Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world
Get to know some of the women and allies at Monash Arts dedicated to leading our world into a more equal future.
"The world is on notice – compromising our way to gender equality has clearly not worked out.
Victim survivors alongside our excellent academics specialising in gender based violence, discrimination and ingrained inequalities rightly demand tomorrow cannot look like yesterday or today.
I have no doubt they will succeed in achieving the significant change required."
– Professor Sharon Pickering, Dean of Arts
Meet the leaders
A/Prof Kate Fitz-Gibbon | Director, Monash Gender and Family Violence PreventionView
Senior Lecturer, Criminology
Director, Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre
“Equality must be achieved at the individual level of each community, each organisation, and each culture.”
What is your International Women’s Day message? Equality must be achieved at the individual level of each community, each organisation, and each culture. It is not enough to have equality in some aspects of our lives. Equality needs to be everywhere. And achieving that must be the goal.
Who is your female role model, and why? I admire The Honourable Marcia Neave AO. She has dedicated her career to improving responses to violence against women in all its forms. Her leadership in this space has transformed responses to family violence in Victoria and established a world leading reform agenda.
What are your goals for this year? My goal is to continue to contribute to building the evidence base needed to prevent the killing of Australian women and children. Each week in Australia a woman is killed by her male intimate partner (current or former). Each fortnight in Australia a child is killed by a family member. This is a national emergency.
Dr Samanthi Gunawardana | Senior Lecturer, Politics and International RelationsView
Senior Lecturer, Politics and International Relations
“It is hard to justify continuing inequality, and it is all our responsibility to transform it.”
What is your International Women’s Day message? In this day and age, it is hard to justify continuing inequality, and it is all our responsibility to transform it. It might be as simple as starting where you are and examining how things are done in your family, workplace or neighbourhood. It might be pursuing a career that helps you to advocate for women and girls, or simply ensuring that your employer doesn't harm women and girls. It might be participating in marches and strikes, or organising your own. If you identify as a woman, support other women however you can.
How has your research and work in international development practice helped elevate women and girls? I think in two ways. First, my research looks at the everyday experiences of diverse women in Sri Lanka as they earn a livelihood, whether in a factory producing H&M clothing, as a migrant domestic worker abroad, or working in agricultural food production. I also look at unpaid work such as childcare and its relationship to paid work. A key element of my work is documenting working conditions and how women have organised themselves to enact change in their lives and their broader communities. By working with women workers and their advocates, I have been able to highlight key areas for change in employer, aid and trade policy.
Second, I teach gender and development, one of the core units in the Master of International Development Practice. In this class, I discuss applying a gender lens to all development work and not just projects directly targeted at women and girls. Sharing this perspective with future development practice leaders is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work at Monash.
What are your hopes for women and girls around the world in 2021? I have so many! I hope that their voices are heard and taken seriously and also that diverse voices are heard and given space. I hope that women and girls can live free from the gendered impacts of conflict, and durable peace is a goal that all governments work towards. I hope that climate and economic security are given as much attention as militarised security because they often disproportionately impact women and girls. I hope that the world wakes up to sexual and gender-based violence's pervasiveness and works towards eliminating it in their communities. Most of all, I hope that women and girls are able to pursue their goals and live up to their fullest potential however they define it.
Prof Cat Hope | Professor, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and PerformanceView
Professor, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance
“Support other women, create networks with them and be generous with them. They will be there to support you when you really need it.”
Why is it vital that we challenge gender inequality in music and the performing arts? Music is made for everyone, and because of this, it should be made by everyone. That way, we can fully engage with the wealth of perspectives available to us: as applied to existing works, or in the creation of new ones. I like the term equity, rather than equality, for this reason.
Which woman do you look up to the most, and why? There are so many! Recently, I have thought a lot about the impact of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who is trailblazing in so many ways. In music, I would say Deborah Cheetham, who has forged a path for First Nations musicians who want to pursue classical music.
What advice would you give to aspiring female musicians and performers? Trust your instinct - if you feel it is not right, it most likely is not. Do not let the challenges define you; move along and deal with issues as they appear. Support other women, create networks with them and be generous with them. They will be there to support you when you really need it.
