Category Archives: Beyond The Spin

Beyond the Spin is our quarterly, issues based publication.
Beyond the Spin presents our latest research results and provides links to other interesting articles, discussion topics and opportunities to engage and debate the issues surrounding gender based leadership.

6 Reasons Why Your Business Should Set Gender Equality Targets

Organisational output and employee morale improves when the talent of male and female employees is harnessed equally, but how do you improve the ratio of female employees and managers, and how do you achieve equal pay across your workforce?

“Similar to setting financial or other operational targets, establishing realistic gender diversity targets based on rigorous analysis and baseline data will help to ensure an organisation treats equal gender representation as a central business issue and puts in place the strategies and resources to meet the targets.” The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Targets and Quotas, 2016.

Here are six reasons why your business should set gender equality targets:

  1. Targets are voluntarily set by the company, which means they are able to be designed and tailored as realistic goals for each department, within the whole company, and as is appropriate for the relevant industry. Setting a low target will not drive change, while setting unrealistic goals will damage morale and cause employees to give up before the challenge has even started. Set realistic targets, design implementable policies and support your employees to take up the challenge.
  1. As progress is made or unforeseen consequences arise, targets can be massaged to reflect realistic and ongoing goals. However, the leadership must be honest in its objectives and challenge the prevailing culture, and if a milestone is not met, the leadership should not look for an easy excuse – otherwise, why set a target in the first place. Examine why the failure occurred and continue to challenge the organisation. Demonstrate to your employees that the leadership does not give up.
  1. Because targets are set by the individual company, the leadership and its employees are likely to buy into the idea, support new policies that are implemented to achieve the target, and gain a sense of satisfaction when the target or milestones are reached. This in turn increases the likelihood that targets will be achieved.
  1. Setting targets is a part of everyday business. Employees and management understand targets are potent weapons and are familiar with strategies and policy changes to shape performance. This familiarity with the vernacular means there is less likely to be resistance to a new concept.
  1. Targets require the design and implementation of policy across all hierarchical levels of an organisation making their achievement more likely to be felt throughout the company. A gender diversity target should not just be implemented in one area, for example, accounting middle management, as the effect on the organisation as a whole would be minimal. Rather, gender diversity targets should be designed and set for each area and level to achieve a noticeable change.
  1. By implementing targets, businesses may be forced to discover talent and ideas they would not otherwise have considered, thus improving their business. Targeting equal opportunities for both genders in the workplace will also improve the retention of talented women.

A final tip: Make your organisation’s targets public. Your business is more likely to achieve targets that are publicised because not only will the public be able to hold the leadership and business to account, but current and potential employees, clients and competitors will too. Gain the edge, be progressive and be an employer and partner of choice. Contact The 100% Project for strategies to move forward on gender diversity at your organisation.

No ‘fair go’ yet for women in Australia

We like to think Australia is the land of the ‘fair go.’ But a recent report from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency suggests all is not fair in Australian business.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Report ‘International Gender Equality Statistics’ of May 2016[1], Australia has the 6th worst average gender pay gap of 22 OECD nations with available data (the OECD totals 34 countries), with a gender pay gap of 18%. The gender pay gap is the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. The average was 15.3% and the best performer was Hungary with a gap of only 3.8%.

Representation of females on the boards of Australia’s largest publicly listed companies was average at 19% (using 2014 data). It follows that 81% of board members across the largest Australian businesses identify as male, an overwhelming majority. The WGEA also reported that only 12.3% of women in business are board members which is below the OECD average and quite a low figure considering Australia’s high rate of female workforce participation at 70.5%.

But the future does look brighter for women in business. Australia led the field in the proportion of females in the workforce who are managers at 8.9% (male managers were at 13.3%, the second highest proportion behind Estonia). Other OECD nations had a closer male to female ratio but Australia still had the highest proportion females in management. It follows that these women will have a greater chance of advancing to board roles in the future than those of other OECD countries, simply because there are more of them.

