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Irene Natividad: Trailblazer

Emma Macdonald

Irene Natividad has spent the last 35 years pushing for women to claim greater levels of power across the globe.

She worries that women have, to this point, been far too patient.

In April, Irene will assemble the largest contingent of female leaders from around the world for the 2018 Global Women’s Summit as part of her personal campaign to speed up change.

Irene began running the summits 28 years ago, and is internationally recognised for her work, named in 2015 as a Trailblazing Women by Huffington Post and a Top Ten Champion of Global Diversity in 2014 by Diversity Global Magazine.

Informally referred to as the “Davos for Women”, the summit allows female leaders from all cultures to come together to focus on issues pertinent to gender within a broader political, social, economic and environmental framework.

This year, Australia won the competitive bid process to host the summit, which will take place in Sydney. Irene said Australia would showcase its own advances in gender and share its success stories on female political and corporate representation with a global sisterhood.

Around 1600 women from more than 60 countries are expected to take part.

But the summit was not about first world countries dominating the conversation or boasting any sort of gender equity superiority.

“I do not like the distinction between first and developing worlds. So many women achieve great things with so little – no structural support, no cultural support – but they push anyway and they get there. I have found that when women have less they get creative…. So it is about getting women together to talk about what works and not about what problems they face. I always start the conference by saying ‘no whinging!’.”

“We are all about sharing models of success.”

The Philippines-born, Washington DC-based global activist and commentator, who has held various leadership roles including as chairman of the National Commission on Working Women in the United States, and President of the National Women’s Political Caucus, said she has reason to hope the change of pace for women’s equal participation was speeding up.

In an interview with HerCanberra ahead of her arrival in Australia next week for a National Press Club address, Irene said she believes women are growing more impatient about the need for change.

“The day after Donald Trump’s swearing-in, when women marched in so many countries and cities across the globe, was one of the happiest days of my life. I’ve been marching since I was young and as a Baby Boomer I have marched for everything, but I have never seen that air of collaboration that sprang from nowhere. Women wanted to come out and say ‘I am upset and I want to be with my sisters’. All women, young and old, came out for that…And in the second round of marches it was less mournful and more focused on action.”

“It was not just a moment. There is something is going on.”

“Women have been patient. But now are showing they are less tolerant of waiting and less tolerant of men’s poor behaviour.”

“I’ve been fighting for 35 years and women have to keep pushing – as I do.”

Irene Natividad will deliver an address on “Are we there yet? A global look at women’s journey to leadership” at the National Press Club on Wednesday the 7 February at 12 pm. Tickets can be purchased here:


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author