Woman of the Week: Julia Gillard

Natalie Pate

Women make up 51% of the population, 17% of Congress, and 0% of past presidents.


Name: Julia Eileen Gillard

Born: September 29, 1961 (age 51) in Barry, Wales, United Kingdom

Current Office: Prime Minister of Australia

Political Party: Labor Party

Residence: The Lodge in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

Education: University of Adelaide; Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws, University of Melbourne


Why she is the Woman of the Week: If you haven’t seen the video that has made Julia Gillard, the first female prime minister of Australia and Forbes’ twenty-seventh most powerful woman in the world, a YouTube sensation, you need to—almost 1.9 million already have. In what Jezebel.com calls an “epic speech on sexism,” Gillard lectures the leader of the Opposition, Tony Abott, on his own misogyny for a solid fifteen minutes—all while pointing in his face. Abott had recently called for the resignation of the Speaker of the House because of his alleged sexual harassment of an openly gay male staffer via text message. Gillard directly called Abott on this double standard, specifically citing some of his extremely sexist past comments—he has characterized Australian women as housewives who do the ironing and suggested that men are better suited to exercise authority—saying, “If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he doesn’t need a motion in the house of Representatives, he needs a mirror.”

Background: Gillard can trace her ties to health policy and education to her early life. Her parents both worked in the healthcare industry. Her father was a psychiatric nurse and her worked in an aged care home. Gillard’s first job in high school was in the aged care home where her mother worked. In college at the University of Adelaide she became involved in a campaign against education cuts and was elected National Education Vice-President of the Australian Union of Students (AUS) in 1983 before she moved to Melbourne where she was later elected President of the organization. Later that year she joined the Australian Labor Party. The law firm where she worked after completing her degrees focused on employment law. She was first elected to office in 1998 as a member of the Australian Parliament for Lalor (renouncing her British citizenship). She went on to serve as Minister for Employment and Workplace, Shadow Minister of Health, and Minister for Education. After being appointed Deputy Leader of the Labor Party in 2006 she was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister in 2007 with the Labor Party’s victory. From here she went on to take over as Prime Minister in an intra-party coup in 2010 in which her predecessor Kevin Rudd stepped down and she was unanimously selected by her Party to take over. In February of this year Rudd resigned as Foreign Minister and challenged Gillard’s leadership; she comfortably defeated him in a leadership vote, 71-to-31.


Key Issues: Immigration and asylum-seekers have come to the forefront of hot-button issues, as Australia’s economy is one of the few still going strong in this worldwide recession. Kevin Rudd’s pro-immigration policy led to a huge growth in the Australian population (2 percent in 2009) and has been blamed by many for urban challenges that Gillard must handle. Also, an increase in asylum-seekers, mostly form Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, caused PM Gillard to endorse and pass a measure doubling the amount of asylum-seekers but that reopens controversial detention centers in which to hold them. Gillard has also faced push back from industry leaders over a mining-profits taxed she passed in March to reach a more equitable distribution of the wealth generated by Australia’s mining boom. In regards to social issues, Gillard supports legalizing abortion but does not support legalizing same-sex marriage.

Her Latest Headline: “Julia Gillard speech prompts dictionary to change ‘misogyny’ definition” – The Guardian

“Now he is looking at his watch because apparently a woman’s spoken too long.” – Julia Gillard



[Image Credit: http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/181rv9d3fjthhjpg/original.jpg]