Finalist 2017: Baie Perryman, SA

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Name: Baie Perryman

Community, State: Mount Gambier, SA

School:  Tenison Woods College

Age: Year 11, 16 years old

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From primary school to Prime Minister, how can we create strong pathways to power for women?

“You run like a girl”

“Stop being so bossy”

“I need four strong boys to help me lift the table”

These sorts of remarks are heard almost every day in a school yard, but not just from other kids – from teachers too. In 2017, we as a society like to see ourselves as progressive, inclusive and edging closer and closer to gender equality but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The divide between the sexes is witnessed in a variety of ways from the gender pay and productivity gap, the tampon tax, domestic violence and gender based discrimination in many aspects of life. Cultural change is required and each woman and man, from the Prime Minister down, has a responsibility to support pathways to power in both word and action. Strong pathways to power should be available regardless of gender, with greater education and emphasis but on the values of work ethic, drive and determination, intelligence and leadership qualities.

I want the pathways that are stereotypically ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’ to be seen as pathways for anyone who wants to take them. For this current fantasy to be a reality we need to make a conscious effort to stop using femininity as an insult or seeing it as a weakness in the workplace. Studies show that one in five women experience harassment in the workplace (S Cerise, 2008), and only one in six men surveyed would say or do something to show their disapproval is a man told a sexist joke about a woman at work (Dr A Powell, 2012). Education and awareness programs based on respect and equality clearly need to be implemented nationwide as workplace culture is in need of serious change.

In terms of Australian politics, the number of women in federal parliament is slowly increasing, with females holding 32% of its seats (A Hough, 2016), up from 22% in 1987 (J McCann, 2015). Despite this progress much work remains to provide equality of opportunity for women, with similar figures reflected across all levels of government in all states of Australia.

You run like a girl” needs to be a compliment, and a girl making decisions shouldn’t be seen as her being “bossy” but someone with confidence taking control of the situation and once – just once –would I like to be asked to help “lift the table.”