Get InQueensland in your inbox Subscribe

Being a role model means more than just having the right chromosomes, Premier


Does the Premier really think that her increasingly disinterested reign over Queensland makes her a trailblazer for young women, asks Madonna King

Print article

An X chromosome is not a licence to keep a job. And nor does it provide automatic role model status.

Annastacia Palaszczuk’s claim that remaining premier allowed her to be a role model for “women and girls’’ in this state is downright patronising, presumptuous and plainly incorrect.

Our daughters know they can be CEOs and prime ministers and high court judges. They know they can hold their own in court rooms and board rooms.

They’ve seen banker Shemara Wikramanayake climb the male dominated ladder to become head of Macquarie Group Ltd, economist Danielle Wood become Productivity Commission chair, and in our own state Helen Bowskill, KC, become chief justice.

There are hundreds of other examples, where talent, hard work and leadership have delivered big jobs to deserving women.

But none of them would dare claim role model status simply by filling a chair; it’s what you do in a job that counts.

Annastacia Palaszczuk’s decision to play what is commonly called ‘the girl card’ on Monday to help cement her leadership feeds the criticism – often by males – against women; that affirmative action provides ‘jobs for the girls’ rather than merit-based employment where the best person is appointed.

That is not true. Affirmative action just brings our daughters and sisters and friends and mothers up to the same starting line as their male peers.

It means those seeking to add to their expertise go searching for a woman who might not put up her hand – but is just as good, or even better, than the queue of males who will apply.

Men have done that for decades, though networks and Friday afternoon drinking sessions. Women are just playing catch-up.

But that doesn’t allow any of us to claim a position simply on the basis of being female. Or to hang on, on the basis being a female provides a role model status being a male does not.

The Premier’s words, soon after stepping off a plane from Italy, were as damaging as they were disappointing; and that’s especially the case coming from a leader who has lifted women into her own Cabinet and into a host of other important positions.

“I hope that that young women and young girls have a strong role model that says to them women and girls can be anything they want in this state. Politics needs good people, not selfish people, not ruthless people.’’

What’s that even mean? Are none of our male leaders ‘good people’? Are they all ‘selfish’ and ‘ruthless’.

Does being a woman automatically make you a good leader? Or someone who is not selfish? Not ruthless?

And therein lies the fallacy behind the Premier’s comments.

Wouldn’t a good role model develop a succession plan, that doesn’t have a galaxy between her and those that might take her place at some later time?

In the private world, it’s called succession planning – and it’s the basis of a good workplace or board or organisation. It allows work to continue in the absence of any individual so that consumers or patients or clients (or even voters) are not inconvenienced.

Wouldn’t a good role model – and a good leader – listen to those whose homes have been upturned by criminals, or the MPs who represent us but who are too scared to knock on her door?

Wouldn’t a good role model to our daughters step in when some of her male colleagues are treating females with callous indifference, or perhaps even worse?

Wouldn’t a good role model speak up when serving police officers are caught in racist rants against women – and are allowed to keep their jobs?

Wouldn’t a good role model put the people they serve before the party they serve?

Annastacia Palaszczuk, on her appointment to premier, provided a new way forward. She did listen to people, She made clear that politics did not have to be a shouting contest and she promised to be open and accountable.

She used that job to join a long, long list of female role models.

But power delivers a heady air of indifference perhaps, where it’s hard to understand what the lives of those you serve are really like. And it’s hard to see how her current leadership serves as a role model for our daughters, or our sons.

That’s understandable, perhaps. It’s hard to know what it’s like to fill a car with petrol, if a limousine waits at your front door each morning.

It’s difficult for leaders, on big wages, to understand how voters are cancelling family holidays to ensure sufficient funds for school fees and uniforms and text books.

Or to have to fight for tickets to Taylor Swift or the Broncos home game or the AFL grand final. It’s easier for them to be gifted those salary add-ons.

Outside government circles, in private enterprise, companies suffer when their leaders lose sight of their customers.

Politics is no different. And being a woman won’t – and should never – save anyone. Being a role model – male or female – certainly can.

See the difference?


More Opinion stories

Loading next article