Elizabeth Broderick is an absolute inspiration. Her work has touched and changed the lives of women across the world, and has significantly raised the benchmark for gender diversity across Australian workplaces.
When she officially stepped down as Sex Discrimination Commission late last year, we knew she absolutely had to be the next woman inducted into our Women’s Agenda Hall of Fame, following Wendy McCarthy (2013), Ann Sherry (2014) and Helen Conway (2015).
Broderick’s work supporting women hasn’t stopped. She’s still speaking all over the world, still convening the Male Champions of Change group that she founded, and still offering advice and knowledge to those who’re willing and determined to commit to making change within their own communities and workplaces.
The former lawyer and partner in a global commercial law firm served as Commissioner from 2007 to 2015, where she led on a number of initiatives including raising awareness on sexual harassment (including by sharing her own story), pregnancy discrimination, running a major investigation into gender-discriminatory practices at the Australian Defence Force and launching the MCC initiative, after persuading some of the most powerful men in the country to start a new conversation on gender inequality.
She’s also advocated for the prevention of violence against women, improving lifetime economic security for women, flexible work, paid parental leave and promoting women’s representation in leadership across all sectors.
The MCC model is one that has been replicated within Australian organisations, and across the world. With a passion for story-telling, Broderick has a unique and powerful ability to connect key influencers with the stories or women who’ve been abused, harassed or discriminated against.
During her corporate career with Blake Dawson (now Ashurst), Broderick pioneered on part time work — running a busy practice while raising two children — and played a significant role in leading on a culture of diversity and inclusion. She changed the legal sector for women, only to go on and advocate for change for all women.
Broderick accepted her award via video address at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards yesterday, as she’s currently overseas.
She sent her congratulations to the winners and said she felt honoured to be recognised in the Hall of Fame. Below’s more from her acceptance speech.
“I’m proud to stand besides them and the finalists and emerging leaders here today, a reminder to myself that every generation of women is more empowered than the previous generation.
“Thank you for picking up the baton and continuing to drive change.
“I’ve seen what the absence of gender equality looks like. From Carnarvon to Cook Creek, to sporting fields, to fields of war, I know what happens when a girl’s value is diminished by our inability to see her worth.
“Three days ago a young 16 year old woman stood before the UN General Assembly. She said, I speak on behalf of all young women in refugee camps, we are indeed the wretched of the world. I dream of happiness and one moment of freedom. To witness that keeps it real.
“When presented with the enormity to create an equal gendered world, it’s easy to lose faith in the possibility of change.
“Awards such as these are important. They reveal the breadth and extent of women’s contribution.
“We are often conditioned as women to be humble. Don’t be boastful or too forward.
“As imperfect as we are, we must all have strong belief in ourselves that gender equality is our birthright, so why would we accept anything less?
“It’s as vital for women to be powerful and influential as it is for men.
“I’m going to continue to take this message of women’s empowerment to the most unexpected places, to the military, to factories, police, to parliament. We need to bring this message to all Australians.
“The message is not limited by geography but by individual’s willingness to step up with us.
“We are in very capable hands. I know Australia has a future where men and women will share power equally. Where they will have compassion to stay connected to their hearts. A future where girls and boys know anything is possible.”
“I will continue to use my voice to create an Australia that welcomes women. That celebrates and eagerly awaits their wisdom. Where gender no longer becomes a defining factor, and where a shared humanity lie at the heart of equality.”
Presenting the Awards, Women’s Agenda’s Sarah O’Carroll shared with the audience her first experience of meeting Broderick:
“When I landed in Australia nine years ago I was sent to interview the then newly appointed Sex Discrimination Officer in her office in Sydney.
“I was nervous my heart was pumping. I was expecting a formal and intimidating interview. Instead of a desk, we sat down on a couch, and Liz asked me about my degree and travels.
“I immediately felt comfortable, and it gave me the confidence to conduct a great interview and do my job well. That experience demonstrated to me what this woman was about to do for women across Australia in the next few years.
I asked her about her plans as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, her response was seriously ambitious and game-changing — and she clearly stuck with what she was going to do, and what she promised, because here we are today inducting her into our Hall of Fame… For her advocacy on sexual harassment, violence against women, balancing paid work and unpaid care responsibilities and strengthening gender equal laws and agencies. She’s been monumental in domestic violence reform and championed ASX principles to increase women at decision making level. She also commissioned a review into sex harassment of women in military and so so much more…”