Today we almost take for granted the legislative frameworks and social customs that support various women’s rights and freedoms, but it has not always been so.
There has been a dynamic struggle over the century that has become a dominant voice in our current times. Back in 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft, a trailblazing advocate of implementing education and social equality for women, wrote down her political beliefs in her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women and has been described as the foremother of the struggle for the vote at a time when women were often considered inferior and not given more than a domestic education. The earlier protests and conventions gave way to organised feminist movements which gained pace and political leverage over the 19th and 20th centuries spanning into fields of philosophy focused on the perspective of gender and justice for women, challenging traditional ideas of knowledge and rationality as objective, universal or value neutral, arguing instead for the importance of relative social situations and values in generating knowledge and the conscious construction of normatively within social orders to share an individual’s reality.
Today, International Women’s Day continues the celebration of the manifestation of gender awareness and the upheaval and displacing of traditions that, in the context of national laws has supported the institutionalisation of such values in current legislation, including:
- Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (VIC)
- Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001
- Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities
- Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cwth)
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwth)
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cwth)
- Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cwth)
- Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cwth)
We could also add the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cwth) and the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cwth) as examples of how state authorise have assumed and enveloped all manner of powers charged to regulate and implement these rights in law.
EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW // the seeds of change
A central area of enquiry among political thinkers has been the traditional role of laws in enshrining classical liberal concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity based on foundations arising out of the Enlightening with changes in assumptions underpinning the structures of society with a growing awareness of individual freedoms and political authority. The Enlightenment opened modern Western political and intellectual culture from which many subsequent fields of thought, including ideological antitheses of the liberal ideas that would consume much societal change and revolution. Mary Wollstonecraft was one of England’s earliest feminist philosophers. She argued for a society based on reason and that women as well as men should be treated as rational beings. It was this era that brought into focus scientific empiricism and the ideal of advancement and progress and science that is so prevalent in today’s modernity with people largely emancipated from traditional roles by technology.
In England, Jeremy Bentham explored the rethinking of concepts about law in practice and changing laws to reflect what they ought to be, considering the rapid changes that called for equality between the sexes, arguing in favour of women’s suffrage, a women’s right to obtain a divorce, and a women’s right to hold political office. On the other hand, Marxists postulated that law was the product of economic sources, controlled and tainted by the capitalists resulting in the subjugation of labour forces, but with predictions that historical struggles would usher in social revolutions.
THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF WOMAN // in an equal society
The rapid changes in society and the driving forces towards individual empowerment required the laws to keep up! By the early 20th century, the seeds of change get into an active and consciously inclusive society, especially with respect to women’s rights.
In 1952, the United National Convention on the Political Rights of Women, was adopted providing that “women shall be entitled to vote in all elections on equal terms with men, without any discrimination“. In 1902 (1962 for indigenous people) the Australian Federal Parliament legislated voting and standing rights for adult women. These macro political endorsements of women’s rights were among the world in the developed Western World and throughout the 20th century most countries had adopted women suffrage in line with United Nations charters of human rights, irrespective of religions and culture.
Within these legislative frameworks, slowly but surely participation of women in public office and or political, intellectual, professional life was bound to directly implement reforms motivated by a strong sense of justice and championing of a fairer and better society. Maybe the highpoint of the war social revision and individual freedom was the 1960s and 1970s recalled now as a distant beacon in global and economically integrated order, that we have seen in operation, particularly with responses to the outbreak of Covid-19. Following the Covid-19 global crisis we are often reminded by our leaders, such as Mr Scott Morrison declaring that “we’ve got strong, we’re got more capable, and we’ve got better and better” and “we’ve learned, and we’ve learnt”.
In Victoria, women were permitted to practice law in 1903 and today in 2021 approximately 70% of law graduates are women. Women of course, have embraced opportunities and today we see men and women serving as politicians, judges, lawyers and other professionals, business leaders and entrepreneurs, in defence forces as well as creating new sporting codes such as AFL Women’s Leagues which is normalised in the 21st century. However, as s a modern realisation perhaps it would have been a cultural shock for a Mary Wollstonecraft had she had a crystal ball in 1792 since abstractions of gender equality have developed into gender equivalence with a striving competition to achieve. A direct quote from an internet article headed “17 Australian Female Entrepreneurs Crushing It In 2021” by Anditya Gautam says “Australian entrepreneurship was once almost exclusively reserved for men. Not anymore! Now, female entrepreneurs are not only competing but also beating men at their own game.“. What have we learnt? The resetting to a post Covid-19 environment and in a digitalised online market has forces us to abruptly rethink the way we do business.
CANNY LEGAL // helping women in business post Covid-19
Canny Legal prides itself on its socially progressive and inclusive workplace and celebrates the history of the growth of opportunities available to women. We embrace change and innovation reinventing how we do business.
How can Canny Legal help its female clients in their pursuits of their business aspirations?
Laws are always changing, calling for ongoing review and consideration in how such changes affect our clients. We cater for all aspects of business start-ups and steering established businesses to a projected growth path, clients can take advantage of our multi-advisory services including legal advice, financial planning, NDIS plan management and accounting at any stage in their life of an enterprise or the realisation of an asset.
We have seen, for example how some women can work from home and establish new businesses using social media and online platforms to brand in beautifully presented sweets and sides. We have also noticed a burgeoning growth of businesses responding to an opportunity arising out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which provides funding for participants with a disability with businesses catering for a range of taxpayer funded recreation health and disability services.
The fundamentals of economic and business consideration for achieving financial goals and strategies remains a process of review, discussion, and advice.
By engaging Canny Legal we can assist our clients in implementing their innovations and implementing their business ideas and plans by preparing trusts, leases, drafting equity agreements and employment contracts and protecting intellectual property and drawing up website user terms and conditions to suit their business model as well as response to the changing needs of the business or the requirements of their owners and staying up-to-date with legal developments. On the other side of the coin, we can assist businesses in enforcing and protecting their legal rights, particularly when traditionally women may have been less inclined to do so, from debt recovered to seeking damages for breach of contract. We can, in short make the law work for you with our skilled team of solicitors. Get in touch today to find our how we can help you!
Richard Pinkstone // Canny Legal