New book from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Julia Gillard examines the barriers women face on their journey to leadership

EJS Center Board Member Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recently joined former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on BBC Radio 4’s flagship program Woman’s Hour to discuss their inspirational new book, Women and Leadership.

During the discussion, they highlighted the need to bring into the open the barriers that women face in rising to positions of leadership, as well as suggesting strategies to overcome them. They also noted the genesis of their partnership, explaining how they had discovered their many shared experiences throughout their careers. Julia Gillard commented:

“So many women leaders are being treated differently to men. We need to examine this. We need to explain it. And more than anything else, we need to put some ideas out there about how to fix it.”

The co-authors interviewed high-profile past and present women leaders, including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf along with Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, former Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Clinton, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May, former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, former President of Malawi Joyce Banda, Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg, and President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde. 

The book covers topics such as how women leaders are judged on their appearance and mitigations they often take to try and deflect the commentary. It also delves into research that shows how people’s preconceived ideas of what a leader should be often default to favoring men.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala also spoke about how women feel their performance must exceed that of men simply to be viewed as equals, saying, “As a leader you not only know as much, but are ahead on the information.”

In addition to discussions about the challenge of finding balance between work and personal life, the authors closed the interview with comments about need for role models—both men and women—to encourage and mentor women leaders on their journey, and the need for men to play a role in enabling equality. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said:

“We have a message for men. You are part of the solution. You cannot be a bystander…Try to also reach out and mentor women. Make space, so that they can climb up, so that they can lead.

I remain hopeful that changes are coming. The younger generation is more impatient. And I think that we may be able to make faster progress.”

You can listen to the full interview here, and learn more about the new book here.

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