Women in Leadership Initiative

Women in Leadership Initiative Collage

Clockwise from top left: GE CEO Mary Barra, US Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen, University of Sydney Chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The United States Studies Centre’s Women in Leadership Initiative was launched at the University of Sydney in 2013 to provide a platform for research, discussion and promotion of contemporary issues related to women in leadership in business, government and non-profit organisations in the United States, Australia and globally.

The 2013 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) showed that Australia and the US shared the lead for women’s educational attainment. In both countries, women had long comprised more than 50 per cent of university graduates. However, when it came to economic participation and opportunity, the US and Australia fell to sixth and thirteenth respectively in the WEF ranking of the 134 countries surveyed. These rankings dropped still further, to forty-third and sixtieth, when women’s roles at the highest levels of political decision-making were considered.

There have been outstanding individual successes. In 2010, Julia Gillard became the first woman to be elected Prime Minister of Australia and in 2013 Julie Bishop became the first female Foreign Minister. These achievements followed the appointment of Quentin Bryce as Australia’s first female Governor General and of Gail Kelly as CEO of Westpac, one of the country’s big four banks.

In the US, the start of 2014 saw economist Janet Yellen assume leadership of the world’s most powerful central bank, the US Federal Reserve, at the same time that GM’s Mary Barra become the first women to lead an international automotive company . And there is a growing expectation that in 2016 Hillary Clinton will become the first woman nominated as a candidate for the US Presidency and perhaps even the first woman to hold the position of Commander in Chief.

"A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

US President Barack Obama, State of the Union, 28 January 2014

The US Studies Centre’s Women in Leadership Initiative seeks to contribute to ensuring these women are followed by many more and that the position of women in the US, Australia and globally, continues to improve.

To that end, under the direction of Melissa Grah-McIntosh, the Initiative is initially working towards a major international conference in November 2014. The International Dialogue on Women's Leadership will bring some of the world’s most powerful and influential women to Sydney to share insights for both men and women into the benefits and best practice of promoting women’s leadership in business, government and the non-profit sectors.

“Australia has one of the most highly educated female populations in the world with women representing 55 per cent of university graduates. There are however still barriers to women’s full participation in the workforce and less than 15 per cent of women are in senior leadership roles in business and government.

We need to overcome the personal and societal belief systems and stereotypes and increase the benefits of our national investment in women’s education.

The US Studies Centre’s new Women in Leadership initiative is important in encouraging women and men to work together to build opportunities for women leaders. Through sharing research and experiences about the key enablers and inhibitors to the promotion of women, we can build a stronger platform for increasing the opportunities for women in the workforce.”

Belinda Hutchinson AM, Chancellor of the University of Sydney

For further information:

Melissa Grah-McIntosh
E: melissa.grah-mcintosh@sydney.edu.au
T: +61 2 9114 2607

Annabel McGilvray
E: annabel.mcgilvray@sydney.edu.au
T: 0405 260 919

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