Last November while attending Australia's longest running conference, the Macquarie University Women Work and Management Conference (which started 26 years ago), I experienced a flash back.
Around 20 years ago I worked for the Affirmative Action Agency (a now defunct agency charged with Equal Opportunity for Women) and was at the beginning of my career as a newly minted PR Officer. I did the PR and organized the conference 20 years ago, and fast forward two decades, I have now spoken at the conference and have yet again done the PR for it. Full circle!
If you told me all those years ago I would be happily speaking on stage at the conference, not writing the speeches behind the scenes, I would have laughed at you.
I've come so far, but sadly women's issues haven't. In fact, probably very little has changed in those two decades.
At one of these conferences 20 years ago, I vividly remember we had this fake glass used in the movie sets. The CEO of the agency hit it with a hammer to symbolize the breaking of the glass ceiling.
What a joke. The glass ceiling is alive and well and just as impenetrable. Since that time Australia has had a female Prime Minister, but now we have an appalling lack of women in our parliament. Our most senior female politician won't even call herself a feminist!
The national gender pay gap in Australia is 18.2 percent and has hovered between 15 percent and 18 percent for the past two decades. Plus, companies are still not appointing women to boards.
The one thing that has changed in this time is women can now easily choose to leave corporate roles. Bruised from hitting the glass ceiling, but still intact enough to know they deserve more than what a lot of corporations can offer them.
I was one of those women.
When I started my business 14 years ago, computers at home weren't common and I had very slow dial up internet. Now due to accessible technology we can set up a business in a day and work virtually anywhere.
This freedom has led to a rise of women as entrepreneurs and a whole group of women that are bypassing the glass ceiling all together.
Many women no longer think it's their fight, particularly as they are not experiencing the impact of the glass ceiling because they are running their own businesses.
I believe we need to include men in the discussion, because it's not a women's issue, it's a societal issue. As the room full of women at the conference discussed women, management and work issues, many of their male counterparts were back at the office oblivious to the issues that are facing women in the workforce.
Women also need to fight to be on the stage. Just look at the first annual Digital Marketing Conference in Australia. Not one single woman was selected as a speaker which is astounding considering the number of women in this industry. I have delivered presentations to thousands of leaders about how to use communication in to build careers and businesses and will continue to challenge the status quo of the lack of women speakers at events.
Sadly, we may never have equal pay, or have an equal representation of women as CEOs or in Parliament. However, I will continue to call myself a feminist and fight to keep women's issues on the agenda, along with so many other women and male leaders who know the world will be a better place when we all have an equal voice.
About the author
Catriona Pollard is the author of 'From Unknown To Expert', a step by step framework designed to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become recognised as thought leaders and influencers in their field. www.UnknownToExpert.com. Catriona is also the director of CP Communications, which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting-edge social media strategies that engage consumers as well as business.