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Ernie and Skirt

Jan 07, 2010 by Jesse Lytle

Our dinner speaker tonight was the lively Meredith Burgmann.  She's a notable Australian academic, activist, and member of Parliament, but she admits she is best known as the founder of the Ernies, an annual award given to Aussie speakers of the most sexist comments.  The leading sources, apparently, are judges, politicians, and celebrity chefs (who knew?).  The namesake of the award was a trade union official back in the 70s, but Meredith said the trade unions have gotten themselves cleaned up on this front and are no longer among the top candidates.  Such public shaming seems to be a fairly affective political instrument, which makes me wonder why the US hasn't embraced this idea.

Our day started off with a talk from Marian Baird, a scholar of women in the Australian workplace.  Striking was her discussion of the disappearing "M-curve" for women.  This is a line chart that shows women's participation in the workforce by age group, so the dip in the middle of the 'M' is in the child-bearing years when women are less likely to work outside the home.  Except, now it's barely an 'M,' more like an upside-down 'U.'  The explanation, she said, is that workplace policies have made it much harder for women to take time off for child-rearing.  Australia and the US had been the major outliers among the industrialized world on this front (with Scandinavia way out in front), and now Australia is getting its act together with government-mandated, and subsidized, parental leave for up to a year. Who's left slacking now?

Sydney city officials also used the WEW gathering as an opportunity to launch Skirting Sydney, a historical map tour illustrating women in Sydney since its founding.  Ask Lenore about her hospital tour.

These Ibises don't have anything to do with women's history that I know of.


Hey Jesse, I really enjoyed your commentary of the WEW,recently held in Sydney. I was one of the "Newbies" and it was a privlege to attend. I just have to correct you though,if I may, the birds in the above photo are actually called Ibis.The birds in your photo are only native to another place, "across the ditch", as say very tongue in cheek, New Zealand.Thanks for a great week. Cheers Susan

Posted by Susan Young on January 08, 2010 at 07:45 AM EST #

Sorry Jesse I should have said that Kiwis are only found in New Zealand, not the ones in your photo. xxx

Posted by Susan Young on January 08, 2010 at 07:48 AM EST #

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