For ten years Australian women have been sold a dazzling promise: through sheer ’will’ and individual self-empowerment they could overcome decades of gender inequality in the workplace. The hard, structural work didn’t need to be done; all the solutions could be individual. Yet leaning in, power-posing and speaking up (and being spoken over) at the boardroom table have made very little difference for the great majority of women, still underpaid and overworked compared to their male colleagues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shockingly revealed the fragile foundations of women’s working lives. It's also given us a rare opportunity for a reimagining. But Australian women are still being told to ‘Lean In’ at precisely the moment when so many are ‘leaning out’. With the majority of all jobs lost in the pandemic being held by women, and successive governments unable or unwilling to address the ‘gender issue’, we are at crisis point. Leaning Out is a manifesto for what we can – and should – do with this moment.
From Crikey and Hardie Grant Books, The Crikey Read is a series that brings an unflinching and truly independent eye to the issues of the day in Australia and the world.