03 July 2014


Hiya there!

My name is Kate Bullen and I’m your new Wom*n’s Portfolio Holder on the USU Board of Directors. Thank you for stopping by this page today.

It is my job to represent the interests of all wom*n-identifying students, (both my own and the community as a whole). I will work towards complete gender equality within the Union and will use this blog to keep you updated on projects and campaigns I’m working on to achieve this goal.

Furthermore, throughout the year, I will use this blog to communicate about issues relating to the wom*n’s community of the University of Sydney. In addition to this, my contact details are at the bottom of this page as well as my consultation hours and location.

Before I begin, I would like to start by explaining why I will be using the term wom*n instead of women. Here at the USU, we use the term wom*n to recognise, reflect and respect the diverse range of experiences of those within the wom*n’s community. The term is used to encompass all people whom identify as a woman and/or have lived experience as a woman.

So let’s get down to business.

“No society treats its wom*n as well as its men,” That is the conclusion from the United Nations Development Programme Report, “And no society is free from violence against wom*n.” That’s a pretty damning tale. The World Health Organisation says that these levels of violence range from about 15% of wom*n in Japan all the way up to 71% of wom*n in Ethiopia. 

Have a think about where Australia might fit on that spectrum; I will tell you soon.

The independence of wom*n all over the world differs greatly too. Of course, if you are studying at the University of Sydney you are exceptionally lucky. Yet, in Saudi Arabia wom*n are not allowed to drive cars or ride bicycles on public roads and in Chile wom*n lack the right to own land. In many countries, girls as young as 12 are forced to marry men two or three times their age. In fact, the problem of child-brides is so great, that recent statistics released by UNICEF indicate that more than one-third of wom*n in the world aged 20 to 24 were married before they were 18. One third of 20 to 24 year olds. That’s our age group.

The United Nations often cites the statistic that state wom*n do two-thirds of the world’s work for only 10 percent of the world’s income and own only 1 percent of the means of production. Yet they do this work with access to very little education. Wom*n make up more than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults. This gap in educational attainment becomes particularly maddening when you consider the numerous studies that have been done which show that educating girls is a key factor in eliminating poverty and aiding development.

However, by attending the University of Sydney it already means that you’re significantly more educated than millions of others around the world.

Yet, we still have a problem. Wom*n are not making it to the top of any profession, anywhere in the world. Despite making up half the global population, wom*n hold only around 15 percent of elected parliamentary seats in the world. They’re missing from all levels of government—local, regional and national. In the corporate world, Board Directors, upper-level managers it’s around 16%. In the not-for-profit world, a domain, which is often heralded as a champion for equality, is only marginally better at around 20%.

In addition to this, it has been proven that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for wom*n.  We have been conditioned to expect male leaders to be calm, stable and competent, where wom*n leaders are shrill, mean and emotional.

In America, a 25 year old full-time working woman earns on average $5000 less per year, than a man her age. In ten years, her cumulative lost wages will be around $34,000. By the age of 65, this adds up to a loss of around $431,000.

In our own backyard, in Australia, the figures are much the same. In her first year out of university, a woman will earn approximately $5000 less than any man in her class. This figure is calculated across all faculties. This all adds up. A woman’s superannuation pay-out is around half of that of a man’s; simply because of the cumulative effects of the gender pay gap.

Violence against wom*n is still big problem in our society too. The percentage of Australian wom*n whom have experienced violence is around 35%.  In fact, violence against wom*n is the number one contributor to death and disability of Australian wom*n aged 15 to 44.

As you can tell, I’m a massive advocate for feminism.

Feminism. That’s a big word to dissect; but basically it’s about gender-equality. There have been many failings of feminism. We have alienated wom*n of colour, wom*n from lower socio-economic backgrounds, queer wom*n and wom*n of differing levels of physical and mental ability.

But my life and the lives of every other woman at this university are indebted to the work of wom*n before us, and to quote Senator Penny Wong (International Women’s Day 2014), “if we walk away from the term “feminist,” we diminish their achievements.

Gender stereotypes cause problems on both sides of the coin. Our society, both past and present puts far too much pressure on men to succeed. In places like Lithuania and Belarus, suicide rates of men are 6 times that of wom*n. In America and Australia, the ratio decreases, but is still three times that of wom*n.

It is in all of our interests to decrease this figure. Men’s suicide is not a men’s problem; like wom*n’s low leadership-levels are not a wom*n’s problem. We all need to work together. Men need to feel like they can be valued and fulfilled by choosing to work less, or work in the home and wom*n need to feel like they can be successful in their careers and still be liked.

There is an index which continues to track the strong correlation between a country’s gender gap and its national competitiveness in terms of economics and trade. Since wom*n account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base, a nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its wom*n.

The promise of equality is not equality. 

Feminism is like a bus travelling up a steep hill. If you don't keep your foot on the accelerator you start rolling backwards.


Mobile: 0424628831
Consultation hours: Wednesdays 2-4pm in the Wom*n’s Room, Level One of Manning Building.
(Please note that the Wom*n’s Room is an autonomous space for wom*n-identifying people)

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