Julia Gillard at Mt Lofty House.
Much of what I do now is trying to dig into gender differences around leadership. And there are clearly still structures and stereotypes that hold women back from being leaders. The work of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership is about busting those barriers down.
But whilst we're living in this world where those barriers are still there, my advice, particularly for women, is to learn about them. I think, for many women, when they encounter moments in their life that are gendered, their first reaction is to think, ‘This is about me, I did something wrong, I should have done something better’. Whereas the evidence shows it's really about the stereotypes and the structures.
One of the examples we use in my book, is a study done on scientists at regularly held meetings. These scientists came together to talk through the scientific problems that were holding them back. Gender researchers tracked those meetings and worked out that the female scientists were speaking less than the male scientists. When they dug in a little deeper to understand why, they found that the norms of that group were affecting behavior. If a man put forward an idea that was part right and part wrong, then the group discussion would work to save the heart of the idea that was right, and to build on it. They would just discard the part of the idea that was wrong. However, if a woman put forward an idea that was part right and part wrong, it would be wholly discarded.
So the rational conduct for the women in the group, unless you were one million per cent sure you were right, was to not volunteer an idea, because you'd get battered back. Once the group was aware of the dynamic at play they could address it, creating a fair means of dealing with each other. But I would bet until there was that evidence, the women in that room are saying to themselves, “I just don't get much of this stuff right” - and internalising the problem.
More generally for leaders, I would say be very clear on your mission and your sense of purpose. One of the things I did in politics was I actually wrote down the purpose for the government I led. I used to keep it with me at all times, I used to move it from handbag to handbag. On the worst days, I'd get it out and reread it as a sort of steadying influence.
Finally, I think time management is a perennial issue. In this world particularly, carving out the time for reflection is really hard. There's always the next zoom meeting, the next Microsoft Teams, the next deadline. I don’t think any of us carve out enough time alone, for that deep thinking.