International Women’s Day Forum: What you missed

A breakfast of female champions.

The Festival celebrated this year’s International Women’s Day with its annual breakfast forum. Beyond the bagels and espressos, the room filled with a swarm of guests eager to hear from Australian women flying the flag for gender equality, safety and success.

The line-up included Our Watch Chair Natasha Stott Despoja, Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp, and International best selling author Liane Moriarty. Marie Claire Editor Nicky Briger hosted the event, with a special audience appearance by former editor Jackie Frank.

Briger described the recent global tremble in response to the mounting stories of sexual harassment and violence as a “tsunami that gets bigger and bolder by the day”. Perpetuating that wave, the day began with Our Watch Chair Natasha Stott Despoja.

Despoja was destined to achieve seismic change, with the title as the youngest ever senate elected into Australian Parliament already under her belt. From speaking to refugees on the Syrian border, to speaking at international forums, Despoja’s experience protecting women and children against violence extended beyond the boardroom. “I’m quite haunted by the effects of violence. I see it everywhere,” she recounted.

Despoja remained ever hopeful for the increasing shift in attitudes and behaviours towards women – “I like to think we’re in a watershed era. The tide is turning. It’s going to become more trendy to support women.”

Sharing that sentiment, Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp revealed she supports local female businesses. But the leading surgeon didn’t receive that same encouragement in her field. Stories of physical intimidation, bullying and sexual harassment pushed Dr Stamp to write a resignation letter in the early years of her career. But her tenacity, and refusal to “stick to the status quo if it’s uncomfortable,” pushed Dr Stamp to become just one of 11 cardiothoracic surgeons in the country.

Much like the entertainment industry’s call out of big players, “for medicine as well, it’s a global groundswell,” Dr Stamp said. But, she noted, “the men of today aren’t like the men of previous generations.” Further investigating this notion, Stamp published her novel ‘Can You Die of a Broken Heart? A heart surgeon's insight into what makes us tick’ this year. Spoiler: Yes.

Rounding off the day’s speakers was International best selling author Liane Moriarty. Following the success of Big Little Lies, the television adaptation of Moriarty’s 2014 novel, the writer now counts Nicole Kidman on her list of friends.

And it’s friends that are at the core of Moriarty’s work. “I’m interested in people. I couldn’t describe a landscape to save my life,” she said. Even before the Oscar winning program aired, Moriarty shared stories of good reception to her work. “I received emails from women telling me ‘you’ve written my story’,” she said.

Storytelling has never before been a more powerful tool in raising awareness and conversation with the issues women are facing. And much like the heart palpitations Moriarty is experiencing with the looming deadline of Big Little Lies Season 2, an exciting buzz is happening, and we’re right in the centre of it all.


Some key messages:

“Violence against women– it’s the most horrible manifestation of gender inequality in the world.” - Natasha Stott Despoja, Chair, Our Watch

“Please, men. Call out sexist behaviour. Don’t perpetuate it. Women, don’t let us be judged on what we wear. Don’t let us be defined by rigid stereotypes.” - Natasha Stott Despoja, Chair, Our Watch

“You do pay a price for being ambitious. I’m unapologetic about that now.” - Dr Nikki Stamp, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

“If you’re an ambitious woman, you get called bossy, bitchy.” - Dr Nikki Stamp, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

I’m a girl’s girl. I find female friendships very interesting.” – Liane Moriarty, International best selling author

“It was wonderful to me that there were women at the helm [of Big Little Lies]. They were the ones that got it done.” – Liane Moriarty, International best selling author


Presented by AMP Capital Shopping Centres, marie claire and Mimco.

Written by Anastasia McInerney


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