Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has identified the achievement that has given her the most satisfaction during her eight-year term.
“When I went into organisations eight years ago I could have a conversation about sexual harassment, but when I tried to move it into domestic violence I was told: ‘stop that’s a private issue that’s outside the workplace, we have no responsibility’,” she says.
“That’s changed, and that’s fantastic.”
The woman who confesses she doubted her ability to handle one of the most important jobs in the country is feeling upbeat about women’s rising role in public life.
“I thought I’ll never be able to do this, I’m not extraordinary; but I’ve learnt you don’t have to be, you can be ordinary punter. It’s about doing what you can, when you can and that’s how you end up being able to change the world.”
Thanks to a number of conversations, inquiries and campaigns for change aimed at powerful men Liz has helped double the number of women on the Boards of the Top 200 Companies. Her inquiry into discrimination against pregnant women led to a massive awareness of women's rights and bosses' responsibilities.
And she has also seen society transform in her time at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission: once, women opted to work, today most have little choice and little inclination to bow out after having babies; from a time when Australia trailed much of the world in parental leave to the introduction of today's national scheme. (That said, Liz is deeply aware the scheme is already being wound back and Tony Abbott's promised plan of six months pay now seems like a distant discarded dream.)
She says she's seen some backlash by some blokes, but also a massive increase in awareness by men and business leaders that women have a lot to offer in the workplace - and that men have a lot to offer at home.
She actively involved men in the fight for equality, lobbying powerful 'Male Champions of Change' to rework a system that skewed strongly in favour of males. Some called their process of enlightenment "being 'Brodericked", but many have embraced her message.
"The traditional stereotypes are changing and that's got to be a good thing. But I guess it is about men and women negotiating how they live their lives together. That uncertainty brings confusion, but we are definitely moving in the right direction."