Want to be inspired by women of impact? Visit UOW's library

Want to be inspired by women of impact? Visit UOW's library

Seeking inspiration from prolific Australian women?

Step into the University Library for an exhibition which explores the challenges negotiated by women in the public sector since 1860 and the heights they have reached.

Blaze: Working Women, Public Leaders, a touring exhibition from the NSW State Archives opened officially on Wednesday, June 12.

The exhibition is open daily until Monday, 29 July, between 10am and 5pm, in the Panizzi Gallery at UOW Library.

At the gallery, you may be surprised to learn how far society has come.

Two generations ago, women in the public sector were faced with an unenviable choice between pursuing a career and having a family: those who wished to marry or have children were forced to resign. While structural discrimination no longer exists in the public sector, only one third of senior executive roles are occupied by women.

Picture: At exhibition launch on Wednesday, June 12.

“Despite policies and laws, why is that still the case?” curator Dr Penny Stannard said.

“The exhibition engages with issue of underrepresentation of women in leadership.

“It highlights the work women in the past have done to advance opportunities for women now.

“We have asked the women featured in the exhibition, ‘When have you really had to back yourself?’

“The women of the past were facing discrimination and antagonism, the women of today have had to back themselves.”

Picture: At exhibition launch on Wednesday, June 13.

The careers of 14 present-day women of influence are juxtaposed with the careers of historical figures in the exhibition.

It features Narelle Underwood, the first woman appointed to the role of NSW Surveyor General in 2016, a role that has existed since 1787; and pioneers such as Lucy Osburn, who was appointed as the first female superintendent of a NSW health facility in 1868; and architect Marion Mahony Griffin, whose creative partnership with husband Walter Burley Griffin in designing Canberra in 1911, was almost invisible.

At the launch, UOW’s Library Services Director Margie Jantti said the exhibition was right at home in a University which strives to support women in leadership.

Just last year, The Australian Institute of Training and Development commended UOW for delivering Australia’s Best Women in Leadership Development Program.

"We have had many outstanding women leaders at UOW since its inception, including our current UOW Chancellor Jillian Broadbent AC, who had an illustrious career in the banking and finance sector along with significant contributions to both the arts and education prior to her appointment at UOW in 2009," Ms Jantti said.

Picture: Dr Frances Laneyrie at exhibition launch on Wednesday, June 12.

In a glowing endorsement of the exhibition, keynote speaker and former UOW researcher Dr Frances Laneyrie said it was timely in Australia's male-dominated political climate.

"I had a think about why I think this exhibition is important - I guess we are faced with some interesting questions regarding leadership at the moment," Dr Laneyrie said.

"Given political leadership appears to be grounded in smoke and mirrors and, if you like, a fascade of leaders who, on one hand, see themselves as charasmatic; on the other hand, we wish we had a Jacinda (Ardern - New Zealand Prime Minister). Women are underrepresented in parliament. Women are behind economically, experiencing high levels of domestic violence."

Masthead picture: Generations of women at the exhibition launch at UOW on Wednesday, 12 June.