ceremony, Gillard, who is known for her “misogyny speech”, said she is proud to be associated with the cause to get women equal representation in leadership positions.

“Unfortunately we are not there yet, and we’re not going to be there until… people believe as I do, that merit is equally distributed between the sexes,” she said.

“You can look at any institution whether it be a parliament, a corporate board a judicial bench, a military hierarchy and if you aren’t seeing basically 50% men and 50% women then that means women of merit, who should have been in that position, missed out.

“We will know that we have achieved equality when we can look through the structures of our society and basically see half, half.”

Here’s some more from her speech.

This isn’t just a human rights issue… it’s not just an issue of fairness and equality, it’s also an issue of building our best possible future.

Because don’t we owe it to our nation, and to the world in which we live, to make sure that the positions which truly matter, in which big decisions are taken, that those positions have the best possible people serving in them? And if the answer to that is yes then we only have the best possible people serving if we have 50% men and 50% women.

And it is a universal truism in development, when you speak to people in the global development community, that if you want to change the society, educate a girl.

If you educate a girl, then she will have the empowerment and the economic freedoms, which come with that education, when she moves into the labour market, and more choices about how and when to have her children, she will choose to have less children, and have them later in her life.

Education helps to overcome things like child marriage, the children that she does have are more likely to survive, they are more likely to be vaccinated, they are more likely to be literate themselves and to go to school themselves.

If you want to change a nation, to change our planet, educate a girl.

In this great country where we enjoy so many remarkable privileges, I feel very intensely the obligation to make sure we are reaching out to our neighbours and helping them educate their girls… who are most likely to be left behind.