Councillor The Hon Dr Meredith Burgmann – even her title is slightly intimidating, and that’s before you even hear of her life’s accomplishments.
Being the first speaker of an informal consortium of women who are interested in development , Meredith shared her wisdom and rich experiences with us over tasty mini rolls and cheeses.
Meredith is an academic, political activist and Labor Member of Council. She was one of the leaders of the Anti Apartheid Movement at Sydney Uni, infamously receiving a two month gaol sentence for disrupting a Springbok match in 1971; was at the first Sydney Mardi Gras protest; was the first woman President of the NSW Academics union (now NTEU); founded the Annual Ernie Awards for Sexist Remarks; does consultancy work for the United Nations on governance issues … you get the drift, she’s got a lot of experience in being a pain in the arse and shaking things up – both are admirable qualities.
Needless to say she had plenty to say to the room of eager women, and unfortunately there are still plenty of issues to speak out about in relation to women in the workforce. The pay gap between men and women is now 17.5 per cent. Fewer than 2 per cent of ASX 200 companies have a female chief executive and although women are now more likely than men to be university graduates, they earn $2,000 a year less when they start work.
Rather than have a pity party or go cry in the office toilets about it, Meredith aka the feminist Moses of Beecroft proclaimed her 10 Commandments of how women can step up in the workplace:
1) Help each other: I think too often women see each other as the competition and actively block other women’s career paths.
2) Information is power: disseminate useful things that you know and stay well informed.
3) Fight for formal structures at work: many decisions are made through informal networks or the old boys club chatting at the urinal at the pub. By making the decision process measurable and accountable, the rules of the game are clearly defined.
4) Body space: How you carry yourself is very important. Dress like you mean business and hold yourself upright like you belong in the space.
5) Self doubt: as cliché as it is, often your own worse enemy is yourself.
6) The power of ‘no’: don’t say yes to every task that is thrown your way, it’s liberating when you realise that saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re a negative person. Having the confidence to say ‘no’ is a real asset but can lead to a reputation of being ‘uncooperative’.
7) Get cranky: If someone or a decision goes against your principles, you have the right to get pissed off and let others know why you are cranky.
8 ) Don’t be intimidated: women always seem to doubt if they are worthy of a promotion or position. You are worth it, so stop sabotaging yourself.
9) Full name: Always say your full name when you meet someone.
10)’Don’t apologise when it rains’: I like this saying, I know I have been guilty of apologising for circumstances that are way beyond my control and taking it on board like I could have somehow changed the situation.
Some people think this is a dead issue but I disagree and luckily there are women like Meredith who do get cranky, are labelled ‘uncooperative’ (and far worse!) and continues to be an interrupter of the status quo.