When I joined the Royal Australian Air Force, women couldn’t be pilots, so I got into logistics. One of the female engineers won the right to fly just after I graduated, by taking the Air Force to the Discrimination courts. But she could only fly the transport aircraft. It’s taken nearly three more decades to earn the right for Australian women to support our country (if they wish) by flying fighter jets.
While this is an extreme example, I’m regularly disappointed when I see conference panels with no female face. A recent Talented Women blog by colleague Kiri Stejko reinforces that we want to cheer our female peers when they do something ‘unusual’ like fly a plane, but it would be so much better to consider it normal, not unusual.
I think Sheryl Sandberg has it right. It is our collective responsibility to put our hands up and encourage our female peers to ‘go public’. We need more women to sit at the table, get on the panel, give a talk, write a book. Show other women it is possible and allow us to hear the views of ‘the other half’ of the working population.
Make sure you attend an International Women’s Day event this March 8th and then challenge yourself to ‘put up your hand’ and make sure your voice is heard or read, sometime during the intervening 364 days of ‘normal’ events.