Journalist Tracey Spicer and her favourite position. Photo: Cole Bennetts
Your favourite position might be team leader, manager or CEO but are your lady parts standing in the way of you reaching it? The reality for Australian women is, they could be.
To be a working woman in Australia is to know that you are valued less than your male counterparts. Our (rising) double digit gender wage gap means you’re earning less than guys doing the same job, you have a reduced chance of making your way to a senior leadership position (particularly if you’re angling to be on the board) and no matter where you are in the business hierarchy you stand a 17 percent chance of sexual harassment on the job and a one in five chance of being discriminated against if you become pregnant.
So, how do we change the mindset of employers who set salaries and give promotions based on genitalia rather than on skill and ability?
US site Mic had a clever idea after seeing an interview with quick-thinking reality TV star Lauren Conrad. When asked by a sleazy radio host what her 'favourite position' was she simply answered, "CEO".
Inspired by their campaign and flipping this kind of sexism on it's head we spoke to 15 successful and inspiring Australian women and asked them to tell us their favourite position and why; what obstacles they faced on the way up and how we can get more women on top.
Jane Caro, social commentator
I am free at last. My kids have all grown up and I have worked for myself for the last 7 years. I can say what I like and (mostly) do what I want. I answer to no-one. I am being paid well for writing, speaking and appearing in the media. I like to hold the powerful to account and speak up for those who rarely get a chance to do so for themselves. I frankly do not understand why anyone who gets the privilege of a place at the public microphone would use it to speak up for the already powerful and privileged. Demonstrably they don't need any help. I like to disturb the comfortable and prick pomposity and self-satisfaction. In a woman, that automatically makes you a troublemaker. Frankly, I can't think of a position I could be prouder to hold.
Clem Bastow, Daily Life columnist
Why did I choose screenwriter, and not "director" or "producer"? Because the script is where it all begins. In the 2001-2010 period, only 13 percent of spec script sales went to female writers; compared to the fact that one in two New York Times Bestsellers are written by female authors, it's a bleak statistic.The more scripts are written by white, straight men in their 30s, the more one-dimensional female characters will end up on our screens. The old "if she can see it, she can be it" line holds true, and it stands to reason that if there is more diversity behind the scenes when it comes to the creation of film and television, there will be more diversity on our screens. My second option for my favourite position was 'Oscar-winner', but I figured first things first.
Chelsea Roffey, first female umpire to officiate an AFL Grand Final
Girls and boys need to know that it’s okay to be comfortable with who you are without feeling pressured to become someone or something else in order to succeed. On the surface, we seem to be open to this idea, but how do our underlying assumptions contribute to pigeonholing people based on stereotypes? I’ve come through a male-dominated industry and although gender is irrelevant to the role I perform, it’s formed a constant theme. I’d like to see terms like “fairness” and “equity” disappear and make way for the real discussion: opportunities presented through creative problem-solving, fresh perspectives and breaking the mould.
Dr Goli Samimi – Head, Ovarian Cancer Research Group – Garvan Institute of Medical Research
As the leader of Garvan’s Ovarian Cancer Research Group, I am constantly learning new things – whether it be from my research, or from the gifted people I work with. This is why I also see my role as being a mentor – encouraging and influencing others to develop and succeed in their personal and professional goals. I am lucky to be in a position where I have the opportunity to pass on some of the guidance and advice that I have received from mentors throughout my life and career.
Mehreen Farqui, NSW Greens, spokesperson for the Status of Women
Here’s the thing: most women hold many positions at the same time. I’m an engineer, academic, activist, Member of Parliament and mother. I’ve had amazing opportunities throughout my career and learnt from some incredible people but I’d be lying if I said it was all an easy journey. The work life balance shifts and changes throughout life, and one thing I learnt early on was to be flexible in any position and ready for the unexpected. There’s always been one common goal, though – I am part of a community movement re-imagining a future where our ecosystem is protected, there is equality and justice in society and where we have well-being across the globe.
Jenna Price, academic, journalist
I still want to be everything. But the one thing I've never been is the person in charge, the person on top. The two sectors I've worked in during my 35 year career are not known for promoting women. In the journalism industry where I worked for most of my life, there are few women on top. And in academia, where I work now, it's the same. Women get promoted but it takes them longer; and sometimes they don't even apply for promotion. I no longer have to juggle. The kids are all right. The husband is delightful. But I'm ready for more work. And more responsibility and the chance to run meetings where I can clamp down on men interrupting women.
