Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, delivered an inspiring lecture on gender equality, global education, and the challenges faced by women in politics, business and society at the Institute of Directors’ inaugural Mackworth Lecture last week
Gillard, who is now chair of the Global Partnership for Education, told more than 150 politicians, business leaders and academics that a lack of gender equality in boardrooms and parliaments across the globe is holding back the world economy and “denying us our best future”.
The lecture was in honour of Lady Margaret Mackworth, the IoD’s first female president, who was a tireless campaigner and radical feminist. Celebrating her extraordinary life, Gillard said she “owed a great debt to women like [Mackworth]”, and asked people around the world to consider what values she would have stood for today.
Mackworth was an aristocratic activist, campaigner and a successful businesswoman who held over thirty directorships. She survived the sinking of the Lusitania and protested with other suffragettes in the Women’s Social and Political Union.
Upon the death of her father she inherited his title and styled herself Viscountess Rhondda. She fought tirelessly to take up her seat in the House of Lords, a victory which was realised less than a month after her death in 1958, when women entered the Lords for the first time.
Gillard said Mackworth would have celebrated the progress which has been made since her death. However, Gillard, who transformed education in Australia during her time as a cabinet minister before become prime minister, said that women and girls across the world still suffer from a lack of equality. She said she envisioned a future where people no longer commented on the gender of female leaders, and school children couldn’t remember who the first female prime minster was.
The Mackworth Lecture is a new IoD lecture series which honours the life of Margaret Mackworth and celebrates the causes she fought for and embodied – radicalism, bold ideas and leadership.