Australia’s 1st Female Prime Minister Julia Gillard Talks Leadership, Sexism & Hillary Clinton

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In 2012, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who also happened to be the country’s first female top leader, made a rousing speech directed at the opposition leader Tony Abbott (who is the current Prime Minister of Australia) about sexism and misogyny. The video went viral, and has over 2.7 million views and counting. It essentially became her swan song, the pinnacle of her 3 years as leader of the country, and to this day is still talked about in political circles.

Since her time in office, she may no longer be seen in the Aussie house of Parliament, but Julia has not slowed down her passion for activism and politics. She has joined forces with Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation for an initiative helping girls get education in the developing world where it is not always a luxury they can take advantage of like some of us can.

She has also written a book called ‘My Story’ where she talks about her time in office and being a woman in politics during a time when it is still unfortunately rare.

At Fortune Magazine’s recent Most Powerful Women Summit in London, she spoke about how she dealt with sexism, why she got into politics, and her advice for Hillary Clinton.

When asked by host Pattie Sellers what she would tell the Democratic Presidential Candidate about potentially becoming the first female leader of the free world, she basically said Hillary has already has had her fair share of criticism since she has been in politics for a long time, but what Julia learned and the advice she could give is that no female politician or leader should underestimate how long the sexism lasts for.

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“One thing I absolutely got wrong about being the first woman to do the job is that I made the assumption that the maximum reaction to being [the first female] prime minister would manifest itself in the first few months of doing the job; that would be its height,” she admits.

Sadly, the misogyny became a regular staple when it came to criticizing Julia’s policies. “Ditch the bitch” became a popular saying, rather than actually offering intelligent comebacks to her stance on wanting to introduce a carbon tax to reduce emissions, for instance.

When asked whether she regrets giving her famous misogyny speech in 2012, she immediately said “no”. In fact the video traveled so far that she tells a story in the video below where she was in India on a diplomatic visit and her female Indian security guard who was accompanying her at one point looked at Julia and said “great speech”. It was then that she knew what she said resonated with more than just women in Australian politics, but women everywhere.

“This issue about women and leadership is a global issue. Still, somewhere in our brains, is whispering a stereotype that says if a woman is leading, commanding, she has probably given up on ‘female’ traits of empathy, likeability; she’s probably a bit hard boiled,” said Julia.

“Until we can shed that stereotype that women, leadership and likeability don’t go together, we will be putting the baggage of that on to the women who do emerge,” she said while also adding we will see much more of it in Hillary’s presidential campaign as the year progresses.

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In the interview she emphasized the need for female mentors and role models, of which she is a direct beneficiary, but said that they need to be organic and authentic, not forced in any way. We definitely agree with her about the power of role models as they can be the very turning point of inspiration in our lives.

“I think role models are incredibly important for women,” she said.

“This is the moment for us to be having deep conversations about how to change [sexism] so that daughters in the future [don’t have to face] questions other than those about values and competency and confidence.

Part of her reasoning is that we are not born with gender bias, it is taught, learned and passed on from one generation to another. Julia is living proof that to make a change on a huge level it does not come without its fair share of backlash and negativity, but it is so worth it if it means the next female Australian Prime Minister won’t be called a “bitch” simply for being clear-headed and direct.

“I don’t think people are born with a blinkered gender construct about what they can achieve in the world. We stamp that onto them. And we’ve got to pull the stamp away,” she said.

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It’s no secret we here at GTHQ are Hillary supporters, so hearing from someone like Julia Gillard is an important reminder of what women in politics still face in 2015 (and will continue to face until the ratio of representatives on all levels becomes 50-50 male-female) and on a greater level, what women around the world face almost every day.

As for her advice for the future generations of girls who dream of becoming tomorrow’s leaders, Julia has some great advice.

“We don’t need to lecture our daughters on the idea of opportunities, I think they inherently believe in them. What we tend to do is model strictures on those opportunities, but if we can [tell them] that every self-belief they’ve got of themselves is a good belief, then that’s what will carry them through.”

Even though she is talking about young girls, let’s apply this to ourselves today. Let’s not limit ourselves the way the world does. Let’s dictate to the world how we want to be viewed and treated as women, not the other way around.

You can watch the full insightful interview below:


 

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