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A Seat at the Table

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

Of the 41 male judges on the NSW Supreme court, a third of them come from one university.

Wait, if you take a closer look you see that twenty per cent of those 41 men come from exactly one boy’s high school. One.

Let me ask you a question.

How often have you told yourself something you wanted, wasn’t meant for you?


A promotion, an opportunity, a seat at a particular table where decisions were being made and deals done?

How many times have you thought you were not up to standard? Not smart enough, didn’t know enough, not experienced enough?

Now let me ask you another question.

What are the chances that any of those eight odd gentlemen sitting in their judge’s quarters in the highest court in NSW, sharing a yarn with their high school buddies has ever in their life questioned their own merit for that job?

Many years ago, I watched a woman close to me attempt a ‘transformation’ of sorts in order to gain a seat at the leadership table of her organisation, a state-wide educational institution.

She had done all the right things: climbing patiently and dutifully over 25 years from casual teacher to middle management. By the time she was ready to crack upper management she was experienced and a promising candidate.

“I believed that if you wanted to make a real difference and be a part of positive change, you had to do it from within that system of hierarchy,” she said.

“I thought I had to be in a position of power to have influence.”

After a number of unsuccessful interviews, she sought feedback. The problem, they said, was her, who she was. She was not like them. She was not, ‘same’ enough.

"Thinking that once women get that seat at the table they will be able to make lasting and impactful change for all women has proved to be a fantasy."

From blouses to bodycon dresses, flats to heels, human to heartless; she explained how she had to contort herself into an unrecognisable person to meet the expectations of those at the leadership table.

“I think I thought there was something wrong with me. I needed to change to be better. Looking at the people who were successful in getting those positions – I was very different.

“I was more concerned for the educational model and the people that made up the organisation. I couldn’t present as impersonal or ‘ruthless’. I had to be able to project this persona that was consistent with the rest of the management team.”

Dress this way, speak like this, sacrifice your health, your humanity, cop abuse, lose yourself, and then and only then, we may offer you a seat at our table.

Would it surprise you to know that the people seated at this particular table were in fact, women?

Women make up 30 per cent of our federal parliament and a woman can still be raped in the office of the supposedly, ‘safest building in the country’.

Over 50 per cent of the federal senate are women and a man can still yell ‘stop shagging men’ as a woman senator addresses the floor.

There are 11 women supreme court judges in NSW yet we still haven’t found a way for perpetrators of gender violence to be held accountable before they inevitably kill women.

Thinking that once women get that seat at the table they will be able to make lasting and impactful change for all women has proved to be a fantasy.

The problem is not that you don’t measure up, that you do not deserve that seat at the table.

The problem is they don't want you there. The problem is the damn table.

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