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British politics taking gender equality to new heights…


While new Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has been commended in recent months for his efforts regarding gender equality within parliament and for appointing five women to his cabinet (an improvement from the previous cabinet), British politics has taken the gender equality issue one step further.

In March this year, comedian Sandi Toksvig and journalist Catherine Mayer formed the Women’s  Equality Party, which is dedicated solely to achieving equality in politics, business, education, equal pay, parenting and the media, as well as campaigning for an end to violence against women.

Since March, the party has covered much ground and has now gained 45,000 members; a considerable feat, considering Britain’s Green party has 65,000 members.

Last week, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker (a former Reuters Journalist) publicly voiced the party’s policies at a conference in London, with free childcare, fully equal parental leave, baby changing areas available to men and women and the criminalisation of those who pay prostitutes for sex,  as the party’s top priorities.

Walker has also called for a gender quota system to select MPs at the next two elections, in order to achieve equal representation in the House of Commons by 2025. At Britain’s last election (held earlier this year), women made up just 26% of all candidates. Without quotas, the party believes gender parity within the House of Commons will not be achieved until 2055 and in the House of Lords until 2100.

While there has been pushback from members of the public and parliament claiming quotas risk letting mediocre people in for the sake of achieving a set figure, Walker claims this argument is short sighted. “ A system in which you are fishing in a small pool of people who […]

The Best Advice from Fortune’s Most Powerful Women



This Wednesday, Fortune’s ‘Most Powerful Women’ summit wrapped up in Washington, where some 450 executives ranging from chief executive of IBM, Ginni Rometty to Michelle Obama, came together to swap stories, ideas and lessons learned through the trajectory of their careers.

The summit and the term ‘Most Powerful Women’ first came to being in 1998, when Fortune realised that women were gaining significant power within the corporate world and had just as much to contribute on leadership and the economy as men, yet were not being recognised in the media. Consequently, this list generated a significant following and gradually led to a Fortune community, which hosts live events and programs for women of influence and encourages them to use their power wisely and globally. This community now includes some of the most prominent leaders in business, philanthropy, government,education and the arts, while the ‘Most Powerful Women’ summit is now one of Fortune’s biggest inaugural events for women.

At this years’ summit, the level of talent in the room was considerable and highly valuable information was shared by some of the world’s most influential business leaders. Highlights of the summit included Michelle Obama’s speech on the value of education for young women and the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power’s emphasis on how to thrive outside your comfort zone.

A prominent theme however, that was present in the majority of speakers was the need for transparency and authenticity. Both Power and Facebook vice president of global marketing solutions- Carolyn Everson, emphasised the importance of being ‘real’ and ‘putting all your cards on the table’, when leading a team. For example Everson, regularly shares her performance reviews with her team to demonstrate the need for openness in […]

Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet reshuffle leads to Australia’s first female Defence Minister



(photo sourced by
A key criticism of Tony Abbott’s government was a lack of women in senior ranks, and it seems that this is an issue new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is keen to address. A recent reshuffling has lead to the announcement of five women within Turnbull’s first cabinet. One of these, Marise Payne has become Australia’s first female Defence Minister.

In her first media conference as Defence Minister, Marise Payne asked the public not to let her gender define her within this new role.

“All that I ask is that I am judged on my performance, not on my gender” she said at the beginning of the conference.

She then went on to highlight the benefits of a women being appointed to the job.

“If as female Defence Minister and Australia’s first female Defence Minister, I can encourage, or my appointment encourages one extra young woman in this nation to consider a career in Defence, to consider a career in politics, or encourages one woman currently serving in the ADF or part of the Defence public service in what they are doing, I think that is an absolutely fabulous thing.”

Turnbull also assured the public that Marise Payne was elected based on merit and not just to fill a quota. Previously there has been a non-binding government policy, which was introduced in 2010 and set a target of 40 per cent men, 40 per cent women and 20 per cent of either for all government boards.

“She is one of our most experienced and capable senators,” Mr Turnbull said. “She has spent two years in the human services portfolio and has done an outstanding job in modernising government service delivery.”

Marise Payne’s appointment to Australian Defence Minister means that […]

CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap

“The most Dangerous phrase is, ‘We’ve always done it this way,”

This was the famous catch phrase uttered by Grace Hopper, also known as the Queen of Computing, The Queen of Coding and the Grand Old Lady of Software.

Grace Hopper believed that challenges could be overcome, through bucking the system and was a living testament to this, by breaking down gender barriers within the male dominated field of software engineering to become a pioneer in programming the first large-scale digital computer and for creating the first compiler. Hopper also discovered the first computer bug (literally) when she found a moth stuck in one of the electrical switches of the computer she was using. Grace announced that they would have to ‘debug’ the computer, a phrase that has stuck and is now popular terminology within the computer science field.