Additionally, Australia ranked fourth for attainment of Bachelor’s degrees, with 26.1% of women attaining a Bachelor degree or equivalent, higher than the number of men at 21.4%. This trend was reflected across the OECD. One could speculate part of the reason for women attaining a tertiary qualification at a higher rate than men is because males are more likely to be involved in fields such as construction, agriculture, mining and manufacturing – trades in which leaving school and taking up an apprenticeship to learn a skilled trade might be preferable. It is notable that women are sorely in the minority in these fields[2].

Currently, only 21.9% of ASX 200 directorships are held by women[3]. With more women moving into management roles combined with government and corporate efforts to change the culture of gender inequality in big business, the women achieving a tertiary degree or equivalent today will have a better chance of advancement and fulfilling their potential throughout their careers. As more women with more qualifications move up the corporate ladder, it is up to them and their male colleagues to change workplace culture so that there is equality between men and women.

At The 100% Project, we provide businesses advice on how to promote and implement gender equality policies in the workplace, so be a part of the change and ask us for advice. We’re only a click away!


[1] International Gender Equality Statistics, May 2016, The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/20160428_International_gender_equality_statistics_factsheet.pdf
[2] Figure 13, Gender Equality Insights 2016 – Inside Australia’s Pay Gap , The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/BCEC_WGEA_Gender_Pay_Equity_Insights_2016_Report.pdf
[3] Targets and Quotas, The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/2014-03-04_PP_targetsquotas.pdf

Queen Elizabeth II: rebel and a role model at 90

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 90th birthday on the 21st of April. She is the longest serving British monarch in history and has overseen dramatic changes to society with steadfastness and dignity. While some may wish for Australia to become a republic and others might bemoan the fact that the Queen inherited her wealth and position, it can only be appropriate to pay tribute to such a strong woman on her 90th birthday. Here we look back at memories and events from her public life.

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II occurred in 1953 after the death of her father, King George VI. She was never intended to be Queen, but her uncle had abdicated to elope with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson and so Elizabeth became the next in line for the throne after her father. She was 25 years old at the time of her coronation and already had two children. It was the first coronation to be broadcast on television and it was estimated that over 20 million people watched in the UK alone. She rose to her position when there were few women in positions of power and navigated a world of male politicians deftly for such a young monarch. Remember, this was a time when Joseph Stalin was the leader of Russia, Harry S Truman led the US and an elderly Winston Churchill had seen Britain through the war.

Elizabeth treated her duty seriously from an early age. As a young girl Elizabeth had been a Girl Guide and a Sea Ranger. During World War II and at the age of 14 she made her first public broadcast to the children of Britain to reassure them of their security. As she approached her 18th birthday, parliament changed the law so that she could act as one of five Counsellors of State in the event of her father’s incapacity or absence abroad, such as his visit to Italy in July 1944 during the war. In 1945 she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service and became a driver and mechanic to support the war effort.

The health of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, had been declining for several years before his death, and Elizabeth took on more duties to alleviate the pressure on him. At the age of 21 she had her own private secretary and was receiving reports from Parliament and Foreign Office. She also made Royal visits to Commonwealth countries. In an early sign of her dedication to her duties, she said in a speech in South Africa in 1947, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to… the service of our great imperial family.”

She has indeed ‘the heart and stomach of a man’… She loves her duty and means to be a Queen.” Harold MacMillan, British Prime Minister 1957-63

Due to protocol, Prince Philip was not allowed to propose to the Queen. Her Majesty had to propose to Prince Philip. In 1947, at the time of their marriage, Britain was struggling through the post-war years, and in a sign of austerity, the Queen saved ration stamps to acquire the material for her wedding dress. Their marriage has lasted for over 65 years. Elizabeth did not follow custom and adopt Philip’s surname, Mountbatten, choosing instead to retain the House of Windsor.

In 1965 Queen Elizabeth II was the first monarch to visit Berlin since before World War One. She has delivered a speech at the United Nations in New York, representing the UK and the Commonwealth. The Queen was the first reigning monarch to visit Australia and New Zealand. In 1979, she travelled to Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which earned her international attention and respect.

