This is the kind of day that young girls dream of, and feminists around the world work towards. When I was a teenager, like most other girls, I assumed that leadership was for men – but wondered why women weren’t allowed in. Back then, I never thought for a moment that my country would have a woman leader, because for the most part, women were connected to the home and to children.
There were great examples out there, of course. In 1960 Sirivamo Bandaranaike was elected prime minister of Sri Lanka – the first elected woman head of state in the world. Then there was Golda Meir in Israel, Indira Gandhi in India – and who could forget (even if you wanted to) Margaret Thatcher in the UK, to name but a few.
But the overwhelming numbers of women in leadership positions around the world are still dreadfully small, given that women make up more than 50% of the world’s population.
So for me, as an Australian woman, this is a great day. Julia Gillard has been chosen by her party to replace Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. All politics aside, I’m delighted to have seen this day, and I will thoroughly enjoy Julia getting sworn in as PM by the country’s first woman Governor-General – ironically, the representative of the Queen in Australia, another woman leader (albeit, not elected).
Already some pundits have come out and labelled Julia as no more than a puppet of the Right – a label given also to a woman state leader, but which never seems to be given to male leaders. And if anybody knows Julia Gillard, they’ll know she’s nobody’s puppet. She’s very much her own woman – which I think is why she’s got to where she has.
She’s also not married, and doesn’t have any children. She’s a red head and wasn’t born in Australia. I can’t help wondering how much will be written about her in coming weeks that cover not her words and actions, but her hair and clothing. It will be interesting to see.
But for the moment, let’s just savour this victory for women everywhere. It’s been a very long time coming.