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Speech to International Women's Day Forum


8 March 2017

The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon. Arthur Sinodinos AO, addressed the International Women's Day Forum at the Department of Industry. Innovation and Science in Canberra.


Thanks very much David, I’ll keep it short and sweet, because the main attraction today are our two speakers.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank the department for what it’s doing in this space, led ably by Glenys, as a role model in her own right. Sue’s here as well, and the rest of the leadership team, I think what you’re doing is fantastic.

Now as a politician you’d think, oh well, you know, he’ll come along and say a few nice words and that’s the end of it. Well, no, it’s not the end of it. We’re right to celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re right to call out disrespectful behaviour, you’re right to promote positive change.

I recently addressed a women in VC roundtable and in preparing for that, I talked to a couple of women I knew in the sector quite well and one of them said: “You know, we really just want people to listen and hear our voice”. And what was coming through was she felt some of the existing mechanisms we had, maybe, were not as good at picking up what a lot of women in the sector were thinking about. So speaking with Glenys and others we decided to set up a roundtable specifically around the role of women in VC and STEM and give women in the sector a voice directly to this department, this minister, this government; around these issues, to supplement, not to take the role of other bodies in the sector, or in this space, or in this department away; supplement them in a very strong and direct way.

I find that, you know, if you want to talk to someone when you’re a politician, you’re better off spending more time listening than actually saying things. You’ll probably come out saying wiser things.

So I’m very excited about that initiative and I thank Glenys and the department for their support on all of that.

Recently, I was in Melbourne when Jack Ma from Ali Baba opened the Australia-New Zealand office and he talked about the future. And he’s a great optimist, as you’d expect someone like that to be. And he’s built this great eCommerce platform and everything else that goes with it. He’s a great believer in small business. He’s a great believer in innovation. He’s a great believer in the future and that’s great. But one of the points he said, was: “When I look at the future and I see where entrepreneurship is coming from, I think two of the main drivers of that entrepreneurship will be young people and will be women.” And he talked about the role that women play in his organisation in major leadership positions including the Australian head of Ali Baba, who will be based in Melbourne, who started with him 18 years ago, as his personal assistant.

So it’s a great story about how a leader like this, who has built this great global enterprise now, sees the future and he sees the role young people can play, women can play in that future. So my role as Minister is to celebrate what you’re doing in this space; to try and listen where I can and pick up the vibes, to make sure that we’re doing the right things, and as I said right at the beginning, we all deserve to work in a workplace where we’re respected, we’re valued and we’re trusted.

And everything that we can do, at the departmental level, at the ministerial level, to be role models in that regard, is very important. But you have a role too, and your role is to model that behaviour in your part of the workplace and to call out what you think is the wrong behaviour.

So David, thank-you for the opportunity to speak, I look forward to listening to our speakers, and thank-you for coming today in such numbers, it shows your personal commitment to this important day.