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Julia Gillard is Australia's first and only female prime minister.
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Girls & Women

Julia Gillard Boldly Calls Out Sexism in Australian Politics With Impassioned Speech


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Globally, women still have to contend with stereotypes that they are less interested or adapted to leadership roles. Global Citizen campaigns on the UN Global Goals, including uplifting women and promoting diversity. You can take action on the issue of gender equality here.

Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard claims a shift toward gender equality within leadership positions is moving at a “glacial” pace, with long-held discriminatory gender biases continuing to stifle women across politics, business, and media.

In an impassioned speech at the University of Adelaide on Tuesday, Gillard announced that merit is equally distributed between the sexes, and, as such, any gender rate result that isn’t half-half is “deeply troubling.”

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"The number of women in senior management globally has risen just one percentage point in 10 years,” Gillard announced, before stating women account for just 23% of national parliamentarians, 26% of news media leaders, 27% of judges, and 24% of senior managers.

"Now, if we were seeing a fast rate of change in the statistics I cited then there would be nothing wrong with sitting back and waiting to wake up in a more equal world," she stated. "But the rate of change is glacial.”

Gillard then shifted her speech to focus on the conscious and unconscious gender prejudice that exists within Australian politics. She asserted Liberal Party votes "touched by bias about gender" blocked former Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop from acquiring the title of Australia 30th prime minister during last month's Liberal leadership spill.

“In politics, at the current rate of progress, it will take another half-century to reach parity with men,” she claimed.

Bishop concurred, denouncing her party's gender discrimination during the Australian Women’s Weekly Women of the Future awards. 

“I say to my party, it is not acceptable for us to have in 2018 to have less than 25% of our parliamentarians as female," Bishop announced. “Our party, in fact all parties, recognise they have a problem in attracting and maintaining women, diversity in general."

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According to Gillard, the Liberal party has a major prolonged problem with female representation.

“In 1994, the ALP and the Liberal party had around about the same percentage of women in their federal caucuses,” she said. “For Labor, it was 14.5% and for the Liberal party, it was 13.9%. Today, women are 46% of federal Labor, a jump of over 30 percentage points. In contrast, the Liberal party has inched forward to 23%, a jump of just over nine percentage points.”

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Gillard, Australia’s first and only female prime minister, has long dealt with misogyny and discrimination. In 2012, she condemned opposition leader Tony Abbott during a speech in parliament for catcalling and labelling her as a “man’s bitch”.

“If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror,” she stated. 

Australia’s gender discrimination issue is even more drastic when juxtaposed against other countries. In 1999, Australia ranked 15th in the world in terms of female parliamentary representation. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, today, the nation sits in 50th place, behind Sudan, Burundi, and Senegal.