Bluestocking Week launched in Melbourne!
University women from across Melbourne weren’t afraid of showing a bit of leg for Bluestocking Week, 13-17 August, re-launched today (Friday 10 August) at the State Library of Victoria by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the National Union of Students (NUS).
NTEU National President, Jeannie Rea, told the crowd that Bluestocking Week had previously been held in campuses across Australia from the 1980s through to the last decade when the Howard Government’s anti-student organisation legislation killed off most student activities.
“This was a real loss because Bluestocking Week drew attention to what women had won and were still fighting for in higher education. It was not just about access and numbers of women at universities, but also about what was being taught and researched, and by whom.”
Rea said that much had changed for women in higher education since 1882 when the first Australian women – Bella Guerin and Lydia Harris – were allowed to enrol at the University of Melbourne.
“Today, 130 years later, women undergraduates are outnumbering the men. By 2010, women comprised 60% of undergraduates and 58% of postgraduates. Just as many women as men are graduating with law and medical degrees though we’re still way behind the men in engineering. There are now more women university graduates, with 41% of women 25-29 holding a bachelor degree compared to 30% of men,” she said.
“However, the feminisation of education does not represent a victory for feminism and for women. Men are still able to find work more readily, with or without a degree. They are paid more and promoted over just as able women colleagues. Whilst the gaps have lessened, the median starting salary for recent young female graduates in 2011 was still $2000 less than their male counterparts.
“This is partially explained by hours of work, location and other factors, but a key determinant is field of study. Women are still graduating in greater numbers in less lucrative fields. Even in the same fields the median starting salaries favour men in most areas. Only Australian nine vice-chancellors are women and only 25% of senior positions are held by women.”
NUS Women’s Officer, Noni Sproule, said that a lot of older feminists criticise younger women.
“I’m here to tell you that this generation of women is breathtaking. We’re not going to put up with being paid 83 cents in the dollar and taking 3.1 years longer than male students to pay off our HECS debit. We’re not going to put up with being paid 3% less in our first year in the workforce.” .
Events to mark Bluestocking Week are being held in every state and territory and include lectures, seminars, forums, film screenings, art exhibitions, displays, breakfasts, morning teas, lunches and even a bake sale (!)
More information at www.nteu.org.au/women/bluestockingweek
Media comment: Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President: 0434 609 531
Noni Sproule, Women’s Office, National Union of Students, 0403 986 910
More info: Carmel Shute NTEU Media Officer: 0412 569 356