Despite all of her accomplishments and contributions to the computing world, no doubt Hopper would be saddened to learn that the progress made by women within computer science hasn’t changed much since she began her coding career in 1941.

Last year, several Silicon Valley companies acknowledged for the first time, just how few women they employed in tech positions (fewer than twenty percent in most cases). While there was a significant rise in the proportion of female computer science graduates in the mid-eighties in the United States, by the late 2000s there’s been a precipitous decline, with 0.5% of the college degrees awarded each year going towards women majoring in computer science. This percentage declines even further once these graduates enter the workforce. Meanwhile, the pioneering female engineers like Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace have become footnotes in an official history that has been inundated with the work and […]

The Beijing Platform for Action Turns 20




This week marks the anniversary of the landmark 1995 Fourth World Conference in Beijing. However 20 years on, many women are questioning how far we’ve really come and which priorities still need attention.

This last weekend represents the tail-end of a three-day global leaders summit in New York and the focus will inevitably turn to gender equality, which has become a high profile social issue for the UN throughout the year. UN member states, including Australia will report on the progress made since signing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (a comprehensive roadmap to raise the status of women) which was signed at the Fourth Word Conference in 1995;  the biggest global women’s gathering to date.

However since this momentous landmark for women, many countries have struggled to achieve the goals set during the conference, with many (Australia included) going backwards in terms of key gender equality statistics.

In 1995, it took two weeks of heated political discussion, but eventually delegates thrashed out a landmark document that is now referred to as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It was signed by 189 nations, Australia included and focused on 12 key areas of concern- poverty, education, health, the economy, the media and violence against women, human rights, the girl child, institutional mechanisms, power and decision-making and human rights.

*However 20 years on, these key areas are still very much issues of concern; globally among 196 nations, only 10 have a female head of state and 14 a female head of government. Women make up just one fifth of the world’s parliamentarians and just 17 per cent of ministers.

200 million women don’t have access to modern contraception, while a women dies every two minutes in childbirth.

Closer to […]

From Fashion Thinking to Forward Thinking

To fit the happy and uplifting vibes that a Friday brings, we thought we would share an inspiring story all the way from Kenya.

Jessica Teutonico was the envy of many young women her age when she began working in New York City with luxury brands such as Tom Ford, Gucci and Vogue after leaving home in her late teens to work in Fashion.  While the glitz and glamour of the industry enamoured her initially, Jessica started to realise that something was missing and her life felt unfulfilled.

A lifelong curiosity in Kenya, led Jessica to join a working volunteer tourism trip to the country while working with Vogue. Once arriving in Kenya and working with the local communities, Jessica knew her life would never be the same again. Two weeks after arriving back in New York City, Jessica quit her job and founded the non-for-profit organisation ‘Under the Acacia’ in 2005, which focuses on sustainable community development in Kenya. Since this date Jessica has been working tirelessly with her team to fund community projects such as schools and clean water facilities. During this time, Jessica also became a mentor to a young Kenyan girl through the program Three Dot Dash (part of the We Are Family Foundation- WAFF).

“I thought I would change her life with my knowledge and connections. In fact, she has changed my life” Jessica now says of her young mentee.

“She and so many young people like her are unnumbered in their quest to change the world. It’s addictive.”

Jessica emphasises that embracing and involving the younger generation is imperative to meaningful change. Younger Generations are crucial, as their involvement ensures that the work Jessica and her team are doing today, lasts long after […]

Empower Women, Boost GDP


Below is an insightful speech discussing the practical and financial benefits of empowering women, especially in the workforce.

Both Elizabeth Broderick, outgoing Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Former Treasury Head, Martin Parkinson have written a speech published in the Australian Financial Review on how the empowerment of women is a critical economic reform in many countries, particularly those with ageing populations and how closing gender gaps within the workforce could significantly increase a country’s GDP.

Elizabeth is the co-founder of Male Champions of Change, a group that brings together Australia’s most influential and diverse male CEOs and Chairpersons. The group use their individual and collective influence and commitment to ensure the issue of women’s representation in leadership is elevated on the national business agenda and Martin Parkinson has been a long standing member.

To read the full speech see below:

“Empowerment of women is a critical economic reform in many countries, particularly those with ageing populations. The Second World Assembly for Women (WAW), convened by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and held in Tokyo on 28-29 August, represents a groundswell of international commitment to increasing female participation as a key means of boosting GDP growth in developed and developing countries.

