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Who runs the world? Girls.

12 August 2014

Beyonce  Margaret Thatcher

Role models: American singer actress, Beyonce; ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

More than half of all professional women still believe they have to push harder to be recognised for their work, according to a national survey commissioned by Westpac and released in August. The Women of Influence report also uncovered that the majority of both genders agree on the continued existence of the glass ceiling - 74 per cent of women, 57 per cent of men.

The majority (61 per cent of women and 55 per cent of men) also said they would like to see an increased awareness of both unconscious bias and discriminatory behaviour at work.

A mere six per cent of women and 11 per cent of men proactively suggested an education or training program to address the issues, and 15 per cent had no idea what do to about unconscious bias and discriminatory behaviour at work.

Westpac’s Ruby Connection is determined to be part of finding solutions to overcome gender hurdles, and joined FYA (Foundation for Young Australians) to be part of its ‘Who runs the world? Girls!’ initiative.

The networking lunch targeted female secondary students from Victorian public schools (Year 10). Every guest received a list of nine inspirational quotes from women leaders (Sheryl Sandberg, Hilary Clinton, Beyonce – whose lyrics inspired the event’s title - etc). Guests then had to match the quote to the person who said them and those quotes then spurred discussion. A panel of young women spoke about their experiences in the workforce and around leadership.

On the panel were Nayuka Gorrie from FYA, Ashleigh Grogan, MD, Young Vagabond Magazine, and Georgia Stryker, Manager, Women’s Markets, Westpac. The panel was moderated by Larke Riemer, Director, Women’s Markets, Westpac.

A keynote address from FYA CEO and 100 Women of Influence 2012 winner Jan Owen kicked off the formal proceedings.

Women of Influence quotes

Here are the quotes and their female author.

(Audience members were asked how they responded to the quotes – did they resonate and why; if the message was still relevant, and where id they look for inspiration on leadership and leading?)

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Presenting leadership as a list of carefully defined qualities (like strategic, analytical, and performance-oriented) no longer holds. Instead, true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed.... Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” Sheryl Sandberg, CEO, Facebook

“Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.” Margaret Thatcher

“Leadership is a series of behaviours rather than a role for heroes.” Margaret Wheatley

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Madeline Albright

"Your self-worth is determined by you. You don’t have to depend on someone telling you who you are." Beyonce

“I realized that education … is the power for women, and that’s why the terrorists are afraid of education.” Malala Yousafzai

"I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life." Hilary Clinton

"I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women… This social revolution of feminism in the '70s really achieved so many of its goals—not every single one of them, obviously—but I think we should say it's great that these young women don't feel like they need to be feminists." Katy Perry

The quote from Katy Perry has drawn its share of supporters and detractors.

Westpac’s Georgia Stryker, who was on the panel, found she gravitated toward what Perry had to say for a number of reasons: “Perry is around my age. Many of my friends and I have particular views about the word feminist/feminism and being associated with it. For us the word carries negative connotations. I understand that wasn’t always the case. It’s just the term’s come to be associated with being ‘shrill’, ‘in your face’, a ‘certain type’.

“I don’t see gender equality as a ‘men versus women’ issue. I get how much the movement has achieved. We want and understand the value of equality and I know that’s what feminism is all about. It's the connotations that have come to surround the word that make me shy away from it sometimes.”

Another of the panelists, young business women Ashleigh Grogan, is working with school students on breaking down gender stereotypes. Her gender equality course being piloted in Victorian State Public Schools has found that for many young people, early role modeling and society have already set us in our ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ ways. The course reveals to students their inherent bias and gets them to think about resetting the balance.

More networking lunches introducing young business women as role models are being planned and the gender pilot is being assessed for further development.