Diversity of Thought Blog

“Was 2023 A Landmark Year for Women?” – Ellen Reading, Director, The 100% Project

2023 was a year where women showed up for each other and dominated the culture, adding significant contributions, economically and culturally. In Pop, Culture and Sport, around the globe we witnessed significant achievements.

Greta Gerwig emerged as the highest-grossing female director of all time, with the groundbreaking success of “Barbie”, a film that shattered box office records, raking in an impressive $1.4 billion. Margot and Greta’s collaborative efforts delivered cinematic greatness, complemented by America Ferrara’s powerful monologue, shedding light on the challenges women face in society. [1]

“It is literally impossible to be a woman…. I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us.”

Locally, the Matildas and the FIFA Women’s World Cup showcased unprecedented success, with Tilly’s fever gripping the nation. The tournament set records for the highest attendance at a women’s sporting event, surpassing jersey sales of the FIFA men’s World Cup two-to-one and achieving record-breaking broadcast numbers. This triumph injected a substantial $7 billion boost into the economy through tourism and hospitality. The tournament firmly establishing the Matildas as beloved role models and advocates for women’s participation in sports. [2]

The ’Year of the Women’ was solidified by TIME magazine in their announcement of Taylor Swift as person of the year.

Swift’s Eras tour and film contributed significantly to the economy, generating around $3 billion in revenue in the USA and contributing $5.7 billion to the US economy. Her upcoming Australian tour is anticipated to contribute $220 million, further solidifying her influence as a storyteller, marketer, and musician. [3]

Despite these achievements in Pop, Culture and Sport, the representation of women in Corporate Australia remains an area that requires accelerated progress. While 2023 witnessed female appointments to top positions, the prevalence of the Glass Cliff theory, wherein women are appointed during times of crisis, underscores the challenges faced by women in leadership roles.

Vanessa Hudson’s assumption of the Qantas CEO role in September, during a turbulent period for the airline under Alan Joyce’s leadership, exemplified this phenomenon. Qantas had faced significant public criticism for delays, pricing issues, and controversies related to COVID-19 payments and high bonuses for board members.

Similarly, in September, Michele Bullock took on the role of Reserve Bank Governor amidst heightened scrutiny. The central bank had faced criticism for executing 12 rate increases since May 2022, contributing to a cost-of-living crisis that left many Australians struggling to meet their mortgage payments. The challenges confronting leaders like Hudson and Bullock highlighted the complexities and expectations placed on women assuming top roles during critical junctures.

Other female leaders appointed during turbulent times in 2023 include Kristen Stubbins (PwC), Stephanie Foster (Dept of Home Affairs), Jacinta Allen (Premier of Victoria) and Linda Yaccarino (X).

The 100% Project will release a research paper in 2024, exploring the Glass Cliff phenomenon and the importance of psychological safety for women leaders.

In the legislative arena, Australia took significant strides towards gender equality.

The Respect @ Work reforms, released in December 2023, mandated employers to proactively create a safe workplace culture free of discrimination and harassment.

From February 2024, changes to the WGEA reporting increased transparency on the gender pay gap in larger companies.

Additionally, the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce unveiled a comprehensive 10-year plan in October, addressing barriers to women’s workplace participation, amounting to a calculated economic cost of $128 billion.

Finally, in December, the Federal government announced a Senate inquiry into the impact of menopause, recognising the need for comprehensive understanding and support in this area.

Despite all of the gains, domestic violence against women is at an all-time high, the gender gap remains at 21.7% and it’s still going to take 26 years to achieve gender equality in Australia, let alone the world.

As we move ahead with 2024, let’s celebrate the steps forward that were made, the outcries about the steps backward and the continued commitment, resilience, and a future where women’s achievements are seamlessly woven into our collective success.




1. Greta and Margot were since passed over for an Oscar nomination while the male lead, Ryan Gosling was nominated.

2. The tournament generated Spain’s “me-too” moment when Luis Rubiales (Football Federation President) was fired for kissing one of the World Cup winners, Jenni Hermoso, on the lips without consent.

3. Taylor has recently been the victim of graphic AI generated deepfake images on social media.