Japan is at an economic crossroads. Today, 25 per cent of Japan’s population is over 65. Over the next 50 years, the working age population will halve. This will lead the ratio of elderly to those of working age to fall from near 3:1 to close to 1:1. With fewer workers to support a larger aged population, the debt and tax burden falling on the young is likely to increase dramatically. Women’s workforce participation is particularly poor coupled with one of the lowest fertility rates in the OECD. Economists estimate […]

Twitter is the latest tech giant to publish workforce diversity targets for 2016…but do these targets really work?




Last Friday Twitter announced it’s commitment to diversity by outlining it’s goals for boosting the proportion of women and underrepresented minorities in it’s workforce.

The social networking site aims to increase the percentage of women on its payroll to 35%, as well as ensuring that 16% of its tech roles and 25% of its leadership roles are filled by women by 2016. Furthermore Twitter wants to see ‘underrepresented minority groups’ make up 11% of its global workforce by 2016. Currently, women make up 34% of Twitter’s overall staff, however women make up only 13% of tech roles within the organisation and only 22% of leadership positions as shown in the graph above. Meanwhile 72% of leadership roles at Twitter were held by caucasian staff and 28% by Asian staff,  with no representation at this level from other ethnicities.

Janet Van Huysse, VP of Human Resources at Twitter made a public announcement on Twitter’s blog explaining the diversity announcement.  “Our aim is to build a company we can really be proud of- one that’s more inclusive and diverse- we need to make sure it’s a great place for both new and current employees to work and to grow. That’s why these new goals focus on increasing the overall representation of women and underrepresented minorities throughout the whole company”. She then made the statement: “We’re holding ourselves accountable to these measurable goals, as should you”.

Twitter isn’t the first tech company to announce diversity targets for 2016. Intel, Apple and Microsoft have all pledged to increase the representation of women within their organisation. Microsoft Managing Director for Australia, Pip Marlow, made the promise to ensure 50% of candidates hired for their graduate program were women. While this commitment to diversity is all very well […]

Workplace Gender Equality for both men AND Women



It cannot be denied that gender equality- especially within the workforce, has been a hot button topic this year.  There have been endless reports released over the last eight months relating to the contentious issue; ranging from the pay gap between men and women, the statistics involving the number of women in leadership roles and whether this statistic is growing in comparison to leadership figures a decade ago.

The latest report to be released is one by the Federal Government called the Workplace Gender and Equality Strategy report. This report found that although the majority of Australians value gender equality within the workplace, many are unsure how to achieve this and what a gender balanced workforce actually looks like.

While 50% of organisations have a standalone gender equality policy and 45% of organisations have policies on flexible work and family/caring responsibilities, these strategies are lacking in practical application. Many employers are left wondering how to apply the theory into practice.

The Minister assisting the Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash commented on these findings last week saying “strong implementation strategies are essential, as they provide organisations with steps to reach their equality goals”

Furthermore, she added that promoting workplace gender equality has clear economic benefits, allowing organisations to attract and retain high performing staff.

Another interesting finding from the report was that without specific implementation strategies in place, gender equality is in danger of becoming a “women’s issue”.

According to the government’s findings, some organisations see the solution to gender equality as simply creating a positive environment for women. However this is an overly simplistic approach that can marginalise male employees and employers.

Focusing on creating an environment for women gives the incorrect notion that gender equality revolves around women which […]

Why Coding Like A Girl is All the Rage





There has been a lot of publicity recently, about the lack of women in the IT and computer technology industry. Indeed VM Learning (having an invested interest in the subject) have written numerous blogs on the progress some of the biggest players in the tech industry have had in regards to achieving a gender balanced workforce. But while Intel, Microsoft, Apple and Google are gradually investing in more female talent and appointing more women to management roles, the female tech leaders of Australia are generating their own progress.

The networking event and blog  ‘Code Like a Girl’ was held last Thursday and was designed to provide advice, support and knowledge to women interested in or starting out within the IT Industry. The event featured a panel of some of Melbourne’s trailblazing women in the tech & games industry including the founder of the networking event, Ally Watson.

Watson founded ‘Code Like a Girl’ after becoming sick of being a minority in her won industry.

“ From my experience  every sort of technical director I’ve had has been male…this can make you feel like you don’t belong. It can be quite difficult to imagine yourself in a technical directors shoes when all you’ve had is male technical leaders.

So that’s what this initiative is for, we want to highlight local talent and get these, showcase these women who are doing great things in leadership roles, so that women have mentors to look up to.” she said.

Panel Member and founding and director of Deepend, a Melbourne-based digital communications agency, Kat Blackham agreed with this sentiment.

“I’ve just been at an industry conference over in the USA and there was 150 there and there was about seven females, six or seven females…this makes […]