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Meeting in the Middle

The morning after Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape on February 24, a dozen women who had accused the disgraced film studio boss of sexual misconduct stood on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall and proclaimed a new era. Actress Caitlin Dulany told reporters that shortly after Weinstein was taken into custody, she noticed a young girl in her local supermarket. “You will have a different world because of what happened today,” Dulany told the Los Angeles Times she imagined saying to the girl. “It will not be the same. It will never be the same.” Dulany’s optimism for womankind in the aftermath of the watershed trial, in which Weinstein was found guilty of a criminal sex act in the first degree and rape in the third degree, is more than justified.

All aboard

The profound impact of the #metoo movement in calling out despicable male behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg as part of a global movement in which the rising power of the female is evoking powerful social, political and environmental change. From 39-year-old New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s game-changing Zero Carbon Bill and empathetic child poverty and housing crisis policies to the progressive gender equality and parental leave initiatives of Finland’s leader Sanna Marin (the youngest head of government in the world leading a coalition headed entirely by women) there is a new generation of young female leaders creating real change through the fresh sense of inclusiveness and empathy they bring to the role. Realising unilateral support is the only way to elicit true progress, they are setting social and gender divisions aside to argue in favour of meeting in the middle to create meaningful movements that benefit all. In January Marin said she hoped the election of female leaders would become the “new normal” but in her address to Davos 2020 she also noted “we need everybody on board. We all have to fight each and every day for equality, for a better life.” In Australia her vision for 2020 was echoed by that of actress Yael Stone, who in February urged Australians to get out of our silos and meet in the middle in relation to the urgent issue of climate change. “I want to meet in the middle,” Stone told The Guardian. “I want to prove to you that the common sense of shared survival will be enough for us to come together in the middle and push for powerful government action on climate change.”

Youthful ambition

Finland has long prided itself on its commitment to social unity, so much so that that it has even made a quirky international campaign out of its gender-neutral pronoun “hän” – in a bid to export its linguistic commitment to a world where no one is defined as “he” or “she”. In December the country took its dedication to gender equality one step further when it anointed 34-year-old Social Democrat Marin as prime minister, heading a coalition and a cabinet dominated by women. Marin is the youngest serving premier in the world, mother to a toddler, and emblematic of her country’s commitment to making “having it all” a feminist reality, rather than an impossible goal. “Maybe it’s not that big of a deal in Finland that we have five women in power,” Marin told Davos 2020 in reference to her country’s strong legacy of female leaders. “But it means something that the media and global community is talking about it.” In Norway all four political parties are now headed by female leaders: Prime Minister Erna Solberg (Conservative Party) Minister of Finance Siv Jensen (Progressive Party), Minister of Culture and Equality Trine Skei Grande (Liberal Party) and Minister of Agriculture Olaug Vervik Bollestad (Christian Democratic Party). “The fact that that four women are now heading the coalition is an expression of the strong position of women in Norwegian society, and that female leadership today comes as naturally as male leadership once did,” Solberg has said of the landmark development. “Women leaders take on all challenges, but I do believe female representation makes a difference in politics, with emphasis on equal rights and the situation for families.”

A new way of leading

In Denmark, Mette Frederiksen is the country’s youngest prime minister in history following her appointment in June last year. New Zealand’s Ardern became her nation’s leader around the same time she learned she was pregnant with her first child in 2017. Since then the 39-year-old has had to deal with a mass shooting committed by a far-right extremist, an active volcano and, most recently, a global virus that originated in the country that is her nation’s most important trading partner. Ardern has deftly handled each situation with a platform built on kindness, acceptance and inclusion that has received positive media coverage around the globe. This new form of leadership embodies strength while also pushing an agenda of compassion and community–or, as she says it, “pragmatic idealism.” It was this approach that allowed her coalition government to pass its flagship Zero Carbon Bill through the New Zealand parliament in 2019, achieving the remarkable feat of a consensus on climate change policy with the support of the conservative opposition. “For this generation, this is our nuclear moment,” she said at the time, comparing the occasion to the anti-nuclear protests that dominated the country’s politics in the 1980s. In Australia a new female-led climate coalition is also hoping for a “nuclear moment” when it comes to climate change. On February 26, a diverse group of Sydney’s leaders united for climate action at the launch of Groundswell, Australia’s first giving circle for climate advocacy. Co-founded by a pair of concerned young mothers with professional backgrounds, Anna Rose and Clare Ainsworth Herschell, together with arts manager Arielle Gamble and Karrina Nolan, Groundswell advisor and executive director of indigenous organisation Original Power, the organisation aims to accelerate climate action in Australia by building a new community of climate leaders and pooling money to fund strategic, high-impact climate advocacy. Pre-launch, Groundswell reached its target of gathering $50,000 in memberships for the first donation, which was made to veteran fire chief Greg Mullins and his group Emergency Leaders for Climate Action. On the night the founders were joined by a 400-strong crowd including some of Australia’s most powerful and influential women. City of Sydney Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully, sustainable chef Kylie Kwong and ethical fashion designers Kit Willow and Genevieve and Alexandra Smart were among the women present, clear proof that when we channel our voices and collective power, we can create meaningful change. “Australians from all walks of life are joining Groundswell to support the rapidly-growing people-powered climate movement that has erupted after our black summer,” says Rose. “It’s so exciting to see so many people signing up to get involved in advocacy efforts to press for greater action to address climate crisis. When we come together, we are so much more powerful than we can be as individuals.”

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