Women in Commerce and Politics
In celebration of International Women’s Day, WCP is excited to announce that we are officially launching our new Woman of the Week series!
For our very first Woman of the Week (or more accurately, Women of the Week), we are excited and extremely proud to present our interviewees – Tina (Jiayi) Yao and Annie Jiang!
Tina and Annie are both co-founders of Women in Commerce and Politics, currently President and Vice President of Politics, respectively. They each completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, and are now both undertaking the Juris Doctor.
Having always been more of an “arts person”, Tina majored in sociology and politics in her undergraduate degree. She is a self-proclaimed nerd, and passionate about stationery, bookshops, and exploring different libraries.
Annie took a slightly different path in her undergraduate degree, majoring in international relations and French. She completed a human rights internship with the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, during which she gave a speech as an Australian representative! In her spare time, Annie may be found listening to music or watching episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine on repeat.
The MeToo movement has been monumental in sparking conversation around sexual harassment in the workplace, however we’ve also seen some adverse consequences. U.S Vice President Mike Pence said he doesn’t dine with women alone, and as reported by Bloomberg, it’s a sentiment that echoes among many senior male executives. Then we have women smashing through the glass ceiling, but faced with the glass cliff. It’s almost as if for every step forward, we take two backwards. Do you agree? Or would you say this is a rather pessimistic view?
I agree that sometimes as we try to achieve gender equality, it is as if for every step forward, we take two backwards, especially when it comes to these “pioneer” figures. But that doesn’t mean we should stop pursuing gender equality. For me, the fact that some male professionals in various industries have been trying to avoid travelling or dining alone with female colleagues is used as a counterargument against the #MeToo movement is very problematic. Maybe it is worth asking ‘why are there almost no reports saying female leaders are afraid of dining with their employees or subordinates’? First of all, because there aren’t that many female leaders. Secondly, the power dynamic between the two genders is so imbalanced that victims of sexual harassment are disproportionately women. Lastly, this argument erases the LGBTI community, as it is not always women who suffer from sexual harassment. All of this tell us that the power structure is problematic. Simply being silent will just perpetrate the current situation.
Australia was ranked 39th in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, that’s four spots lower than 2017. In fact, we’ve been dropping lower down the list every year, except one! Where do you think Australia is going wrong, or more so where are other counties getting it right, particularly when we look at our neighbour New Zealand managing to jump up to 7th place?
I think that those in power in Australia don’t always have the will to make the necessary changes – and this goes for politicians as well as corporate executives. I sometimes feel like there’s a sense of complacence with the status quo, a sort of political inertia, perhaps, and that needs to be eradicated. It’s not just women who lose out due to this complacence – Australia needs to own up to its colonial history, to its inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, and more. I think we’re taking steps in the right direction, and I’m pleased with some of the action by the Andrews Government in that vein, but we need to be doing more.
I also think we need more young people (like us!) at the table: we’re more politically aware than ever before, and our beliefs are valid and important. Young Australians have been showing great leadership in social justice, and recent events like the Strike 4 Climate Action have demonstrated to me that we are very conscious of what’s important right now, and I think that’s awesome.
What encouraged you to start Women in Commerce and Politics?
I co-founded WCP with 7 other amazing female students at Melbourne Uni. We came from diverse academic backgrounds, some of us did politics, some of us did commerce, and others studied other majors. However, what we had in common is that we were aware of the underrepresentation of women in those fields. Unlike in science and technology, there is no student group at Melbourne Uni that specifically focuses on the issue of gender inequality in politics or in commerce. And these two areas are nevertheless very important because they affect the functioning of the society on a daily basis. We hoped that by creating WCP we could help female students who want to work in those fields be prepared — so when they start their careers, they already have insight into the industry, they have networks, they’re skilled and most importantly, confident.
I wasn’t actually part of the group of women that came up with the idea for WCP, but a friend encouraged me to join as a founding member. I’ve never regretted it – although we’ve made great strides, we still have far to go in terms of increasing the number of women in executive or managerial positions in both commerce and politics. I’m glad to be in a position to make a difference, however small.
Is there any female role model that inspires you?
My number one role model will always be my sister – she sets the bar pretty high! She’s one of the smartest people I know, and she’s incredibly hard-working and driven. She’s an amazing teacher, and also a pretty great cook! She actually inspired me to study politics and IR in the first place, and then law as well.
You’re both completing the Juris Doctor – how have you found the experience thus far? One piece of advice you would give to undergraduates aspiring to study the JD?
Doing the JD is very challenging for sure but it is also lots of fun. It’s very different from what I’ve been doing for the past three years. Although I’ve only completed one intensive subject, I can already tell that it requires a different approach and mindset. A good thing about law school is that you meet so many talented people coming from different backgrounds. I had classmates who did screen writing, psychology, commerce and science. In class discussions, this kind of diversity really broadens my knowledge and also exposes quite unconventional ways to approach things for me. And it just encourages me to think outside the box. My advice to undergraduates who want to do the JD in the future is actually to focus on what you’re doing at the moment. Try to get as much out of your current degree as much as you can. All the knowledge you bring from previous study will be invaluable for your study in law. And always be critical and creative.
It’s been great so far! And ‘so far’ I mean ‘for the last two weeks’, so… But no, I’m really enjoying it and am super excited for the year ahead. I’d definitely recommend the Unimelb JD to anyone interested in the law. In terms of advice, I’d say just go for it! If you haven’t quite made up your mind, I’d recommend trying a couple of the law breadth subjects Unimelb offers, or doing some reading on your own. If you can gain a grasp of what studying the law might be like, then it’ll be easier to decide if it’s the right path for you.
If you have any questions for Tina or Annie, please:
1. leave a comment under our Woman of the Week FB post, or
2. email us at exec@WCPunimelb.com