Woman Watch: Against the Odds

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin is a Harvard labour economist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in October 2023 for her decades of work on the gender pay gap. This prize has been awarded to 90 men and just three women since 1969.

Article in The Conversation

Ukraine's Witch

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Olha Bihar was a lawyer in Kyiv while completing her PhD in tax law. Then Russia invaded Ukraine. Now she is an artillery officer with the call sign Witch. She uploads videos to TikTok about life on the front lines to help spread the word about what is happening. See her version of a Nail Salon in the video in this ABC article.

Ita Buttrose

Ita Buttrose was the founding editor in 1972 of Australian women’s magazine Cleo, which focused on topics of interest to young women, including sex advice and contraception. She went on to become editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly and eventually was appointed chair of the ABC, with her term ending in 2024.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale’s lifelong commitment to nursing and the reforms in hygiene now attributed to her confirm her as a major social reformer of the nineteenth century. Her mother objected, the male doctors objected and even Queen Victoria questioned her practices.

Redress: Florence Nightingale

Brains behind GPT

Mira Murati is an engineer who is currently Chief Technology Officer at OpenAI. She is one of the lead brains behind ChatGPT, an AI language model that has revolutionised the way we interact with machines. 

Article in Global Woman

Space Flight Director

Dr Makenzie Lystrup has been appointed director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (April 2023), which has a $4 billion portfolio and workforce of 10,000 scientists and engineers.

NASA Article

Helen Reddy (Image from 1975)

Helen Reddy was an Australian singer who wanted a song that reflected her positive self-image. Needless to say, she couldn’t find one and had to write it herself – ‘I am Woman’. It became the defining song of the second feminist movement in the Seventies.

Redress: Helen Reddy

Fiona Jose

Fiona Jose is the CEO of Cape York Partnership, an Indigenous organisation driving a comprehensive reform agenda to improve the lives of Indigenous families in the Cape York region. She is also a founder of the Girl Academy (2016) dedicated to educating young Indigenous women. Their motto is ‘educate a girl in mind, body, and spirit and she can change her world’.

Redress: Fiona Jose

Gentileschi, Anguissola and Fontana

Who? Exactly. These three female Italian artists who, 400 years ago, smashed the glass ceiling and achieved international fame for their art, subsequently had their artistic careers written out of history. Ths is Sofonisba Anguissola’s self-portrait, 1610, painted when she was 78 years old. Great back stories in this ABC News article.

Winkelmann, Meitner, Tu Youyou

Who? Exactly. These are three of ten people profiled in this excellent overview of women who have pioneered advances in the STEM fields. They are some of the countless inspiring women have made historic contributions to science and helped advance our understanding of the world.

Redress: STEM heroines

Kirsty Sword Gusmao

Teacher, freedom fighter, human rights campaigner, wife of Prime Minister of East Timaor Xanana Gusmão, founder of the Alola Foundation, Goodwill Ambassador for Education and UNESCO representative, Kirsty is also mother to three children. 

Redress: Kirsty Sword Gusamo

Smuggled to Antarctica

Image:© Australian Antarctic Division

In 1961 women were not allowed to visit Antarctica but artist Nelle (Nel) Law became the first Australian woman to set foot on Australian Antarctic Territory after she was smuggled aboard a research ship by her husband. Apparently, the outcry was very loud!

ABC News Profile: Smuggled to Antarctica

In February 2017 U.A. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren was silenced and rebuked by Republicans during a debate over President Trump’s nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
The expression went viral and the meaning has expanded to refer more broadly to women’s persistence in breaking barriers, despite being silenced or ignored.

Women who went first

Some of the Australian women who ‘went first’ are well known, some are not. We celebrate them in this brief roll call of recognition. They are simply some of the women in our own backyard who led the way. There are many others. They are listed alphabetically.

GRACE BENNY – First woman to hold political office
JULIE BISHOP – First woman foreign minister
ELIZABETH BLACKBURN – First woman Nobel Prize winner
QUENTIN BRYCE – First woman Governor General
LINDA BURNEY – First indigenous woman elected to Federal parliament
ITA BUTTROSE – First woman to launch a magazine for women
EDITH COWAN – First woman elected to Federal Parliament
STELLA MILES FRANKLIN – First famous woman novelist
JULIA GILLARD – First woman to become Prime Minister
DEBORAH LAWRIE – First woman commercial pilot
ELIZABETH MACARTHUR – First woman to build an agricultural empire
LOUISE MACK – First woman war correspondent
MARY MACKILLOP – Founder of Australia’s first order of nuns
OODGEROO NOONUCCAL – First indigenous Australian woman poet
GINA RHINEHART – First woman mining magnate
NANCY WAKE – First woman spy
JESSICA WATSON – Youngest person to sail solo non-stop around the world
SHEMARA WIKRAMANAYAKE – First woman to be highest-paid CEO
PENNY WONG – First woman openly-LGBTI Federal Parliamentarian

Redress: Women who went first

That speech: A decade later

Julia Gillard reflects on the most famous speech ever made in the Australian parliament in an interview with David Wenham (2.47 min).

Want to hear it again?

I will not be lectured to about sexism and misogyny by this man.

This video has been watched more than 6 million times (14.59 mins).