Julia Gillard, Chair of Wellcome and Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL) at King’s College London, was interviewed by RSM Immediate Past-President Professor Sir Simon Wessely at the Royal Society of Medicine in September 2022.
It’s been ten years since the 27th Prime Minister of Australia stood up in Parliament and made an impassioned stand against misogyny and sexism.
The Right Hon Julia Gillard, AC’s world-renowned “Not now, not ever” speech exposed outdated attitudes and behaviours prevalent not just in the Australian Parliament, but familiar to women everywhere.
In the decade that followed we’ve seen the rise of the global #MeToo movement, ‘No More Page 3’ putting an end to topless models in the Sun, and the laws of succession to the British throne altered to replace male-preference primogeniture with absolute primogeniture.
Despite some progress, misogynist tropes still abound and are particularly evident in attitudes towards women in positions of authority - as the first and only female Australian Prime Minister can well testify.
Julia Gillard discussed the impact of ‘the speech’ and talked about her career since politics in front of a live audience at the Royal Society of Medicine in September 2022.
The Right Hon Julia Gillard, AC and Professor Sir Simon Wessely at the Royal Society of Medicine
Reflecting on how recent research by the GIWL has shone a light on the psychology powering misogynist attitudes and behaviours, she commented:
“Each of us has gendered sexist stereotypes whispering in the back of our brains. So if we see a man who is commanding and leading, that flows easily with our stereotypes of what men should be like. If we see a woman who is commanding and leading, we think that offends against the stereotype of being caring and nurturing and […] so we very quickly conclude that a woman with power is actually an unlikeable woman.”
Gillard told RSM Immediate Past-President Professor Sir Simon Wessely how, as well as being an ‘unlikeable’ powerful woman, she failed to adhere to the nurturing female stereotype by not taking on the role of motherhood – something for which she was criticised. “What kind of a woman doesn’t have children? What does she know about family?”
Asked her thoughts on what can be done so that women in leadership may overcome these barriers, she asserted the importance of role models in positions of authority to inspire women and girls.
But doing the ‘top job’ required years of perfecting. “The speech was the work of a moment; but being able to stand my ground in that kind of political theatre was the honing of skill over many years. I couldn’t have given that speech the first day I walked into parliament.
“It’s important to get better at it if you want to come through to senior leadership. You’ve got to be able to kind of command the space.”
Gillard’s career has been dedicated to improving access to quality education and healthcare, and empowering women to take up positions of leadership across all areas of society. Since leaving office - and politics altogether - in 2013, she has taken on several other leadership roles, allowing her to continue advocating for these important issues. In 2021 she became Chair of Wellcome, a global charitable foundation which supports science to solve urgent health challenges. She told the RSM audience how Wellcome is focused on three challenge areas: infectious diseases, mental health and the intersection between climate change and health as well as discovery research generally.
On moving on from her political career, she said, “I had always been clear in my own mind that whenever the journey came to an end as Prime Minister that would be my time to step out of politics.
“It’s given me the opportunity to do new things, learn about new things, use skills that I gathered in politics in different ways.”
Julia Gillard, Chair of Wellcome and Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL) at King’s College London, speaking at RSM In Conversation Live
While she doesn’t miss the media intrusion, Julia Gillard is grateful for the opportunities working in politics gave her to enact change in areas she’s passionate about. “There are other ways of putting your values into action… but there are few other ways that are more effective than being in politics. You get to make big decisions and bring big changes which accord with your values.”
Views continue to rack up on the YouTube recording of the misogyny speech, once voted the most unforgettable moment of Australian TV history by Guardian readers, suggesting it is as relevant today as it was ten years ago. To mark the milestone in its history, Julia Gillard has edited a book, Not Now, Not Ever, with all proceeds going to the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL). The book contains contributions from several authors and experts examining the reality of misogyny in 2022 and providing a look back at how Gillard’s speech has inspired women since 2012.
Watch Julia Gillard’s full talk at the Royal Society of Medicine on our YouTube channel.