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Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

August 14, 2022
| Womens Advocacy

Founder’s Weekly | 14th August 2020

Women all around the world have been kicking butt this week!



Congratulations Kamala Harris!

I was absolutely thrilled to see Joe Biden pick Kamala Harris as his running-mate - but also conflicted. Let me explain.

Kamala’s victory is a huge win, not only for her but for ALL women.

As the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Harris is the first black woman and Asian-American to be chosen for a major-party national ticket, not to mention the first Democratic presidential nominee from an area that’s traditionally Republican. 

She is also the fourth woman (after Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton) to appear on either party’s general-election ballot. 

During her time as a prosecutor in the 90s, she specialised in child sex abuse trials and DV cases, protecting the most vulnerable in our society - and in 2003, became the first female DA in San Francisco and the first African-American DA in the state. 

In 2010, she also became the first woman, African-American and person of South Asian descent to hold the office of Attorney General of California. She helped craft the Justice in Policing Act, which established a national use-of-force standard for police, banned no-knock warrants in drug cases and expanded the investigative powers of attorneys-general.

There is no doubt in my mind that Harris is the right woman for the job, seeing how impressive her resume is.

With all this said, however, I’d admit that even though I praise her for being the first woman of colour to take such a prominent role in US politics, I also long for the day when a woman can get to the top without being ‘the first woman of colour to potentially become Vice President’ or the ‘first black woman and first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party’.

That day when her gender and her race are not notable; not headlines. When she is judged on how well she can lead a country, and not what she looks like, where she's from or how she behaves compared to her male counterparts.

When she can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with presidential elects of the opposite gender and not be the ‘token culturally diverse woman’.

And on top of that, when will we live in a world where a woman can get to the top on her own standing, without having to face misogyny, racism and abuse along the way?

Where a woman can run in her own right for president, without being tied to a man?

Overall, it’s obvious that the US still isn’t ready for a female president, as evidenced by her failed presidential run, and the fact that many still deem her “too ambitious” - a phrase you will NEVER hear applied to a man. Therefore, I hope that her position as front-runner to succeed Biden will finally change this.

Bridget Loudon joins the Telstra Board

The stereotypical image of a company Board member is one of the older, pale, male individual. A white man in his 60s, surrounded by other men who look just like him.

That’s why the appointment of Bridget Loudon as the new Non-Executive Director on Telstra’s board is making waves. The CEO of Expert 360, Loudon’s appointment makes her the youngest ASX 200 independent director ever - and it’s a welcome change.

As we enter these new and exciting times, businesses need to adapt on the fly, and a big part of that is ensuring gender, cultural and industry diversity on Boards. Unlike other ASX Board Directors who usually have limited digital experience, Loudon is a tech entrepreneur with vast experience in transformation (something Telstra desperately needs as it embarks on a massive organisational change strategy). 

In 2014, she was named Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. In 2017, she was one of just two women to make the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list. As we move through 2020, we’ll probably hear about Loudon in the news, so stay tuned! 

Uni students who don’t perform will lose taxpayer support

Under a new proposal by the government, uni students who fail half their subjects in their first year will lose access to government subsidies and loans. According to Education Minister, Dan Tehan, the changes aim to ensure that students don’t take on a study load that they can’t complete (which often leaves people with large debts and no qualifications to show for it).

As part of the newly-released bill, a student who fails half of their first eight subjects in a degree will lose access to a government-subsidised place and HELP loans. Furthermore, universities will need to face stricter requirements to verify a student’s academic suitability to their chosen courses, but will also be able to wipe debts for subjects where their progress has been harmed by special circumstances.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment estimates the change will affect about 2500 people annually and is targeted at students who are enrolling in excessive numbers of courses at multiple institutions, failing, and accruing huge amounts of debt. 

When you look at it that way, it makes sense. But I’m concerned about the students that the universities haven’t considered - working students and those on low incomes. The fact is that students who have an income or parental support can afford to just concentrate on their studies. However, for many students (especially female ones) attending university must be balanced against working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I remember, at one point during my uni career, I had three jobs - Subway, a cafe, and an Indian restaurant!  And let’s not forget single mothers attending university who have to juggle a job, childcare, and their education at the same time. 

Working to keep a roof over your head will sometimes mean that your grades suffer, and it’s important that we give these individuals the chance to break free of the poverty cycle - not punish them. As stated by Professor Norton of ANU, the system still needs to be flexible enough to identify students "whose chances of completing their course are genuinely low, and those whose fails are due to temporary or fixable problems".

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