Recently the association of ‘Women’ and ‘Power’ has emerged in Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s advice to Hillary Clinton and other women in power where she pointed out that the “image of women and leadership, and some resistance still to fully embrace women as leaders” is “right around the world.”
Despite the visibility of individual women being powerful around the world, the omnipresent glass ceiling in most sectors prevails with deliberate exclusion of women from executive circles of power and from the pipelines leading to them. Whilst the call for leaders to recognise the power of a woman have strengthened, discussions of women and their power have primarily revolved around themes of leadership.
Beyond the professional sphere, a deploration of the imbalance of power and its impact in personal spheres has been increasingly articulated on many fronts including basic human rights, oppression and domination, intersectional and intergenerational disadvantage and poverty.
Underlying these barriers would seem to a deep seated cultural unrest to do with a woman having power, being more powerful than her male peers or becoming empowered to exert her power.
An abundance of research exists to dismantle these barriers at their roots of bias and enact equality for all. Despite this credible and prolific sense-making, however, there continues to be an array of judgements against women such as to do with what women should and shouldn’t do, whether they should be entitled to anything and what would justify this entitlement.
Value-based judgements prevail despite being themselves limited within subjective gendered parameters of interpretation and sense-making. When these judgements are given platforms for a wider hearing, they further diminish the opportunity to understand and value a woman’s story, her experiences and choices.
The upcoming Power of a Woman Conference by the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women seeks to provide opportunities for deeper exploration of a woman’s power in a respectful, non-judgemental context of validation and celebration. Through appreciative enquiry, a woman’s power will be explored from her perspective as discussions focus on her unique ‘being and becoming.’
All of the invited women speakers and artists are from diverse backgrounds to enable broader opportunities to glimpse and understand the power of a woman in all its diversity, complexity and richness. As such, an exploration of ‘woman’ and ‘power’ will aim to move beyond the familiar associations of leadership and gender as we listen for understanding and acknowledge a woman’s power as we bear witness to it.
This will engender a discourse of women and power that will not be about what she needs to fix herself, but about who she is and who she is becoming, as she sees herself. Find out more about the conference here.