‘Pervasive sexism’ means gender inequality will continue for at least another 130 years, says Gillard - RSA

‘Pervasive sexism’ means gender inequality will continue for at least another 130 years, says Gillard

Press release

On Thursday (28 April) the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) invited former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to give its annual President’s Lecture.

Ms Gillard, who is also the Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, challenged political parties, businesses, civil society groups and education institutions not to regard gender inequality as “yesterday’s issue”.

Ms Gillard said that “too much energy and money is being wasted on interventions like one off rounds of unconscious bias training, which do not have a positive impact.” Instead, she urged policy and law makers to “put gender and other forms of discrimination at the centre” of their work.

She went on to say that whilst the pandemic had exacerbated the problem of equality for women in the workplace, emerging from lockdown also carried disproportionate risks for women’s careers:

“Many businesses are embracing what has been learned about the benefits of virtual work during pandemic lock downs. However, if all that is done is the offering of flexibility, while assessments of merit for promotion still tend to be based on office presenteeism, we may well wake up in five years’ time in a working world where men disproportionately go to the office, women tend to work from home and men are enjoying greater access to career advancement.”

Ms Gillard said her mission was to “get into the hands of decision makers the tool kits that truly make a difference.”

Cities of Learning

Ms Gillard’s comments come as the RSA moves into a new phase of its Cities of Learning project which aims to help young people from less privileged backgrounds showcase their skills, employability, and personal development.

Youth unemployment figures summarised by the House of Commons Library show that job prospects for 16–24-year-olds have significantly reduced since the start of the pandemic. 263,000 more young people have become economically inactive, an increase of 10%. The Cities of Learning project is the RSA’s offer of a ‘toolkit that truly makes a difference’.

To find out more about Cities of Learning, visit: https://www.thersa.org/cities-of-learning


Steven George, Head of Media and Public Affairs
steven.george@rsa.org.uk, +44 (0)7799 737 970 (incl out-of-hours)

Notes to Editors:

RSA’s Cities of Learning Programme and its Digital Badging App was developed in partnership with digital badging experts Navigatr and validation experts City & Guilds. Together with our partners Real Ideas and Future Creators, we piloted this initiative in Brighton and Plymouth in 2020 and the results were remarkable. Over 2,000 young people successfully applied for 3675 digital badges and over 1,000 secured employment. 49% of learners downloaded more than one badge. 53 employers applied to be part of the scheme. 360 new pathways to employment and further learning were identified. The pilots have increased progressions into work from less than 45% to more than 60% in one year. This very useful video here succinctly describes Cities of Learning’s place-based approach.

About the RSA:

The RSA (royal society for arts, manufactures and commerce) is an independent charity, committed to a future that works for everyone. A future where we can all participate in its creation.

The RSA has been at the forefront of significant social impact for over 260 years. Our proven change process, rigorous research, innovative ideas platform and diverse global community of over 30,000 problem solvers, deliver solutions for lasting change.   

Legally, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (‘RSA’) is a Royal Charter Company and registered charity in England and Wales (charity number 212424) and in Scotland (charity number SC037784).  

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