Prof Lynette Russell | Director, Monash Indigenous Studies CentreView
Director, Monash Indigenous Studies Centre
“Take the time to find balance and take care of yourself, no one else will do that for you.”
What is your message for women on International Women's Day? Once you have established your values make sure they underwrite everything you do. Set your priorities and revisit them often. Take the time to find balance, and take care of yourself, no one else will do that for you.
Greatest professional accomplishment? I am continually inspired by the team we have put together for the Global Encounters Laureate Program. This project will contribute to our understanding of Australian history for decades to come.
Which woman do you admire most, and why? Mum Shirl (Shirley Colleen Smith 1924-1998) social worker and humanitarian. She helped set up the Aboriginal Legal Service, Medical Service, Housing Company, the Tent Embassy and the Aboriginal Children’s Service, in New South Wales. Her legacy can be felt across the entire continent.
Dr Sharman Stone | Professor of Practice, Monash Gender Peace & Security CentreView
Professor of Practice in Gender, Peace and Security
Formally a Federal Member of Parliament, the Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls, and Foundation Patron of the Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre
“My advice to a young woman wishing to be elected is to reflect deeply on your motivations, values and integrity, then embrace the challenge with all your heart and soul.”
In what ways can women in leadership positions challenge existing gender biases and inequalities? One of our feminist pioneers Gloria Steinem described leaders as not just responding to public opinion, but changing it. She said: “She didn’t put her finger to the wind, she became the wind.”
It is so easy today to imagine activism is an anonymous retweet or ‘like’ of someone else’s contribution on social media. You can feel engaged and virtuous, communicating with people like you, even though your contribution can be dismissed with the swipe of a finger.
As well or instead, anyone can make a personal choice to be outspoken and proactive in never tolerating sexist abuse or other behaviours. You can choose to be a person who takes time to look for solutions and who tries to implement the change. This will take your precious time, hard work, courage, sacrifice of personal space, it will require persistence and a strong grasp of the facts. You will be helped with expert media training, good media contacts and knowledge of the law.
If you are a woman in leadership in a place of employment, you can require gender quotas to ensure an inclusive and diverse workforce and/or use gender blind recruitment practices. You can make sure there is funding for independent, confidential workplace processes for victims or whistle-blowers reporting abuse, 24/7, that eliminate job repercussions or backlash. You can incorporate zero tolerance into your employee’s regular performance evaluation that clocks any personal or reporting of sexual harassment, bullying, or violence among their reports, unusual rates of job vacancies or leave taking, and the consequences should be career limiting or dismissal.
Women in leadership must insist on workplace flexibility, part-time work, job sharing and sharing the unpaid carer role, so gendered stereotypes about the woman’s place in society and her capacity to fully participate are challenged and overturned. Women leaders can insist on regular human rights and gender justice training by experts for all new and ongoing workers. All employees or volunteers need to know about the processes and consequences of reporting criminal behaviour to the police, and must be supported with job security, ongoing counselling and advice whatever their choice. Women in leadership must deliberately set out to identify other women (or men) who need support or who have the potential to lead by selfless long term mentoring and offering of fearless and frank friendship.
What advice would you give to a young woman hoping to get into politics? You need to begin by seriously examining your motives including identifying who or what has influenced your decision to ‘stand’. Ask yourself why you want to go into politics, and why you want to ‘stand’ now, while you are still a young woman, perhaps limited in life experience.
If you aim to be elected to Federal Parliament, you will need to ensure you are strong physically and emotionally. Until you can change the conditions, you must withstand the average 12-16 hour sitting days, away from home for 20+ weeks a year and the highly gendered and sometimes abusive work culture and practices. You will need to be adopted by or establish a strong network of support in your chosen party or community in order to run a campaign. You should seek out a mature mentor (ideally a woman) who has gone down this path before and who is aware of the pitfalls and who sincerely wants you to succeed.
