Guest blogger Kate Jenkins is the Victorian winner of the 2015 Country to Canberra Essay Competition. Country to Canberra is a youth-led non-profit that’s empowering rural girls to reach their leadership potential. Here is Kate’s winning essay, reproduced with permission:
Think locally and nationally!
‘Remember ladies, there’s no such thing as a woman who has it all.’ –Modern Australian proverb.
I was raised believing I had every opportunity in life that my older brother did, but now at sixteen I am beginning to see that as we climb the same hills to success, I will always be the one carrying the weight of a backpack. For as long as I can remember I have envisaged a powerful career in my future, something truly important and influential, and until very recently I had simply accepted that the type of career I want to have may mean I will end up choosing to have children as an older mother, or not at all. But now I ask myself, and the rest of my country, why am I made to believe I have to make this choice?
For women to play an equal role as leaders in our society, they need legal and cultural empowerment to overcome the limitations they currently face in the wake of being female. This can be achieved by developments including the complete dissolution of the gender pay gap, comprehensive and supportive maternity leave, accessible and affordable childcare systems across the nation, fully effective anti-discrimination policies in the workplace, and a sustained fight towards the eradication of sexism in Australian culture.
If Prime Minister for a day, my first action would be to close the gender pay gap – and weld it shut. In further support of gender equality, I would look to give greater funds and subsidies to our childcare systems, and to discuss what more the government can do to effectively support working women and their families. I would also establish national requirements to provide sufficient maternity and paternity leave in all professions. If the duty of caring for children remains a woman’s priority, it will continue to limit her professional career, but if the responsibility is shared it will become much easier for women to reach positions of leadership and power.
As Prime Minister I would also work to create requirements of high school health classes to include the topics of modern pornography, the portrayal of both men and women in the media, the different conveyances of gender discrimination; and within this, how each of these topics sustains sexism and gender inequality. The media plays a huge role in maintaining the notion of a subservient role of women and an ideal of male domination, which is potent as it undermines women’s careers and limits their sexual freedom. Education about gender equality would be crucially beneficial to students of rural communities, where my experience is one of stagnant populations which less easily filter out old ways, including sexism and gender segregation and stereotyping.
Through female empowerment and the promotion of gender equality, we can inspire young women to liberate themselves from gender stereotypes, and encourage and support them to hold positions of power and be equal leaders in our society.
‘Remember ladies, you CAN have it all!’ – Future Australian proverb.