A Gender Politics Expert Reads Julia Gillard’s Women and Leadership


Why are there so few ladies on the top levels of politics? This query is on the centre of the brand new guide, Women and Leadership, co-authored by Australia’s first girl prime minister, Julia Gillard, and former Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Utilizing their private experiences and interviews with a powerful group of eight ladies leaders – together with Theresa May, Hillary Clinton, Jacinda Ardern and Christine Lagarde – Gillard and Okonjo-Iweala take a look at numerous tutorial research to see if their findings are mirrored in actuality.

Theses research embrace media coverage of girls’s management, in addition to perceptions of girls’s “power-seeking” and gender norms round management.

What outcomes is each a sobering reminder that sexism isn’t going away anytime quickly and an empowering message about ladies’s energy and resilience.

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As an educational researching ladies’s political management, this guide acts as a vital level between scholarly studies and public debate. It additionally presents a recent perspective of the numerous points ladies in management face.

Listed here are 4 key messages:

1. The style police are all over the place

Gillard and Okonjo-Iweala discover ladies leaders are closely judged for his or her look. This was an issue confronted by all leaders interviewed, regardless of their numerous experiences and areas.

Nonetheless, there have been nonetheless variations internationally. Clinton, a former US presidential candidate and secretary of state, was identified for her pant fits – which she mentioned helped her feel professional and “slot in”. However former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf famous how she “would have gotten some eyes as a lady sporting pant fits” and conventional costume labored greatest for her.

Hillary Clinton has mentioned her pantsuits made her really feel ‘able to go’. Picture: Lorie Shaull.

There can be energy in clothes. For instance, New Zealand’s Ardern was seen to indicate compassion, empathy and solidarity when she wore a hijab after the Christchurch terrorist assault. As Gillard and Okonjo-Iweala write,

it turned an emblem of affection within the face of hate. There was a transcendent energy in look.

2. Put together to be judged in your reproductive decisions

The guide additionally explores how ladies leaders are judged for his or her reproductive decisions. Whereas fatherhood increases perceptions of male leaders as affable, relatable and standard, public motherhood is a much more problematic expertise.

Because the authors notice, ladies leaders with younger kids are incessantly requested, “who’s minding the youngsters?”

Seven hours after her election, Ardern was asked on national television about her plans for having kids. When she had her daughter, there was intense media scrutiny about how she would juggle her management position and her child. But male leaders, resembling former UK prime minister Tony Blair, who welcome infants in workplace, are usually not questioned about who might be taking care of them.

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And what about ladies leaders who don’t have kids? Gillard is intrigued by the respectful therapy of former British prime minister Could’s childlessness, as she had a polar reverse expertise in Australia (who may neglect the frenzy sparked by her empty fruit bowl).

Gillard makes a thought-provoking level right here about selection. Could needed, however was unable, to have kids, whereas Gillard was intentionally child-free. Maybe this was the reason for the criticism she confronted. As Gillard writes,

in being seen to offend in opposition to feminine stereotypes, is there something larger than not turning into a mom by selection?

3. The state of affairs is just not getting higher

The guide makes the purpose that regardless of the give attention to ladies in politics, the expertise for these on the prime is just not essentially bettering.

As somebody whose research found media response to Could in 2016 was extra gendered than for Margaret Thatcher in 1979, I wasn’t shocked to learn this. Nonetheless, it was nonetheless shocking to be taught that Michelle Bachelet – Chile’s president from 2006-10 and 2014-18 – observed issues have been worse in her second time period.

Initially assuming the strain of gendered expectations had improved the second time round, Bachelet realised,

it was the identical or worse. I feel politics is getting extra sophisticated lately and extra vicious. There’s much less respect. It’s extra personalised now.

All leaders interviewed mentioned they have been aware of the difficulties of discovering a stability in management fashion. In the event that they have been too sturdy or assertive, they might be seen as “chilly”, “robotic” or “bitchy”.

4. ‘Bear in mind, not beware’

The experiences and recommendation of those eight high-profile ladies leaders reveal how sexism is par for the course.

This message is hammered house within the ultimate chapter, through which Gillard and Okonjo-Iweala notice “Bear in mind, not beware”. They argue that they need to encourage ladies to pursue politics and management roles, however glossing over the challenges could be dishonest and insulting.

Former British prime minister Theresa Could. Picture: Annika Haas/EU2017EE.

Summarising the insights gleaned from earlier chapters, Gillard and Okonjo-Iweala supply some stand-out classes that can help aspiring ladies leaders. These embrace:

  • anticipate sexism and sexist commentary regarding your look, household and management fashion and work out early on how you’ll reply to this
  • help different ladies, whether or not by network-building, mentoring, role-modelling or common solidarity
  • persevere.

A actuality test

Ladies and Management is, at occasions, a miserable actuality test that feminism nonetheless has a protracted technique to go. Nonetheless, readers mustn’t come away from this sense hopeless or disheartened.

Reasonably, they will recognize the respect the authors have given them by talking plainly concerning the realities ladies leaders face.

Maybe extra consideration may have been given to the experiences of girls in much less senior positions. Do we have to hear from the success tales after we speak concerning the struggles of girls in management, or may we maybe additionally be taught from these whose glass ceilings have been simply too thick?

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Whereas this guide may be much less helpful for ladies – and males – with out management aspirations, its common evaluation of gender stereotypes and double requirements nonetheless makes it a worthwhile learn.

That is additionally downside that girls can’t repair alone. Males have to do their bit, by calling out sexism and supporting ladies. The media should even be extra lively in combating sexism and misogyny.

One enduring message of this guide is that progress and equality are usually not linear.

Sexism doesn’t simply sooner or later magically disappear. Reasonably, it could solely be dismantled by fixed strain and the actions of those that persevere.

This text is republished from The Conversation beneath a Artistic Commons license. Creator: Blair Williams, Affiliate Lecturer, Faculty of Political Science and Worldwide Relations, Australian National University.

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Cowl picture by Penguin Books Australia.

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