In 1981, a man fired six shots at the Queen while she was riding her horse in a ceremony in London. The Queen managed to control her startled horse and the shots were later revealed to be blanks. The man was sentenced for treason. The following year, another man broke into the Queen’s bedroom at Buckingham Palace. She stood face to face with her intruder when two attempts to call security failed, eventually leaving the room to retrieve help.

In 1998, the Queen shocked the then Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz when she got behind the wheel of a Land Rover at Balmoral and took him for a spin on some of the Estate’s narrow roads. He reportedly pleaded for her to slow down and to concentrate on the road ahead, but she was a confident driver and sped along regardless. No doubt the Crown Prince was not used to being driven by a woman (women may not drive in Saudi Arabia) and definitely not by a Queen.

In 2011 Her Majesty became the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland in 100 years. Elizabeth announced the hereditary laws that awarded the monarchy to the eldest male child would change and in 2013, the Commonwealth countries agreed that the monarch’s eldest born child, whether male or female, would ascend the throne in the future.

Today Her Majesty is 90 years old, Queen of 16 countries and the Head of the Commonwealth, an organisation of around 1 billion people. She is a working mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She has visited 116 countries on official trips and overseen 12 Prime Ministers, 12 US Presidents, 7 Archbishops and 7 Popes. The Queen handles roughly 430 engagements each year and is a patron of over 600 organisations and charities.

A role model, the Queen’s gender has never been an issue in her ability to perform her role. Her perseverance and fortitude are remarkable and her presence in our lives represents continuity and surety. Her reign has also gone some way to normalising the idea of a woman being in charge, as for many people alive today, she has been their Queen since their birth. The Queen may have inherited her wealth and position, but she has and continues to serve dutifully and selflessly, a role model for modern women and men.

“The true measure of all our actions is how long the good in them lasts… everything we do, we do for the young.” Queen Elizabeth II, 2014.

How productive is the UN Commission on the Status of Women?

The 100% Project previously summarised the role of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the beginning of the 60th Commission in New York during March. The Commission brought together women from government and non-government organisations from around the world for a two-week forum. The purpose was to discuss strategies for empowering women and to agree on goals and strategies moving forward towards gender equality, particularly with consideration for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

With such a large group of people gathered from such diverse backgrounds, it could be expected that while dialogue and intention may flow thick and fast, agreement on widespread practical initiatives could be slow to come by. This was certainly the case for a young attendee interviewed by Vice News.

‘The new generation of activists from the developing world does not understand the absence of frank conversations about race, class, and sexuality. The feminist infighting at the UN is disheartening, the bureaucracy overwhelming.

“The more I listen to NGOs speak about female empowerment, the more disempowered I feel,” a young activist from Mexico.”

Another older Liberian woman questioned why she bothers attending the event anymore and pledged not to return.*’

While the sheer size and diversity of the Commission, like any UN body, is bewildering and an obstacle to decision making and progress, it should also be considered that gaining a consensus on women’s issues from such a diverse group is powerful in itself. Indeed, at this 60th Commission, the following determinations were made.  

The UN Commission on the Status of Women:

  1. ‘Emphasizes that no country has fully achieved gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls;
  2. Reaffirms that the realisation of the right to education contributes to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and notes the lack of progress in girls’ access to secondary schooling;
  3. Underlines the importance of undertaking legislative and other reforms to realize the equal rights of women and men;
  4. Recognises the importance of providing women equal opportunities for full and productive employment and decent work, and equal pay for equal work or work of equal value;
  5. Requires the full integration of women into the formal economy, including through their effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels; and
  6. Recognises the importance of fully engaging men and boys as agents and beneficiaries of change in the achievement of gender equality.**

The 60th UN CSW urged states to:

  1. ‘Strengthen normative, legal and policy frameworks to empower women;
  2. Fully engage men and boys, including community leaders, as strategic partners and allies in achieving gender equality;
  3. Foster enabling environments for financing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls;
  4. Support and institutionalize a gender-responsive approach to public financial management;
  5. Strengthen women’s leadership and women’s full and equal participation in decision- making in all areas of sustainable development, including through temporary special measures, as appropriate, and by setting and working to achieve concrete goals, targets and benchmarks, including by providing education and training, and by removing all barriers that directly and indirectly hinder the participation of women
  6. Recognise shared work and parental responsibilities between women and men to promote women’s increased participation in public life, and take appropriate measures to achieve this, including measures to reconcile family, private and professional life;
  7. Strengthen gender-responsive data collection, follow-up and review processes; and
  8. Enhance national institutional arrangements.***

Finally, it was determined that the themes for the next CSW in 2017 would be:

  1. ‘Priority theme: women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work;
  2. Review theme: challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls (agreed conclusions of the fifty-eighth session).****

While the bureaucracy and diversity of UN CSW can be perceived as a hindrance to real progress, the fact remains that it is the only international forum where women from government and non-government bodies from diverse cultures and socio-economic circumstances have the opportunity to share problems and solutions, to make connections and influence cultural change around the world, and perhaps most importantly, the CSW the power to influence the policy of states through its links to the Sustainable Development Goals, which are a UN-wide initiative. Maybe slow progress is better than none.


* Vice News, ‘I Don’t Know Why We Come’: Inside the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, Nimmi Gowrinathan, March 21, 2016, https://news.vice.com/article/i-dont-know-why-we-come-inside-the-uns-commission-on-the-status-of-women
**Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development Agreed Conclusions (Advanced unedited version), Commission on the Status of Women, 60th Session, 24 March 2016 http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/60/csw60%20agreed%20conclusions%2024march.pdf?v=1&d=20160328T173209
*** Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development Agreed Conclusions (Advanced unedited version), Commission on the Status of Women, 60th Session, 24 March 2016 http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/60/csw60%20agreed%20conclusions%2024march.pdf?v=1&d=20160328T173209
****‘Multi-year programme of work of the Commission on the Status of Women’ United Nations Social and Economic Council, 22 March 2016 http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/60/csw60%20multi-year%20programme%20of%20work.pdf?v=1&d=20160330T140251
Further reference: http://www.womensagenda.com.au/talking-about/opinions/item/6850-what-is-the-un-commission-on-the-status-of-women-all-about

You’ll be surprised to discover your inherent biases with this quick test

How inherently biased are you? Are you aware of your inherent biases? How can you overcome them?

Harvard_Wreath_Logo_1.svg“Harvard University has created The Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about. For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science.”

Log in or register to find out your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other topics. Warning: You may be surprised and shocked.

Take a test at Project Implicit’s page.

How did you do? Comments below!

 

Comparing the gender diversity of ASX 200 listed company boards.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) has just released its quarterly report on gender equality progress in the ASX 200. How does your employer rank?

Almost twelve months ago the AICD called for all boards to ensure at least 30 percent of their directors are female and urged S&P/ASX 200 companies to meet this target by the end of 2018.

In its December 2015 – February 2016 gender diversity quarterly report, the AICD found that as of the end of February, 45 ASX 200 companies had met the 30 percent target. Medibank Private Limited is the only ASX 200 company where more than 50% of the directors are female – five female directors are 62.5% of the board. Mirvac Limited has the next highest ratio of female directors at 50 percent.

Companies to join the 30 Percent Club this quarter include National Australia Bank, Spotless Group Holdings and Woodside Petroleum.

Unfortunately, there are still 21 companies in the ASX 200 without any female directors, particularly in the resources sector. This figure decreased by seven from the previous quarter. The list of companies without any female directors includes Austal Limited, Northern Star Limited and TPG Telecom Limited. 

See AICD’s full list of ASX 200 companies ranked by board gender diversity.

28 companies still need two or more female directors to meet the 30 percent target, and 106 companies require one more female director to meet the target.

