Trailblazing public sector women celebrated in NSW DFSI exhibition

NSW DFSI sees new exhibition on trailblazing public sector women

NSW DFSI sees new exhibition on trailblazing public sector women

Blaze: Working Women, Public Leaders - an exciting exhibition produced by NSW State Archives at the Whitlam Institute, has been launched by Premier Gladys Berejiklian. The exhibition explores the stories and achievements of women who have carved out exceptional public sector careers.

A voice for stories of remarkable women

Chair of the NSW State Archives Board, Anne Henderson AM said Blaze is a voice for stories of remarkable women who challenged structural and societal barriers in the NSW public sector in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“They shaped the work of our wonderful state of NSW, setting great examples for those current public sector leaders who followed in their path,” Ms Henderson said. Alongside the women from the past the Blaze exhibition features current public sector leaders who reflect on the opportunities and challenges that have shaped their careers and lives.

“Not only does the exhibition recount some extraordinary stories of leadership by women of more than a century ago, it highlights the work of inspiring contemporary leaders we are so fortunate to have in the NSW public sector,” Ms Henderson said.

Incredible stories behind past legacies and modern achievements

From architect Marion Mahony Griffin whose role in the creative partnership she shared with her husband Walter Burley was almost invisible, to Narelle Underwood who today leads the work for surveying, mapping and geographic information across the state, the exhibition focuses on the incredible stories behind past legacies and modern achievements.

Whitlam Institute Director Leanne Smith said it is fitting the exhibition is held in the Margaret Whitlam Galleries.

“Mrs Whitlam is recognised here for her social work as well as her trailblazing role as the PM’s wife, advancing those causes most important to Australian women,” Ms Smith said.

NSW DFSI women

Ensuring success through leadership

There are 65 past and present female leaders from the public sector celebrated in this fabulous and important exhibition - that includes community, health, education and political leaders.  Information Commissioner, Ms Tydd was featured as a leader in regulation, information and finance. On leadership Ms Tydd said "Leadership is how you cultivate people, how you develop people, and the investment, the education or experience - that you make and bring to people within the workforce. Those things really ensure the success of every leader."

Blaze engages with the finding that a significant leadership gap continues to exist between women and men in public life. Through its thoughtfully curated study of a selection of women working in different policy fields from the 1860s to the present, Blaze sheds insights into the challenges and opportunities that women have faced building professional careers in the NSW public sphere.

Women holding positions traditionally occupied by men

Spanning a 150 year timeframe, Blaze looks to a selection of women from the past who were trailblazers in carving out roles for females in the NSW public sphere. They were the first women to hold positions that had been traditionally occupied by men. These ‘past’ Blaze women led the way for others to follow and they re-shaped the institutions of the State from within. As ‘firsts’, their leadership enabled future generations of women to pursue opportunities that they themselves might only have imagined.

Turning to the present, Blaze engages with the stories of fourteen women who currently hold senior positions in NSW government agencies, departments, boards and/or related initiatives. In their day-to-day work, they make a high-level contribution to the work of the State and the communities of NSW. For Blaze, each of these ‘present’ women have reflected on their careers, and in doing so, provided unique insights into their formative, professional and leadership experiences.


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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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