International Women’s Day 2021

8 March, 2021

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge. “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.”

Cranlana aims to have our program participants return to their worlds inspired and determined to make positive change in their world. We do this by immersing extraordinary leaders in frank, challenging conversations about the philosophies that underpin our society and its systems. Helping participants work through the materials are our experienced moderators, among them four extraordinary women who draw on their own prestigious professional experience to bring to the programs a unique depth of practical wisdom – Jean Ker Walsh, Rebecca Cody, Genevieve Nihill and Emma Greenwood.

To celebrate their contribution to our programs, to our professional development and to our lives, we asked them to consider and respond to the theme of IWD this year. We’ve shared Jean and Rebecca’s responses below. We hope you find them insightful, useful and inspiring.

As a Principal, Rebecca Cody frames her responsibilities in terms of Chief Educator, Learner, Strategist, Coach and Ambassador. Across two decades teaching and leading schools in Australia and New Zealand, Rebecca has led change for the better. She received a WA Business News 40-under-40 award for her change management at Methodist Ladies’ College, Claremont, and was the University of Western Australia’s Strategic Alliance winner. Appointed in 2018, Rebecca is the first woman and first Australian-born to lead the iconic Geelong Grammar School.

“With this year’s IWD theme inviting the choice to challenge, there is cause to honour those whose courage to lead continues to inspire positive change,” says Rebecca. ” In 2021, I am especially mindful of Iris Murdoch and Mary Beard.”

“A philosopher who wrote novels, Iris Murdoch’s capacity to frame and then answer meaningful questions continues to pique curiosity and address universal contemplations. There is surely a lifetime’s reflection in her powerful question, how can we make ourselves morally better?”

“Murdoch’s extraordinary adeptness across two demanding career disciplines challenged role expectations for women at the time. At Oxford, she examined the energy invested in improving ourselves morally, and used literature to enable us to see and understand humanity. Her example challenged perceptions and mindsets about women and her works disrupted thought about the development of inner qualities and its place in the landscape of moral philosophy. Her writing, both philosophy and fiction, reminds me that where we place our attention is where our morality lives.”

“Classicist Mary Beard’s work chooses to challenge our attention, especially regarding cultural assumptions. As one example, her Women and Power Manifesto (2017) queries the traditions, conventions and assumptions about the voice of women. She reflects upon traditional narratives and reviews how we can use the lessons of history to influence positive change. Strikingly, Beard achieves this amidst a backdrop of gendered public criticism about her.”

Rebecca says “In different ways and in different times, Murdoch and Beard’s voices prompt consideration of how we can focus our attention and voices; choosing to challenge perceptions and mindsets, as per their examples, may well be part of the ever-evolving process of moral development.”

Jean Ker Walsh knows what it takes to make change. Jean’s extensive career spanned the corporate sector, positions as a broadcast journalist, political advisor, and strategic communications practitioner and commentator. She provides pro bono communications advice to Refugee Legal and is an active member of Grandmothers for Refugees. Her academic interests are in audience reception of communication with a particular interest in citizen politics and democracy.

When considering the theme of IWD this year, Jean said “I’m not a meditator, but I regularly spend quiet time with poetry as an entry to contemplating the world from another perspective.  The late Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and Nobel Laureate, is my first choice for beautiful, beautiful words that ease the heart while often making me tremble with hope.  His poem written for Amnesty International, From the Republic of Conscience, is a recent favourite. (See it here: “From the Republic of Conscience” | Antioch College.) ”

With what would seem to be the perfect words to close this response to International Women’s Day 2021, Jean notes “To re-imagine oneself as an Ambassador for Conscience who can never be off duty is a challenge – not consciously chosen, but recognised now as my credential to carry as best I must. Thanks again, Seamus!”

Image by Winifred Goddard

Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership’s programs include the 2 day Executive Ethics, 6 day Executive Colloquium and year-long Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. We also deliver online and tailored corporate programs. Find the right program for you. They are all held under the Chatham House Rule to encourage genuine and open debate, and allow participants to candidly discuss sometimes sensitive issues in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public, and contribute to a broader conversation. The alumni program offers ongoing leadership development support and a lifelong connection with Cranlana.