The progress seen in the first year of this gender diversity initiative has been respectable, but there is still a lot of work to be done for all boards to meet the 30 percent target by 2018. Crucially, the appointment rate for female directors must be at least 40 percent. At the end of 2015 the appointment rate was 34 percent, but spiked to 43 percent in February.

The AICD intends to engage with Chairs to communicate the importance of board diversity and to support Chairs in their endeavours to increase the number of female directors. The AICD will also increase their engagement with the investment and executive search community, ensuring investors are asking Chairs diversity questions. 

How is your ASX 200 company or employer furthering gender diversity in the workplace?

The 100% Project’s mission is to see 100% of Australia’s leadership potential, female and male, equally contributing to our social and economic future. We influence workplace cultures and provide solutions for real and sustainable change by educating senior business leaders on the value of gender equity in leadership.

So what is the UN Commission on the Status of Women?

You may have heard the 60th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is currently underway in New York. But do you ever wonder what the Commission is and how it contributes to the advancement of women?

What is the UN Commission on the Status of Women?

  • “An annual meeting, taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 14-24 March 2016. Global leaders, NGOs, private sector, and activists meet to discuss critical issues for women, galvanize attention and spur action. More than 1,035 NGOs and a total of 8,100 representatives have registered to participate.[1]”
  • “The session provides an opportunity to review progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women, identify challenges, set global standards and norms and formulate policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide. The session is also a key opportunity for policy makers, advocates, researchers and activists to network and strategize, mobilize and plan new initiatives and actions to further the cause of gender equality and women’s empowerment.[2]”

 

What is the history of the UN Commission on the Status of Women?

  • “The Commission was established with a mandate to prepare recommendations on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.[3]”
  • All of the initial fifteen government representatives were women. The Commission has maintained a majority of female delegates.
  • Jessie Mary Grey Street was Australia’s representative at the first Session in 1947.

 

What is the focus of the 2016 commission?

The agreed priorities for 2016’s Session are:

  • The empowerment of women and how to integrate women’s empowerment into the UN’s sustainable development goals; and
  • To review previous work on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.[4]

 

How does the Commission perceive we are progressing on women’s empowerment? There’s still a long way to go.

  • “As we acknowledge progress made, especially in the last 20 years, we also note that for many women and girls at risk, that change is not happening fast enough. For example, it is forecast that it will take 50 years to achieve parity in political participation, and 118 years for true pay equality between women and men at the current pace of change. To break these trajectories and achieve Planet 50-50 by 2030 will take dramatic steps and the adoption of business un-usual by all of us.[5] “ UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

 

Our own research at The 100% Project says we need to engage men in the fight for gender equality, and the UN knows this too:

  • “We know we must engage not only our traditional partners, but also involve men and boys in large numbers, and reach out beyond our comfort zones to those with whom we may not agree or sympathize.” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
  • “We insist in UN Women that the struggle for gender equality is not just for women—it is for everybody, and those with authority and power, especially; they must lead from the front,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “…Leaders must use the authority that they have…This fight is big; it needs to be diversified; and mobilizing and working with men and boys has been a critical strategy for UN Women.[6]”

 

What is Australia’s contribution to the UN’s gender equality goals?

Australia’s delegation committed to the following in a statement to the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in September 2015:

  • “Australia is making new commitments both internationally and at home to empower women and girls.
  • “Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs has launched a new Gender Equality Fund. This Fund will accelerate support for gender equality in our overseas development program with a focus on women’s economic and leadership participation and addressing violence against women.
  • “Australia will confront record levels of homicide of women, and domestic and family violence, committing new funds for frontline services, support for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are experiencing violence, and primary prevention initiatives to change the attitudes of young people towards violence against women and their children.
  • “To increase women’s workforce participation… Australia is providing new financial literacy projects for women, improved assistance for child care and small business reforms that will deliver new opportunities for women in the workforce.[7]”

 

How does the Commission encourage Women in business?

