“Not that I’m going to break into tunes from Hamilton for you,” Gillard tells The Adelaide Review, “but I do believe women need to be in ‘the room where it happens’. Whether that’s a prime ministerial office, a cabinet meeting room, a corporate boardroom, senior executives meeting in a business, or sitting in the High Court bench.
“But the dynamic process of change means you both need women ‘in the room’, and women outside those structures campaigning for change. You make the most space for change if those two things are happening at the same time.”
Back in Adelaide at the start of a 14-day quarantine (the trade-off for filming an episode of Q&A in Sydney), Australia’s 27th prime minister explains over the phone that finding a way to work within existing power structures has been her preferred approach since her days in University of Adelaide student politics.
“There was a pretty big divide back then between women who were active in the student association and union – the AUS – and women who chose to pursue their activism solely through women’s structures,” she recalls of the tension between separatism and a ‘change-from-within’ approach.
“Many women wanted to solely be involved in that side of the work – I always gravitated towards being involved in the education work. I wanted to be involved in the day-to-day work for all students, and bring a feminist perspective to that, rather than just work in the women’s department areas.”
The different ways women approach and experience power and gender is analysed on a global scale in Gillard’s new book Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons. Inside, Gillard and co-author, former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, interview eight current and former leaders from various corners of the world and sides of the aisle from Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and ex-British PM Theresa May to former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.