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Australia Six prominent Australian women talk power, success and influence for International Women's Day

02:57  07 march  2021
02:57  07 march  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Real power and leadership comes from backing yourself, and your ability to influence and support others, say six women who have risen to the tops of their fields. Ms Bligh and Arena, along with actor, writer and director Leah Purcell, surgeon Christine Lai, Local Hero of the Year Rosemary Kariuki and Rabbanit Ellyse Borghi spoke with Wendy Harmer for International Women ' s Day on Monday. They explored themes of leadership, resilience and making the world a better place.

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Leah Purcell, Anna Bligh are posing for a picture: Leah Purcell (left) and Anna Bligh are among six women sharing insights on leadership, resilience and passion for International Women's Day. (Supplied) © Provided by ABC News Leah Purcell (left) and Anna Bligh are among six women sharing insights on leadership, resilience and passion for International Women's Day. (Supplied)

Ambitious, feisty, bossy, arrogant.

If you're a woman who speaks up and works hard to achieve your dreams, chances are at some stage you've been called one or more of those words and it wasn't meant as flattery.

This is something former Queensland premier Anna Bligh and singer-songwriter Tina Arena have in common — being criticised for being too driven, too ambitious, too passionate.

"That passion was interpreted as feistiness, as a sense of arrogance," Arena said.

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"I've been referred to as a noisy little wog, as a pretentious diva who lacks humility. I've had everything thrown at me."

Ms Bligh said early in her political career she was warned by an older woman in the party room that people were talking behind her back, calling Ms Bligh "ambitious", which was seen as a bad quality in a woman.

"It was really the first time I had said to myself, 'Yes, actually, I am. I'm an ambitious person'" Ms Bligh said.

Ms Bligh and Arena, along with actor, writer and director Leah Purcell, surgeon Christine Lai, Local Hero of the Year Rosemary Kariuki and Rabbanit Ellyse Borghi spoke with for International Women's Day on Monday.

They explored themes of leadership, resilience and making the world a better place.

Ambition is not arrogance

Ms Bligh said you could be ambitious without being ruthless or stepping on others to get what you want, but remember that you are allowed to succeed when others fail.

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International Women ' s Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world on March 8 every year. It began as a campaign for better working conditions by women in New York at the turn of the 20th century. The first official IWD was on February 28, 1909. No one knows for sure why the date changed to March 8, but this is the date when thousands of women started annual marches in New York’s streets. The first international women ’ s conference took place in 1910, in Denmark. Since then, IWD has spread around the world.

International Women ’ s Day takes place every year on 8 March to celebrate the achievements of women all over the world. It started with a protest that took place in New York City in 1908 where women went out onto the streets to demand the right to vote, shorter working hours and better pay. A lot of special events take place in towns and cities all over the UK to celebrate International Women ’ s Day . There are exhibitions, theatre shows, talks , discussions, walking tours, films, workshops, fun runs and so much more.

"There will be times when you get a position you wanted and it will be at the expense of others and that's not an easy thing," she said.

This also meant there would be times when someone else got what you wanted, so you needed to be just as prepared for failure as success, Ms Bligh said .

Surgeon Christine Lai said was told she'd never succeed in her chosen medical field because of her background and because she's a woman.

"There's a lot of gender bias that goes on in our hospital structures where women are not listened to," she said.

Dr Lai said her approach to leading her medical team was to "influence, not dictate" and that having more equality in her team made everyone feel safe to speak up, which led to better care for the patient.

'We have to learn to listen'

Ms Bligh agreed that being able to influence others was more important in most leadership situations than just telling people what to do.

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"Real power comes from your ability to influence people's intentions," she said.

"That is, to persuade them to your point of view, to encourage them to take a certain course."

Leah Purcell said she was supported early on in her career by other Indigenous creatives who fostered a culture of respect and listening to each other.

"As a nation, we need to all listen to one another," Purcell said.

"For us to progress and move forward and be something mighty, which Australia can be, we have to learn to listen. Listen to the stories that are being told and bring a better understanding of who we are as a nation."

Arena said the music industry had not been a supportive place for women in the past, and she hoped that people would take momentum from movements such as #MeToo and focus on supporting each other.

"Unless we support one another, we can't move forward," she said.

'I am a fighter'

Supporting other women is what Rosemary Kariuki has done for decades since she arrived in Australia.

She said her job was to walk beside women who needed help to show them they were strong enough and capable to do what they needed to.

This was part of growing resilience, which Ms Kariuki said was something everyone could develop.

"I'm a fighter and that's the skills I have … [Resilience] grows as you go through the journey of life," she said.

Rabbanit Borghi said she found strength by celebrating survival — something that was central to her Jewish faith.

"I think that there's a really important message and resilience here, that overcoming adversity, and surviving … you might have thought that it could leave you with feelings of bitterness and temerity," she said.

"Or you could respond as a community with joy and celebration."

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