  • “During March 15-16, business leaders joined UN Member States and civil society organizations at the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Annual Event. It focuses on the multiplier effect of empowering women and girls in advancing all development issues and the enormous opportunity for business to lead on promoting gender equality.
  • “The Women’s Empowerment Principles provide companies with an integrated and proven approach to unlocking the power of women in business and society.
  • “It is the largest business-led gender equality initiative in the world endorsed by more than 1,100 CEOs from 80 countries.
  • “Held in conjunction with the 60th Commission on the Status of Women, this year’s annual event spotlighted companies that are implementing the WEPs to achieve the SDGs, step up action, and find innovative ways to partner and advance gender equality.
  • “Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, told participants: ‘We have not reached the tipping point on gender equality. It’s time that we have honest conversations about what is really holding women back. We need to end bias, both overt and unconscious. We must recognize that gender equality is not just a women’s issue—it’s a men’s issue, a family issue, a community issue and a business issue.’[8]”

Begin implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles in your business by starting here.

 

Canada’s popular Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, enforced a 50-50 gender ratio when appointing his cabinet. He urged the global community to work together for woman’s advancement during a discussion on equal pay.

  • “This needs to be seen not as a women’s movement but as a global movement… We need to challenge folks to step up.” “To any world leader that tells me: ‘I’d love to, I just can’t do that with the current configuration’… I say ‘Well, what are you doing to change that configuration and draw out those extraordinary women who can’t be the leaders we need them to be’?” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “This is the way the world needs to go and this is the way we’re going make it go—together.[9]”

The Commission will wrap up on the 24th March 2016. We will bring you a summary of events and the outcomes of the 2016 Commission once the UN finalises its findings. In the meantime, you can watch a live broadcast of the events at http://webtv.un.org/

 

[1] unwomen.org
[2]http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/60/unw_csw60_brochure_en-fin4.pdf?v=1&d=20160203T163414
[3]http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/60/unw_csw60_brochure_en-fin4.pdf?v=1&d=20160203T163414
[4]http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/60/unw_csw60_brochure_en-fin4.pdf?v=1&d=20160203T163414
[5] http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2016/3/ed-speech-csw60-opening
[6] http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2016/3/ed-speech-csw60-opening
[7]Australia’s Commitment Statement, Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, 27 Sep 2015, http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/initiatives/stepitup/commitments-speeches/australia-stepitup-commitmentstatement-201509-en.pdf?v=1&d=20150928T161342
[8] Business Leaders, UN Member States and Civil Society Agree: Gender Equality Critical to Economic Development. https://www.unglobalcompact.org/news/3331-03-16-2016
[9] http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2016/3/press-release-discussion-on-gender-equality-with-canadian-prime-minister

We need more role models like Michelle

The name Michelle Payne has become a household name since becoming the 2015 Melbourne Cup winning jockey on Prince of Penzance.

I happened to be at home with a bad cold on the day of the Cup so, with my cup of tea in hand (no glass of bubbly for me that day), I sat in my PJs to watch the race that stops a nation. I had the opportunity to watch the build up to the race, and was interested to see that there was a lone female jockey. What was the chance that she, on the Prince of Penzance, would win? The odds were long and not much attention was focused on the pair.

But once the race had been run, Michelle became the Nation’s focus for several reasons – for winning the Cup of course, but more so for being a woman and winning the Cup. In her acceptance speech, Michelle spoke about the difficulties of being a female in a male dominated industry. She had her supporters and her detractors, and Michelle spoke about her uphill battle to get and keep the ride. The media coverage has shown that she is a determined and resilient young woman, and becoming a competent jockey was only part of her journey.

Michelle’s win brings the gender equality issue firmly back into public debate, breaking down yet another barrier which has previously defined female capability. We applaud her obvious expertise, but also thank her for making her battle public, and for making her voice heard in an arena that reached every corner of the country.

Michelle has now become a role model and an inspiration to women in their quest to be successful in their chosen career, sport or other areas of their lives. There are so many other successful women (in whatever way a woman wants to define success) and we need to keep celebrating their achievements until the headlines don’t need to define success based on gender.