22 Jan President’s Report – January 2019
The best moments for women in 2018
The last 12 months have been an interesting time to be a woman. Many of the defining moments for women in 2018 are bittersweet. Certainly they are worthy of much celebration of the resilience, bravery and strength shown by so many women in so many ways. However at the same time they present as a source of ongoing frustration as they serve as a strong reminder on how far we still have to go in the quest for true gender equality.
But as we launch into 2019 let’s recap on 10 of the great moments of 2018 and acknowledge and celebrate the brilliant work of those women who changed laws and attitudes in 2018 and how they have set the stage for an even bigger 2019.
- Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons named 2018 Australian of the Year and Samantha Kerr named 2018 Young Australian of the Year.
2018 got off to a great start as we witnessed one of the world’s leading scientists, Professor Michelle Simmons named the 2018 Australian of the Year. Professor Simmons is a pioneering physicist who leads the quantum physics department at the University of New South Wales. During her acceptance speech Professor Simmons said she was a woman working in a predominantly male world and hoped to shatter expectations of what careers women should pursue and achieve.
Soccer star Samantha Kerr also received the huge accolade of being named the 2018 Young Australian of the Year. Samantha plays for the Australian women’s soccer team, the Matildas and first represented Australia when she was 15. Her other achievements include 2017 AFC Women’s Player of the Year, Australian Sports Woman of the Year and the Most valuable player in the US Women’s Soccer League in 2017.
- More women than men were appointed to ASX 200 boards
In an historic first, female appointments to the Boards of Australia’s top 200 publicly listed companies exceeded male appointments in January to March 2018. In 2017, during the same period, only 33 percent of appointments were women. The number of Australia’s top 200 publicly listed companies with no women around their board table now stands at five – this is down from 14 at the same time last year. Of course the goal is for this to become the norm rather than the news but it certainly seems like we are headed in the right direction.
- The ‘Time’s Up’ movement begins
Hollywood’s plight for gender equality continued following on from the 2017 #MeToo movement. At the outset of 2018, some of Hollywood’s biggest names unveiled the ‘Time’s Up’ anti-harassment plan and legal fund. The initiative aims at helping women fight sexual harassment in the workplace and the backlash that can often be a result of reporting this conduct. Celebrities went on to show their support of the movement wearing all black to the Golden Globes with a number of actresses choosing to bring along a female activists as their date for the evening. The legal fund has raised more than $22 million, $5 million of which it has committed to funding litigation with another $750,000 going to its 18 outreach grants. The fund has heard from 3,7565 people who have sought legal help and has 792 lawyers in its network who offer free initial consultants to those seeking legal advice.
In a related event, the two women to break the story on Harvey Weinsten’s history of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, were formally recognised for their work when they were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Their work was described as ‘explosive, impactful journalism.’
- Australian Federal Government agrees to remove the tampon tax
Following an 18 year campaign, the 10 per cent tax on sanitary items was removed as at 1 January 2019. Branded as ‘luxury goods’ tampons and pad have been included in the same category as designer handbags whilst other items like Viagra and condoms remain exempt. Each year the government makes $30 million in revenue from the GST paid on sanitary items with women paying an average of $1,000 in tampon tax over the course of her lifetime. It is good to see that, although long overdue, common sense has finally prevailed. The next issue due for reform must surely be exempting breastfeeding aids from the goods and services tax.
- Fiona Mort, Director, Officer for Women, Department of Human Services receives Premier’s Excellence Award
Fiona Mort, Director of the Office for Women, Department of Human Services was a worthy winner of a Premier’s Excellence Award in 2018.
Fiona has been instrumental in developing policy, providing advice and collaborating with various stakeholders to achieve significant outcomes for women in South Australia. Fiona led the development of the SA Women’s Policy. This is the first SA women’s policy established in over a decade and aims to improve the economic status, leadership and participation and safety and wellbeing of women in the SA Community as well as driving government initiatives. She also embedded the Family Safety Framework, a multiagency state wide initiative ensuring the safety of women experiencing domestic violence.
- Sarah Hanson Young shames parliamentarians for sexist remarks
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young passionately responded to several members of Parliament for various crude and sexist remarks made against her. Specifically she responded to Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan’s comment that there was a ’bit of Nick Xenaphon’ in her by saying ‘…Real men don’t insult and threaten women. They don’t slut shame them. They don’t attack them and make them feel bullied in their workplace.’ Here’s cheers to you, Sarah.
- Jacinta Arden became the second women in history to give birth while in office
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern and partner Clark Gayford welcomed their daughter, Neve into the world. Ardern was the second world leader to give birth in office and took just six weeks maternity leave before returning to work. Prime Minister Adern made history later in the year as the first world leader to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting with baby Neve in tow.
- Hannah Gadsby’s ground breaking Netflix special Nanetteis released
Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby became the first Australian comedian to have her own Netflix special. Her work has received almost universal critical acclaim and has been described as a show that ‘…turns comedy on its head.’ Ashley Hoffman for TIME Magazine wrote ‘…When Gadsby wrenches out her pain on stage, she reveals her strength, rage and yes, winning humour.’
- History is made as Ireland votes to repeal anti-abortion laws
Following a bitter referendum campaign the Republic of Ireland voted (by a landslide) to support women’s reproductive rights, repealing the Constitutional prohibition on abortion. The vote illustrates the monumental shift in attitudes towards women’s rights in Ireland and is testament to the power of a grassroots mobilised campaign that enabled women to share 35 years’ worth of experiences of pregnancy under the 8th amendment.
- Saudi Arabian women allowed to drive
Saudi women drivers took to the roads legally in June 2018 for the first time in the Kingdom’s history as its decades old ban on women was finally lifted. The end of the controversial ban represents the culmination of years of campaigning. Within a week of the ban being lifted more than 120,000 women had applied for a driver’s licence.
Whilst there is so much more to be done in the quest for true equality for women across all industries we tip our hats to those who have worked tirelessly to achieve these and other important milestones in 2018. In a year where South Australians will celebrate 125 Years of Women’s Suffrage we look forward to a year of hard work, advancement and showing the strength of the female voice. Bring on 2019.