Larissa Waters, Greens’ Senator for Queensland and spokesperson for women
My job gives me the opportunity and responsibility to call out sexism and inequality in a Parliament that unfortunately is still dominated by men, especially in Tony Abbott’s Cabinet. I’m so proud to be part of a party led by Senator Christine Milne, one of the strongest women I know. Seven of the Greens’ 11 federal members of Parliament are women – to us, a woman’s place is in the House and the Senate. We need more women in Parliament for so many reasons, but especially to put an end to the systemic discrimination still faced by women in Australia.
Tracey Spicer, journalist and social commentator
My favourite position is Convenor of Women in Media, a networking and mentoring group. It's a privilege to be able to help other women in what is still a male-dominated industry."
Clementine Ford, Daily Life columnist
I've been fired from so many jobs in my life and writing is the only thing I've ever been any good at. I feel so lucky that I can turn my passion for women's rights and social justice into my living. Even though there's no real stability as a freelancer, I've worked to the point where I feel like I can finally relax a little bit and not worry quite so much about where the work's going to come from. I have the freedom to set my own hours and have established great relationships with a few key editors. I am grateful that I can choose to work with people whose values reflect my own. But the best part about my job is the women and men I get to communicate with. I see how feminist politics are changing their lives for the better, and giving them the confidence to speak out against things they know are wrong. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to play some small part in that. Despite the instability, lack of sick pay and annual leave, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
Michelle Law, author
I most aspire to being the showrunner of my own comedy show (in the same vein as writers Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham) and help contribute towards a stronger television culture in Australia. Women producing their own work is important to me because statistically (in Hollywood, at least) female characters and narratives are still hugely underrepresented.Growing up, I craved representation as an Asian-Australian woman and found depressingly few examples of them on television, with even fewer that weren’t gross misrepresentations. In the future, I want to see more racially and gender diverse stories in mainstream film and TV—stories about people and not the labels assigned to them. I’ve learnt that if something doesn’t exist already, you need to create it yourself. Fill the gap.
Ruby Hamad, Daily Life columnist
I've been writing about feminism and race with a smattering of politics for more than four years now. This year I've finally taken the plunge and started to work on my first book. What's it about? Of all things, pigs! Well, more specifically, it's about how various cultures and religions relate to the pig and how our perception of pigs (yummy, dirty, gross, etc) becomes a marker of our identity and reflects our contemporary political environment.
Lucy Zelic, sports commentator
For me, this term extends not just to my role across the workplace but well into my personal life too. It's hugely empowering to think that we are responsible for the shape and the course our lives take, whether that be aiming for greatness in our careers or choosing to better ourselves as individuals. I like knowing that I can have a voice in a meeting room or command attention on the sideline of a football pitch. Our lives are a canvas - you can either choose to leave it blank or fill it with colour and imagination. That's the beauty of being your own boss.
Sarah Macdonald, Daily Life columnist
I suppose I mostly feel like a slasher. Specifically, a broadcaster/writer/columnist/parent . I love telling stories but how I do that has changed with my age, circumstances and with the radical moves in media. But as long as I'm telling tales in some format I'm happy. I'd like my next leap of faith to be into fiction. Do I dare?
Janice Petersen, Presenter, SBS World News
I deliver the world in one hour. The highs and lows of humanity are laid bare each night on SBS World News. It’s a real honour that people invite me into their homes to share the stories that matter. It’s reality television in its purest form. Our stories give you reason to cherish what’s important and contemplate life from the poignant to the profound. Drown out the dumb.
Casey Eastham, Hockeyroo
Living the life of an elite sportsperson has allowed me to partake in some unbelievable experiences throughout my career. The most exciting thing about my job is being able to travel the world meeting people and experiencing the many cultures within it, realising how fortunate I am to be doing what I’m doing. This has led to a passion for me to want to establish my own charity organisation to give back to communities and individuals. I personally cannot think of a more rewarding occupation than to see other people happy and being able to enjoy life with minimal stress.
Share your favourite position under the hashtag #myfavouriteposition.