I went to a co-ed school. My view of the world was, of course, shaped by this education and the diversity of people I was educated alongside.
Since I was a kid, I’ve been surrounded by the expectation that the world does indeed include men and women, girls and boys, in pretty much equal parts.
It perplexes me, that our leaders seem to feel differently.
Last week, Scott Morrison and Donald Trump wined and dined 100 invitees and their partners, in Washington DC.
If you look through the official invite list, you’ll see a few women. When you dive deeper into the numbers, you begin to see a pattern of discrimination.
By my count, there were 8 Australian women and 16 American women who made the cut as primary invitees. Crunch those numbers and 24% of the invitees were female.
It was a dining room full of mainly men, jockeying to lobby, influence and learn so they can take that knowledge back to their business, share market trades and their friendship circles.
Just the way they like it.
When voices of women, people of color, those identifying as LGBTQI and others aren’t invited into that room – you create an echo chamber of their priorities, their problems and their view on the world. Which – are all valid. But – so are the voices of others.
Actions speak louder than words and I’m afraid our Prime Minister’s actions at this event warrant a D minus – at best.
Now in fairness, this is a marginal improvement on Malcolm Turnbull’s effort.
Last time he was in Washington with Trump, he only managed to invite 4 women, or less than 8%. So Scomo gets a B for effort. But instead of feeling grateful, I feel gutted.
Because yet again – our nation’s leader is sending a message. A message to other women, to other men and to kids. That message is – women are alright, but not amazing. Ladies might get the call up if they’re lucky, but we’ll always preference our mates. Women are not equal in our eyes to men.
Window dress it however you want to justify the invite list. Men are richer, men are more ‘powerful’, there are more men in influential positions. All these excuses do is reinforce the stereotype that power belongs to men and women are lucky to be considered.
Reinforcing the stereotypes that have always existed is not leadership. And it’s not reflective of society’s expectations in 2019.
Look – I’d love the guest list to be 50/50, but I’m a realist. So, I’d like to suggest instead Scott Morrison and his team take a leaf out of Norway’s book. The Norweigans introduced the 40:40:20 rule for their corporate boards. It stipulates boards be at least 40% of each gender with the remaining 20% can be of either gender.
Now, for the purposes of this conversation, I’m not going to be so extreme so as to suggest we should apply this rule in our Parliament or to Australian corporate boards.
Nope. I’m taking this one REALLLLLLY slowly for the slow learners in the class room.
So, next time Scott Morrison rolls out the red carpet abroad, serves great wine and invites influential people into a room, may I suggest he take a second to pause. Pause to reflect on who’s on the list. And if there’s not 40% of invitations sent out to people who identify as female, maybe take a second to think about why.
If we follow the 40:40:20 at the government event planning level, we can hope to see more women at those dinner tables. Maybe then we can work on the Cabinet table.
At my school, we were taught the value of sharing and giving everyone a turn. We were encouraged to lift up others and pay it forward. Our primary school motto was “Strength with Kindness”.
No doubt Scott Morrison had a similar experience. His alma mater Sydney Boy’s High School has motto too – Veritate et Virtute – with Truth and Courage.
Our PM needs to live that creed and avoid taking the easy option. He needs to stop inviting the usual suspects and make a statement that modern Australia is a diverse, wonderful place represented by more than middle-aged white men.
Let’s move away from the same old people, getting the same amazing access. The Anthony Pratts, the Gina Rineharts and the Greg Normans of this world.
On one hand, I get it. You throw a party, you invite your rich friends – they might even bring good wine. There’s no question Australia has coal barons and golf super stars in our cultural fabric. They’ve helped make Australia who it is.
But who is building and equipping Australia for the next century? Unless you’re living under a rock, you’d know it’s not the usual suspects who will be steering Australia’s economy into the future.
The eight Australian women invited:
1. Sonia Gentile, director of Program, Office of the Prime Minister of Australia
2. Georgina Rinehart, chairman of Hancock Prospecting
3. Elizabeth Jens, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Ross Allen AUSSIE
4. Michelle Chan, national security adviser and senior adviser (international), Office of the Prime Minister of Australia
5. Frances Adamson, secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia
6.Katrina Cooper, deputy chief of mission, Embassy of Australia, and Keith Tuckwell
7. Michelle Simmons, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology
8. Shemara Wikramanayake, managing director and chief executive of Macquarie Group Ltd,