Book Club | Leaning Out

The third book in The Crikey Read series, Leaning Out sees respected journalist Kristine Ziwica map a decade of stasis on the gender equality front in Australia, and why the pandemic has led to a breakthrough. As the historic 2021 Women’s March attests, a generation of younger women are speaking truth to power and changing the way we think of women in the workplace. 

For ten years Australian women have been sold a dazzling promise: through sheer ’will’ and individual self-empowerment they could overcome decades of gender inequality in the workplace. The hard, structural work didn’t need to be done; all the solutions could be individual.

Yet leaning in, power-posing and speaking up (and being spoken over) at the boardroom table have made very little difference for the great majority of women, still underpaid and overworked compared to their male colleagues.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shockingly revealed the fragile foundations of women’s working lives. It’s also given us a rare opportunity for a reimagining. But Australian women are still being told to ‘Lean In’ (as espoused by Cheryl Sandberg in 2013) at precisely the moment when so many are tempted to ‘lean out’. With the majority of all jobs lost in the pandemic being held by women, and successive governments unable or unwilling to address the ‘gender issue’, we are at crisis point.

Richly researched and drawing on contemporary statistics, government policy and first-person experiences, Leaning Out is a manifesto for what we can – and should – do with this moment. 

Kristine Ziwica is a Melbourne-based journalist, columnist and consultant who is a regular contributor to Women’s Agenda, The Age, The Saturday Paper, The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News and The Guardian. She has over twenty years experience as a feminist writer and activist in a career that has taken her from New York to Munich, Berlin, London and now Australia.