International Women's Day 2018 - a time for celebration and change

The first gathering devoted to women's rights is generally accepted to have been held in 1848, when 300 women and men gathered together at Seneca Falls, New York, to sign the Declaration of Sentiments, a plea for the end of discrimination against women.


Since then, women have helped change our world, with major discoveries and inventions including the theory of radioactivity, glare-free glass, the XY chromosome, the circular saw, the medical syringe, the Apgar newborn test, wireless communications, Kevlar, stem cell isolation, dark matter, whooping cough vaccine, coffee filters, caller ID, computer compiler and programming language, the windshield wiper, and the structure of DNA.


In 1893 the colony of New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to give all women the right to vote in, but not stand for, parliamentary elections, followed closely by the colony of South Australia in 1894.


Yet, 170 years after that meeting in Seneca Falls, the #metoo and #timesup movements are front and centre of our social media. Oscar winner Frances McDormand has called for an “inclusion rider”. The International Women's Day 2018 campaign theme is #PressforProgress. Indeed, there is still much progress to be made.


Across the globe, a gender pay gap persists and women are still not equally represented in business or politics. According to the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, gender parity is more than 200 years away.


Yet we’ve worked out a way to send people to the moon (on a path discovered by a woman!) and abolish smallpox.

As former Federal Attorney-General the Honourable Nicola Roxon told the Institute of Public Administration’s International Women’s Day celebration, while there are so many things to celebrate, things won’t work if we keep doing things the same way.


Ms Roxon spoke about her experience as Australia’s first female Attorney-General introducing plain packaging of cigarettes, and setting up the Royal Commission into Child Abuse.


She also shared some tips and advice, urging the audience not to give up on something just because it doesn’t work the first time, and to learn to take a compliment.


“Devaluing yourself is crazy,” she said.


Former Governor of NSW, Dame Marie Bashir, then spoke about an instance of doing just that when she was called to a meeting with the Premier.


“The first thing I thought was, oh my goodness, what have I done? Have I overrun the budget?” Dame Marie recounted.

At the meeting, she said the Premier said he was thinking about the next Governor of NSW and that he thought it should be a woman.


“Oh, I thought, he wants my advice as a psychiatrist,” Dame Marie said.


As we all know, that’s not what he wanted at all, and Dame Marie went on to become the State’s first female Governor, a time she described as “wondrous”.


- Sarah Turner, KJA


Below photo: Dame Marie Bashir at the IPAA and MinterEllison International Woman's Day 2018 Celebration on 7 March in Sydney

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