It’s International Women’s Day, and I want to mark the occasion. For me, this is an important day. I’ve seen the world change around me and what’s possible for women these days was only dreamed of when I was a child.
Growing up in Australia during the 70s and 80s, we were full of optimism. Posters of women in overalls, or wearing lab coats were hung around my high school proclaiming “Girls Can Do Anything”. We were told that one day, there might even be a female premier or prime minister. My friends and I were excited by that, but we never truly thought we would see it happen.
When I was a child, very few women were on radio and fewer still read the news. I remember discussing this with my friends – we concluded that it must be because men have deeper voices that carry a greater air of authority.
Women didn’t host television shows back in those days either. Instead they had roles as the glamorous spokes model, or the wacky sidekick.
Women were rarely seen in Australian politics, either.
The doctors were men, the dentists were men, the bankers, accountants, engineers, plumbers, bus drivers were all men.
The change must have been gradual, but it has definitely arrived. The radio airwaves are full of women’s voices, they read the news too, and sound no less authoritative than their male counterparts. The doctors at my local surgery are, with one exception, female. My dentist is a woman too. In fact it seems ridiculous to suggest these day, that that might be odd or unusual. Yet it was considered odd once.
I still remember when Australia recruited its first female commercial airline pilot – and the uproar it caused on talk back radio. People were genuinely worried that at a certain time of the month she would not be able to exercise good judgement or properly control an aircraft. Nowadays we wouldn’t think twice about a female pilot.
How times have changed in only a few decades.
Now, for the first time in history, those of us in NSW Australia have all female line of government. Our Queen, of course, is female, our Governor General, the head of state, is also female. Love her or loathe her, our primeminister is female, as is our much maligned state premier.
It’s something we used to talk about, but never truly thought would happen – but it has. And that’s why International Women’s Day is important to me. For the first time in Australian history we have proved that girls can indeed do anything.
So today, if you feel inclined, perhaps spare a thought for those trail blazing women and their supporters who paved the way. You might also spare a thought also for the many women through out the world who continue to be deprived of education, the right to vote, to work and to personal freedom simply because they are female.