a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Some news to cheer (loudly): Julia Gillard

Posted on the June 24th, 2010

As of today, Australia has its first ever woman prime minister, Julia Gillard. Given the dismal statistics (here and here) on women in political leadership worldwide, it’s news that calls for popping the cork on a bottle of spumante, or maybe even two.

And from what I can tell, when the unexpected opportunity arose, Gillard simply had the courage and smarts to step forward and ask for the top job. See Guardian article today (“Julia Gillard becomes Australia’s first female prime minister” June 24, 2010).

Excerpt from the Guardian:

The 48-year-old who came under attack in 1998 when she entered parliament for being single and childless, said it was also an important milestone for Australian women.

“I think if there’s one girl who looks at the TV screen over the next few days and says ‘Gee, I might like to do that in the future’, well that’s a good thing,” Gillard told reporters.

And from Wikipedia:

In a 2007 interview, Gillard stated: “I used to think I wanted to be a school teacher. There was an English teacher at Mitcham Primary [in Adelaide], who was a real stickler for standards and grammar and punctuation but who was also very kindly. I thought teachers were good; I thought it would be a rewarding job, seeing the eyes of young people light up with new information.

I got talked out of that ambition for good or for ill by a school friend’s mother, who said, ‘No, you’re really good at arguing and debating, you should try law.’ If I hadn’t been pre-selected for the seat of Labor and run successfully in the 1998 election, I’d probably still be somewhere in and around the law; public sector law perhaps. Maybe giving tutorials, trying to pound law into other people’s heads.

And from AlJazeeraEnglish:

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Best Q&A anywhere on the planet today: Laura Liswood

Posted on the February 2nd, 2010

In a question and answer interview at Davos, Der Spiegel online talked to Laura Liswood about the gender gap (“Men Who Have Daughters Tend to See Better” Feb 2, 2010).  Liswood is the founder of the Council of World Women Leaders.

All of the answers are super, but my favorite: Question — why are so few women running countries and big companies?

I think in most cases it is not that men don’t want women to make a career. Most of the dynamics between dominant and non-dominant group members happens unconsciously. I’ve written a book on that topic called “The Loudest Duck.” It talks about the question of where we get our images about what a leader is, what a woman is, what other groups are. Our parents teach us, our teachers, our religion, experiences. I remember talking to the first female president of Iceland, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. She was president for 16 years. After she had been in office for eight years children in Iceland thought that only women could be president.

Great quote from Liswood’s website: “There’s no such thing as a glass ceiling for women, it’s just a thick layer of men.”

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