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“There’ll be people who undermine you. That’s not a reason to give up.”

Tanya Plibersek chats to marie claire about why gender equality is so important

The Deputy Labor leader, Tanya Pilbersek MP, is speaking at gender equality event Breakthrough today. 


Why is a conference like this important right now?

Until we achieve equality it’s important to keep focused on what we can do to get there. We’ve still got a gender pay gap, we know that violence against women is still an extraordinary issue, with one in three women experiencing it in their lifetime, and women are still underrepresented in public life. While we’ve come a really long way and we should celebrate those successes, we still have to look to the future and say ‘full equality is within our grasp. We’ve got to pursue it.’

What one thing would you like to see change right now to improve women’s status in Australia?

I always think there are two really important areas to focus on: economic security and independence. That means reducing the gender pay gap, earning a decent retirement income, working in a decent job that earns them a living, making sure they get the support they need if they’re not working.

The other is addressing violence against women. I don’t think we can be a truly equal society while women are frightened to walk down the street by themselves. Frightened to be in their own homes if they’re living in a violent relationship. We can’t have an equal society if that’s still such a feature of so many women’s lives.


In the post-Trump world many women are finding that expressing a feminist view is harder than ever. How do we keep fighting when we keep being knocked back?


There’s no question that a lot of women are feeling this is a setback. The other night I went to see (Labor MP) Anne Aly speak at a function in Canberra and a fantastic young student stood up and asked, “How do you keep your spirits up, Anne? Because when I did a presentation at school about feminism, there were kids making fun of me, laughing, sniggering through my speech.” And Anne said to this young woman, “Just don’t listen to the arseholes.” I think there’s a bit of wisdom in that.

There’s no question that if you stand up for yourself and your rights and the rights of other women there’ll be some people who’ll undermine you or attack you. That’s not a reason to give up, it’s a reason to double down and work harder.

Do we have another female prime minister on the horizon any time soon? Will it be you?

I don’t doubt there’ll be another female prime minister in my lifetime. I don’t know who it will be but I know it will happen. Julia becoming prime minister seemed impossible til it happened. I actually always thought there’d be a female prime minister in my lifetime, I didn’t doubt that, but for so many people it was so unusual, such a breakthrough, so unexpected. That’s the thing with every breakthrough – it seems impossible til it happens and then it seems normal.

I think we will get to a stage where the gender of the leader is unremarkable.


But will the treatment of both Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton – personal, particularly vicious attacks – deter other women from following this path?


A lot of people do worry that that would be their experience. And my message to them is that anything worth doing has a hardship. There’s no easy path to these great opportunities in life. You’ve kind of got to just dive in. A job with such great privilege, to be able to do things for other people, doesn’t come easy. So my message is, yes it would be hard. But it would 100 per cent be worth doin

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