Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she is pleased her viral “misogyny” speech directed at Tony Abbott has become a “battle anthem” for young women fighting to make their way in the workplace.
Speaking at the virtual launch of her new book overnight, the lawyer-turned author was asked if she felt as “badass” watching her speech on TV as she did making it at the time.
Laughing at the question, Ms Gillard said “I don’t spend time watching myself back, when you’ve done it and lived through it.”
“I am happy that that speech is still resonating for women. I know it’s had a fair old outing in the UK in recent days.”
She said she was “delighted” the speech is being used as a “battle anthem” for women going out into the world they know is “gendered” but are impatient to change.
“That speaks volumes and makes me very optimistic.”
Ms Gillard’s 2012 speech has resurfaced in the context of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent appointment to the UK Board of Trade.
The British government’s decision sparked controversy given Mr Abbott’s former comments on women, homosexuality and climate change, leading to questions about whether he was the right sort of person to be representing UK values.
UK MPs from across the political spectrum lined up to say he should not have been appointed to the role, however the advisory position was confirmed by the UK government last Friday.
At the time, Ms Gillard declared “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not” in a speech that quickly made headlines around the world.
“The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the house of representatives, he needs a mirror,” she said.
Ms Gillard is currently working as chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College in London. She has recently published Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons with Nigerian economist, Gavi vaccine alliance chair and World Trade Organisation leadership candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The book contains interviews with eight high-profile female political leaders including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, former US presidential contender Hillary Clinton, Norweigan Prime Minister, Erna Solberg and former Chilean leader Michelle Bachelet.
Liberia’s former leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ex-President of Malawi Joyce Banda and European Central Bank’s Christine Lagarde are also featured.
With chapters on hair and “who’s minding the kids?” it confronts the specific issues female leaders face in politics, which Ms Gillard described as having the “whitest and the hottest” spotlight a person can face.
On her own experience having become Labor leader after a party room ballot that saw Kevin Rudd step down, she said the “frame about being an ambitious woman was around me from the outset.”
Researching the book allowed her to reflect on how much of that was “gendered.”
“I intuitively felt it at the time,” she said, adding that the studies allowed her to “see that in a credentialed and evidenced way.”
When asked what she wished she knew earlier in her career, Ms Gillard said she didn’t have the same sense “as the young male politicians about how much space you could take up in the world.”
She described seeing her male colleagues meeting with CEOs in business and media and behaving as if they were “entitled to take up that much space”, advising other young women to not “underestimate how much space you’re able to take up.”
The book also contains nuggets of information such as how Hillary Clinton spent a solid one month of her time as Secretary of State dedicated to fixing or worrying about her hair.
On New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, just the second woman to have a baby in office, Ms Okonjo-Iweala said when asked about her work/life balance, Ms Ardern said “I just make it work.”
“This issue of balancing, it’s about making it work from day to day. That’s a good lesson, there’s no perfect answer. You make it work and you move along the way.”
As for what makes good leaders, Ms Okonjo-Iweala said it’s important young women remember to look for men for mentoring as well and know you’re never the only one in a certain situation.
“You’re not fit for leadership because other people think you are,” she said.
“It’s not what other people think, it’s what you have inside of you that makes you a leader.”