UOW alumna Carol Kiernan has been instrumental in achieving equality for women in the Australian Honours by co-founding ‘Honour a Woman’.
Can you tell us about your work With Honour a Woman and the goals of the movement?
Three of us cofounded Honour a Woman movement and the main aim of the movement was to achieve gender equality in the order of Australia. So when we started four years ago, around 70 per cent of the awards were going to men and only 30 per cent of them going to women. A lot of the higher awards were definitely very skewed towards men.
Why do you believe women’s invaluable work in society, the economy and the community has traditionally not been recognised in the Australian Honours?
Women tend to just get on with the job, in the domestic sphere, in the professional sphere, with our children, with our parents, we tend to just work. And what’s really interesting, even just when looking at the Order of Australia, what we found was that men were nominating men and women were nominating men and few people were nominating women. So the reality is that women are the quiet achievers and they bring all sorts of rich diversity into our society but they’re often overlooked.
Do you think this underrepresentation is a symptom of gender inequality in general across Australia?
It is definitely, and it’s in every sphere. I’ve been working for the last 40 years and everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve seen stellar women who have been overlooked, who have not been recognised, who have not been promoted whose pay wasn’t the same as men in the same field and who were not being honoured in prestigious awards. So it’s basically across the whole of our society. And this year, I think it’s a very big year for the women to say enough’s enough.
What led you, Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and Ruth McGowan OAM to found Honour a Woman in 2017?
I was reading the letters to the editor and there was one letter that actually turned out to be from Elizabeth and she was articulating exactly what I felt, how frustrating it was that we had these Order of Australia awards for Australia Day and there were 14 men and one woman getting the top award, and the one woman was Cate Blanchett and 14 men. And most of those men were being paid very, very well for the work that they were doing. I just thought that this is really enough and Australia has got caught in that in a paradigm that is really not a very equal one for women. And it was time to do something about it. I actually used my intelligence skills and sought out Elizabeth, I found her at Melbourne University and then we collected Ruth McGowan. So the three of us didn’t know each other – that’s another thing to realise that you can actually bring together a movement from very disparate people and really make an impact.
For the full article in UOW Outlook Magazine please click here.