This Sunday marks International Women’s Day, globally celebrating women’s achievements in a call for equality. This year’s theme is Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights, encouraging generations to join together to create a new vision where every woman has opportunities to lead.
2020 is a pivotal year for advancing generation equality worldwide. It marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which is recognised as the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere.
Throughout history, agreements such as this have played a significant role in advancing various causes for women. This includes advocating for gender equality in the workplace. Look no further than last year’s Fortune 500 list – of the 500 companies, only 33 have female CEOs. This is a considerable increase from 2018’s total – 24 women – but there’s still a way to go.
While signing agreements has and continues to be an important first step for empowering women, what comes next is where the value truly lies – taking action to inspire equality and empowerment. For example, 2020 also marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, as well as the 10th anniversary of UN Women’s establishment.
These milestones wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t start with some form of agreement. With this in mind, and in celebrating the achievements of women in Australia, here are four of my favourite moments where women have been at the centre of important agreement processes. From politics to sport, there are many synergies to be found in how the principles of these agreements lend themselves to today’s workplace:
1# Australia’s first female Olympians: Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie (1912)
The International Olympic Committee’s agreement to include a women’s swimming event in 1912 was a trailblazing moment for women’s sport. Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie, both members of the New South Wales Ladies Amateur Swimming Association, made the journey to Stockholm in 1912 to represent Australia in the 100-metre freestyle. There, Durack became the world’s first female Olympic swimming champion.
One of the key takeaways from this moment, which changed the game for female athletes, is the importance of women standing together. Durack and Wylie were fierce rivals in the pool, but worked together to overcome a number of obstacles, in order to compete at the Games. This was despite opposition from their local club which also banned them from competing in front of men. For women today, this example of facing challenges to rise to the top – in what was traditionally a male-dominated field – is a source of inspiration in the workplace. It’s proof that female empowerment is possible if we rally together to achieve a common goal.
2# Australia signs the Convention to End Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (1983)
Despite only coming into effect during my lifetime, in signing CEDAW, Australia committed itself to being a society that promotes policies and attitudes that ensure women are guaranteed the same rights as men.
This agreement opened an important discussion on how a change in the traditional role of men as well as the role of women is needed to achieve full gender equality – we’re both responsible. Looking at this message through a workplace lens, men and women can draw inspiration from CEDAW to focus on what women can do at work rather than what they can’t. While women are typically underrepresented in leadership roles, we’re fortunate enough to live and work in a society that empowers us to turn our intentions and aspirations into actions.
3# Australia’s first female Prime Minister is sworn in by Australia’s first female Governor-General (2010)
The face of politics changed on 27th June 2010. Julia Gillard was sworn in as Australia’s 27th Prime Minister by Quentin Bryce, Australia’s first female Governor-General – two female heads of government shaking hands for the first time in history. There are two things that I find interesting about this agreement:
Firstly, this agreement challenges the stereotypical image of politics – and leadership more broadly – echoing the message that female leadership should be celebrated and encouraged.
Secondly, when you image search ‘agreement,’ the result is usually two male hands, shaking. The image that accompanied this agreement challenged those ingrained ‘norms’ and showcased that the stereotypical ‘agreement image’ has evolved – although there’s still a way to go!
Almost 10 years later, this unforgettable moment continues to inspire women to challenge the norm and aim to become leaders in their field.
4# Matildas equal pay deal (2019)
While Australia is making progress, it still astounds me as to how much women are underrepresented in sport. Last year’s agreement to close the pay gap between the Socceroos and Matildas is significant on many levels; this is a fight that the Matildas have been in for almost half a decade. In addition to equal pay, the agreement saw Football Federation Australia upgrade its Parental Leave Policy to provide a higher level of support for Matilda during pregnancy and when returning to national team duty.
Addressing similar issues around gender equality also applies to the workplace. The Matildas’ agreement demonstrates the power of perseverance of both men and women in advocating for change and standing up for equality, whether it’s on the soccer field or in the boardroom.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, and as the mother of two girls, I hope these milestones pave the way for future generations to be more agreeable to gender equality. Working for a business like DocuSign that both embraces equality and has the technology to facilitate agreements, gives me the confidence that we can drive the agreement milestones of the future.
Now is the time to think about how we can continue to deliver messages of positivity to women, as it’s clear that making an agreement is just the beginning of many new and valuable processes.
Women Love Tech would like to thank Andrea Dixon for her article.