I contested seven elections in order to represent my constituents in the rural electorate of Murray for 20 years. Every day was an honour and a privilege to serve. My constituent’s or the nation’s interests (as I saw them) took precedence over conflicting party policy or demands for towing the line. I ‘crossed the floor’ when I thought it was necessary. I opposed my party and its leadership, for example in relation to women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, their failure to support my key industries and the failure of environmental and water planning. This did have career consequences, but I managed to bring about significant change, retained the respect of colleagues and the overwhelming support of my electorate.
My advice to a young woman wishing to be elected is to reflect deeply on your motivations, values and integrity, then embrace the challenge with all your heart and soul.
What are your hopes for women and girls around the world in 2021? I hope that all women and children can experience a safer, kinder life, free from discrimination, poverty, violence, abuse, inequality, natural disaster consequences; able to readily access work, education and health services; able to practice any faith freely, and be able to take on leadership roles at the global, national and local levels.
Dr Verity Trott | Lecturer, Communications and Media StudiesView
Lecturer, Communications and Media Studies
Monash Data Futures Institute
“We need to see, value, and empathise with women as individuals, as humans, as equals and not in their relation to men.”
What is your International Women’s Day message? For International Women's Day, I would like to emphasise a call for the recognition of women as somebodies and not somebody's. We need to see, value, and empathise with women as individuals, as humans, as equals and not in their relation to men.
How can we empower women and girls to use social media to drive social change? We can empower women and girls to use social media to drive social change by providing them support in online (and offline) spaces to be able to participate in and access the public sphere free of harassment, trolling and abuse.
What are some steps we can all take to help create a more inclusive culture of masculinity? To build a more inclusive culture of masculinity, we need to challenge and call out everyday behaviours that attempt to regulate traditional, conservative and toxic notions of masculinity and to model and uphold more productive and inclusive ways of being a man.
Director, Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre
“Support other women whenever and in whatever way you can.”
Which woman do you admire most, and why? I admire lots of women, both living and those who have paved the way for us. Dame Whina Cooper, Harriet Tubman, Alaa Saleh, Noeleen Heyzer, Madeleine Rees, Jane Addams, Ruby Kholifah, Jacinda Ardern, Kimberle Crenshaw, Milada Horakova, my grandmother – in no particular order and the list goes on.
Head, School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies
“The sisterhood matters. Always remember you did not get there on your own, and pay it forward by reaching out and supporting those who come after you.”
Greatest professional accomplishment? Surviving! Seriously though, I am most proud of the books I have written that have resonated with the public. Probably my latest book, The Battle Within: POWs in postwar Australia, gained the most traction. When people write to you and say how much your book has meant to them, or come up to you after public talks and share their own stories, it feels like a privilege and an honour to work in this field.
Which woman do you admire most, and why? As any one of my three daughters will tell you, I am not really a ‘favourites’ person. As a historian by training, I will nominate a woman who is no longer particularly well known, but deserves to be more widely celebrated. Emily Hobhouse was fearless in her criticism of British use of concentration camps in the South African War and later adopted an equally controversial stance as a pacifist during the First World War. She was a woman who chose to do what was right, rather than what was popular.
What is your message for women on International Women's Day? The sisterhood matters. Always remember you did not get there on your own, and pay it forward by reaching out and supporting those who come after you. Sometimes those efforts remain invisible, but they are essential if we are ever to transform workplace cultures and practices.
Professor Brett Hutchins, Head of School, School of Media, Film & Journalism
“To me, achieving an equal future means supporting and enabling colleagues and friends when they speak truth to power. Listening and learning from women’s experiences is an essential step in challenging gender inequality and injustice.”
Associate Professor Asher Flynn, Director, Social and Political Sciences Graduate Research Program
“As researchers, we are in a position of privilege. We can freely speak up and out about abuse and discrimination, while many individuals experience forced silence and marginalisation. I work towards an equal future by projecting the voices of victims/survivors of technology-facilitated abuse, and by pushing for informed and evidence-based changes to laws, policy and supports to respond, prevent and address violence."
Dr Nina Li, Lecturer, Communications and Media Studies
"To me, working towards an equal future means challenging gender stereotypes, comfortably being myself, and encouraging others to do the same."
"Equality must be achieved at the individual level of each community, each organisation, and each culture."