Emily and Lucine write about the All About Women session at the Sydney Opera House.
Let’s just make thing one thing clear before we kick off.
Even though we both know all of the words and accompanying dance moves to Yoncé’s ‘Run the World’, neither of us are radical feminists. However, we signed up to attend four of the Sydney Opera House’s #allaboutwomen festival talks which took place on the 8th March and looked forward to inspirational thoughts and opinions from some amazing women (with a couple of cheeky sun-downers in between). We went to four sessions across the day, each one approaching the topic of equality and women’s rights from a slightly different angle or industry.
Here’s what went down…
We kicked things off with Women in the New Economy, drawing attention to the need for maximising opportunities for women in leadership roles. As well as highlighting some pretty punchy stats from recent studies that showed how financial performance usually improves with a more balanced workforce, the speakers also highlighted how females also tend to bring qualities such as innovation, talent and collaboration to the table, which all in turn reduce common problems which are seen in companies run by majority men, such as high staff turnaround, conflict and risk.
‘What needs to change?’ was the broad and all-of-life-encompassing question that was asked in session two- a pretty difficult one to answer! In spite of this, there were some amazing ideas flying around the panel. For example, when probed by the chair of the session about the challenges a ‘working mum’ faces, political scientist Anne-Marie Slaughter pointed out that by even just using that label we are fuelling the assumption that having an career AND being a parent is a dual role for women, not men.
We then got the full run down from Piper Kerman around her bestselling memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, also the inspiration for the cult TV series (if you haven’t seen it, change this about yourself immediately). The relationships she made with the women she met inside spurred her on to become an advocate for the rights of female prisoners around the world.
We rounded off the day with The Boys Club – a panel discussion on empowering women in the Arts. In the theatre industry and other forms of cultural narrative, females have traditionally played the role of object, with males occupying the role of subject. Female writers and directors in Australia are still having to make a conscious effort to combat this by ensuring that theatre houses around the country are choosing to tell stories that represent a more gender-balanced and modern view of the world.
There is undoubtedly still some way to go to achieve the level of equality that the speakers and panels of the day aspire to. If you take a look at the Fortune 500 companies, only 24 are run by female CEOs. However, the good news is that if we look at Media as a business sector, it’s a lot more encouraging. Looking at hires like Ruth Porta at Google and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, and even the female representation in leadership roles in our own four walls at OMD, females in the media and advertising space definitely have something to aspire to. This noticeable progression may be related to the fact that media is a fast paced industry, catering to changes made at the intersection of tech, people, ideas and mindsets. The very foundation of a media agency is also made up of a broad array of disciplines; from strategists and account management, through to analysts and data scientists- so the need for skill sets from both genders is crucial. Women are most certainly at the forefront of this at OMD and it seems to be paying off.
Overall, #allaboutwomen was brilliant and we both agreed we were exposed to some very impressive thinkers and speakers across the day. However, for us I think there was probably one thing missing- men. Maybe 1 in every 300 attendees at the event was male, perhaps just there to accompany their wife or girlfriend. This seemed ironic considering that the thing we felt so strongly coming away from the event was this: parity cannot be achieved without men and women recognising each-other’s strengths and working together. As has been the view of feminists group for years, without doubt it falls on the shoulders of men to realise that things get better as society becomes more equal. But there is also a wider responsibility for everyone to realise that achieving equality will in turn create displacement of the roles and positions in society that were traditionally held by males.
So who runs the world? All of us.
Should you go to the event next year? Absolutely (but let’s change the hashtag).
Written by Emily Lydford and Lucine Keverian.