Leadership: Does Gender make a Difference

Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, Governor-General of Australia gave the opening address at the event Leadership: Does Gender make a make a Difference?, on 4 August 2011 at the National Press Club. The Governor-General reflected on the history, advancement and opportunities for women in the public sector, prior to a panel discussion involving the ACT Chief Minister, Ms Katy Gallagher MLA, the Executive Director of McCarthy Mentoring, Ms Wendy McCarthy AO, former Senator for South Australia, Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM, and the former Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police, Ms Christine Nixon APM. The discussion was chaired by Adjunct Professor Virginia Haussegger.

How did the topic come about?
The Institute initiated this project for three main reasons. Firstly, the data on the representation of women both in politics and the senior echelons of the public service in Australia demonstrated a decline. It is our view that the case for equity should never be taken for granted and should be an ongoing endeavor . The Institute therefore decided to organize a series of events to raise public consciousness of the issue. Secondly, most events of this kind tend to focus on struggle rather than celebration. The Institute therefore chose to organise events which celebrate the contribution of women to public service excellence in the belief that the creation of a world class public service requires women in leadership roles. Thirdly, with this aim in mind the Institute selected women for interviews who displayed not only great talent for leadership but lead differently too.

What is the aim of the panel discussion?
The aim of the panel discussion was to interrogate the different dimensions of the following observation – We all know the principle characteristics of leadership – wisdom, courage and vision – are not gender traits. So why then has leadership traditionally been a male domain? Does gender change the focus or style of leadership? And should it? Is the Board room; the Cabinet room; or the Corner Office, becoming overtly ‘feminisied’? Or has an unconscious bias in the workplace encouraged women to adopt a male model of leadership? Is any difference real, or perceived? And what has gender stereotyping got to do with it?

What role can ANZSOG play in highlighting and/or celebrating issues like this?
The ANZSOG Institute plays an important role in providing a neutral space in which public servants and academics feel free to discuss the critical governance issues confronting Australia in an open and frank way. This can only be good for heightening the quality of public policy debate in Australia.

Please click here to view the event on ABC's Big Ideas website

Please click here for the event brochure

Please click here to read the Governor-General’s speech