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Reinvigorating focus on women in leadership
The speech by Natasha Stott Despoja AM received rapturous applause at the launch of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation this week. The former senator and Ambassador for Women and Girls called for Australia to reinvigorate its focus on women in leadership.
Her stellar career to date sees her bring a wealth of experience to her position on the Foundation's Advisory Council: Natasha was the youngest woman to be elected to federal parliament, and serves on the World Bank Advisory Council on Gender and Development. She has served as an international election observer for the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), and since her appointment in June 2013, she has been the Founding Chair of OurWatch, the Foundation to Prevent Violence against women and their children.
Following the address by Foundation Patron Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, Stott Despoja's speech drew on her previous roles to argue that Australia is long overdue for institutions to reflect and represent our diversity and difference - and to equally represent men and women.
Commencing her address to the audience by highlighting the combined achievements of the Foundation's Advisory Council, Natasha Stott Despoja AM playfully congratulated Foundation Director Virginia Haussegger AM for bringing together a 'special group of over-achievers'. She stated that the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation is 'an idea who's time has come, or maybe it's a bit overdue'.
The 50/50 by 2030 Foundation is an idea who's time has come.
Recalling her early forays into political life in 1995, when women made up only 14% of parliament, she recounted the tale of her first business lunch - during which she was asked if she entered politics to meet a husband.
The third reflection she offered was that society and the status of women will not change until women are represented - until they're in leadership positions, and in our powerful institutions. Because apart from being 'the fair and the right thing to do', we know that women's participation has a positive economic effect.
Gender inequality is at the core of the problem. Gender equality is the heart of the solution.
Conversely, Natasha argued, decreasing women's representation in parliament by just 5% means that a country is 5 times more likely to use military intervention in order to resolve conflicts.
Research tells us that having more women in leadership positions changes public perceptions regarding the roles and aspirations of girls. Additionally, it results in more girls attending school and feeling more equipped to participate in leadership positions.
Reiterating the saying that 'you can't be what you can't see', she commended the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation for providing a goal and a target to work towards.
In finishing, she declared 'let's not be afraid to try and beat that goal, and beat that target, because the women of Australia, of our region and the world deserve no less'.