The 2016 Australia Day honours have been bestowed. Overall, 70% of those honoured were men leaving 30% conferred on women.

Honours bestowed on the Jewish community don’t even reflect that disproportion. If we are to use the Australian Jewish News as a guide, two valiant women in a sea of nineteen men were the result of this year’s efforts. Which begs the question: are only 10% of women in our community worthy of being recognised this way?

The committee determining the recipient outcome is constrained by the nominations. In other words, it can’t bestow an honour on someone who isn’t in the race. Figures from the Governor General’s office reveal that 40% of nominations were for women. This means that 75% of women were successful in receiving an honour once their hat was in the ring. Accordingly, women are being recognised as deserving but they are just not being nominated.

I imagine, like most women I know, prospective nominees are down in the trenches, working tirelessly in a range of causes, sharing accolades and taking little credit for themselves.  As a consequence, identifying individual women for their achievements is not a straightforward task.

The lack of nominated women made me wonder about the gender of who is doing the nominating. Are women nominating women or are men? If women are more inclined to share the glory, perhaps they’re also less inclined to identify individual women to honour. Hence, if we are relying on men to nominate women, why should we be surprised that they are more likely to nominate someone in their own image?

Women believe they need to have excelled and have multiple runs on the board in order to put their name forward to be considered for promotions or even acclaim. Years of knock backs and put-downs has meant many women will not raise their hand first or submit themselves for positions for which they are eminently qualified. Indeed they wait until they are over-qualified or allow the opportunity to pass them by.

A previous female employer of mine used to state that “it is only when appointments of mediocre females are equal to the appointments of mediocre males that we can celebrate true equality.” Men are prepared to put themselves forward despite not being fully across a requisite skillset. Most women faced with the same situation would talk themselves out of even applying.

Perhaps women need to allow their lofty standards to fall. Perhaps they need to take some risks and allow themselves to be considered for positions where they haven’t excelled at every skill required and place confidence in their ability to learn and rise to a challenge. Maybe women need to learn to wing it and give chance a go.

Women, who at last count make up 50.2% of Australia’s population, continue to make glacial inroads in taking up positions of power within the community and being recognised for their value. Women also need to support other women and recognise the talent amongst ourselves.

The former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick created the concept of male champions of change namely men, who hold the vast majority of positions of influence within the community, to champion women for promotion. However, first and foremost women need to be their own champions.


Article by Author/s
Liora Miller
Liora Miller is the managing editor of Jewish Women of Words. She is also a project manager at an independent school in Melbourne. She’s the mother of three, usually healthy, opinionated children. In a previous life she was a political adviser and costs lawyer.

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