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A Decade on from the Misogyny Speech

October 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of Julia Gillard’s famous speech on misogyny to the Australian Parliament, an address that would resonate around the world. A decade later, Julia, the only woman to have served as Prime Minister of Australia, is chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s (GIWL), an institution that works towards a world in which women of all backgrounds have equal access to leadership positions.

The speech

‘I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not’. So begins Julia Gillard’s iconic speech to the Australian Parliament, a response to opposition leader Tony Abbott’s accusation of sexism in the midst of a no confidence motion to remove then-Speaker, Peter Slipper, over misogynistic texts he sent to his aide.

I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not.– Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia
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What follows is, as The Guardian put it, ‘a masterful, righteous put-down’ that considered Abbott’s own sexism and hypocrisy as emblematic of existing issues in society at large. The speech would rise to viral fame, becoming a cultural phenomenon that signalled a landmark moment for women in politics. The Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English changed its definition of ‘misogyny’ in its wake, from ‘hatred of women’ to ‘entrenched prejudice against women’. Sarah Hanson-Young, a Greens Senator, stated in its immediate aftermath, ‘When I first heard it, I really thought, ‘Thank God she’s finally said something’’. In 2020, it was voted by Guardian readers as the number one most unforgettable moment in Australian television history.

Julia’s words were a rallying cry from the highest office: misogyny and sexism should not be tolerated – women are entitled to a better standard in private, public and professional life.

A legacy in research

The speech continues to reach further into our collective consciousness to this day. 10 years later, Julia is still working to provide a platform for women to fairly enter leadership positions.

Globally, women make up just 32% of national parliamentarians, 21% of news media leaders, 31% of senior managers and 20% of corporate board members. Gender equality progress has been slow but, alarmingly, in some cases it is reversing. In 2015 the World Economic Forum estimated the economic gender gap would be closed by 2133, but in 2022, they revised this estimate to 2173.

The Institute aims to change this in three keys ways:

  • Research: drawing together evidence from across sectors, disciplines and countries, and using that to undertake new solutions-based research.
  • Practice: ensuring that the solutions determined by that research translate into policy and practice.
  • Engagement: acting as a hub for a global community of academics, policymakers and activists across the world to come together and share their knowledge.

As a research-based organisation, GIWL utilises its evidence-centric approach in a diverse range of areas under the gender equality umbrella, including building inclusive work cultures, tackling under-representation and negative stereotyping in the media, measuring and mapping gender inequalities, and supporting women’s leadership in grassroots, local, national and global institutions.

Their ‘Essays on Equality’ anthologies, which are published annually, encapsulate the Institute’s research as a collection of ruminations on women’s leadership and gender equality, written by both researchers from GIWL itself and leading experts working in the field.

Improvement through empowerment

Looking back, Julia assesses the speech’s societal impact and the change that it initiated thus: ‘I think what we’re doing better is naming and shaming when we see sexism and misogyny. I think it’s impossible to imagine in Parliament today that a woman could be called the things that I was’. The Global Institute for Women’s Leadership is at the forefront of this changing landscape, and is working to ensure that the legacy of that famous speech continues to be one of improvement and empowerment.

I think what we’re doing better is naming and shaming when we see sexism and misogyny. I think it’s impossible to imagine in Parliament today that a woman could be called the things that I was.– Julia Gillard AC, Chair of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's
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In November 2022, GIWL hosted an in-conversation event featuring Professor Mary Beard and Julia Gillard to celebrate the speech’s legacy, and look ahead to what comes next in the fight for equality. You can watch back a livestream of the event here.

You can find out more about GIWL here. This article is part of the Research in Action series, which tells the story of the transformational impact that King’s is striving to achieve through research and the researchers who make it happen. You can read more stories like this here.

GIWL’s work is only made possible through the generosity of King’s alumni and supporter community. Philanthropic support for their mission is vital, whether it’s through supporting one of their projects aiming to breakdown systemic barriers to leadership, funding an early career researcher to look at how gender intersects with race, or joining their closest supporters in their Founding Circle – a visionary group of 20 philanthropists coming together to provide £1.5 million in seed funding – your involvement and partnership can effect real change. Click here to find out more about how you have a transformational impact on society by donating to King’s.

Delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals

King's College London has a long and proud history of serving the needs and aspirations of society. We are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a university, and we use them as a framework for reporting on our social impact. The SDGs are a set of 17 goals approved by the 193 member states of the United Nations (UN) which aim to transform the world by 2030. This research supports SDGs 5 and 10.