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Twelve lessons learned at the 2019 All About Women festival

The #MeToo movement exposed hundreds of predators, but the exposition of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct isn’t enough. In the #MeToo: Year Two discussion, Sohaila Abdulali said: “It’s fantastic to have the conversation, but the old systems which allowed the abuse are still there.”

The pay gap begins at pocket money

Women aren’t just affected by the pay gap once they enter the workforce. Research has shown that girls are paid less pocket money, and are more likely to be assigned the “softer” chores within the home, whereas boys are paid more to do the supposedly “harder” tasks. Boys receive $13 on average and girls receive $9.60.

It’s not always too late, but know when it is

In the Man Up talk, writer Clementine Ford noted: “I don’t think it’s too late for men, of any generation, to have some of the masculine coding and patriarchal damage that’s been done to them, unpacked and healed. I don’t think we can approach it thinking it’s too late for anyone”.

But for the woman up at 3am embroiled in a heated Twitter feud with an MRA, reconsider. While some folks change their minds, Ford said: “It will break your heart to try to convince the boys that you are human”.

Well, actually…

Julie Bishop at the Leading While Female Talk at Opera House on Sunday.

Julie Bishop at the Leading While Female Talk at Opera House on Sunday.Credit:Christopher Pearce

Mansplaining never stops. Even when you’re at the top, when you’re highly skilled, and capable of holding your own. Even when you’re the country’s first female foreign minister.

During Leading While Female, a panel including Julie Bishop, Linda Burney, Sarah Hanson-Young and Julia Banks, we learned of mansplaining’s fratbro: “gender deafness”.

Former deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Bishop, recounted cabinet meetings when she’d put forward an idea and it would be met with “deafness” from the table of men. Minutes later, a man would repeat or rephrase her idea – without credit, of course – and he would be praised.

The solution? Call it out as soon as it happens. Afterwards, everyone will have forgotten about it and it will continue in the next meeting.

Generation Z, lead the way

The #MeTwo: Year Too audience at All About Women.

The #MeTwo: Year Too audience at All About Women.Credit:Yaya Stempler

Millennials have surged forward with fourth-wave feminism. Now it’s Generation Z’s turn.

Throughout the Sunday, countless teenagers stepped up to the microphone to thoughtfully and eloquently voice their concerns in front of not only a high-profile panel but thousands of strangers.

In Bad With Money, a high-schooler was concerned about her super, asking the speakers about what exactly it was and why she needed to start thinking about it, because she hadn’t learned about it in school.

In Man Up, a 15-year-old audience member was the first to the microphone, asking Clementine Ford about how to deal with being labelled an “angry feminist” when she regularly confronted her male peers on their sexist “schoolyard talk” and stood up for other girls and women.

Women feel financial stress “more acutely” than men

It’s not often that women candidly lay their financial woes out in the open. It’s a facet of life that’s strangely taboo given that most of us are dealing with it on the regular. Even before the Bad With Money talk had started, it was obvious that money is on the mind.

In the audience, I heard a twenty-something discussing her transport struggles with her friend, revealing how determined she was to save for a home deposit by forgoing Ubers at every turn, no matter how big a night it is.

During the events, it’s pointed out that women feel financial stress “more acutely” than men, which ties into the fact that we earn less. A financial buffer is one aspect that allows us to feel “protected” from the stresses of life, particularly as we enter old age.

The ‘S’ word

We know that women retire with half the super that men do, but what can we do about it? Melinda Howes suggested that thinking about super “as early as your twenties” is critical. Find out where it is and learn where it’s being invested.

Navigating the gig economy is a feminist issue

Audience members at the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House.

Audience members at the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House.Credit:Prudence Upton

While ‘intersectional’ and ’emotional labour’ might have been buzz phrases at previous festivals, this year it seemed to be ‘gig economy’. The gig economy is the emerging system of independent workers operating outside of conventional, long-term employment. While its a structure allowing women to have more freedom and flexibility, it raises some challenges.

How will women who freelance account for their super when their employers don’t pay it? If you’re on a short-term gig and you’re harassed, who do you go to?

Workplace sexual harassment costs businesses more than just their reputation

If employers are not vigilant in handling workplace sexual harassment, they should know it’s not simply a legal and ethical issue, but a financial one too.

During the #MeToo: Year Two discussion, with New York Times journalist Emily Steel, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama, Tina Tchen, and author Sohaila Abdulali, Abdulali noted that implementing preventative and disciplinary practices to create a workplace which isn’t “steeped in fear and intimidation” can be an economic plus. The more positive an employee’s experience is at a company the more productive they will be.

The 'Man Up' talk at the All About Women festival.

The ‘Man Up’ talk at the All About Women festival.Credit:Prudence Upton

Every performance review is a pitch

During Bad With Money, Melinda Howes, general manager of superannuation at BT Financial Group suggests that every appraisal is a “sales opportunity”, a time to pitch yourself and seek a pay rise because “you can be sure that’s what the blokes are doing.”

It literally pays to be confident and have those tough conversations we’ve been programmed to believe we shouldn’t be having as women.

We get it done

Women are resourceful on their own, but stronger together. The networks formed with other women, whether deliberately or organically, are unquestionably valuable.

In #MeToo: Year Two, one audience member sought advice from the panel about how she could deal with workplace sexual harassment. Tina Tchen suggested she gain counsel from an employment lawyer, and that perhaps we had one in audience. In seconds, a hand shot up from the sea of women, and applause followed.

In Man Up, Clementine Ford told the 15-year-old audience member who asked her about schoolyard misogynists that while she might not be able to change the mind of these boys, she can change the mind of other girls around her. “In the long term it will be far better for you to form allies than to try and change their minds,” said Ford.

Deafening support

Like the avidly nodding and clapping audiences of the Pentecostal preaching sessions which air on TV at 4am, attendees of All About Women backed panellists the hell up.

Serena Coady is a lifestyle reporter at The Canberra Times

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