PM gets in touch with her feminine side
Insulated: Julia Gillard marks Women's Day. Photo: Wolter Peeters
For those who've wondered about the Prime Minister's famous unflappability, some intriguing clues emerged from a small, informal lunch she attended to mark International Women's Day on Friday.
Perhaps it was the relief she felt walking into a room full of mostly-smiling female faces after a controversial week of ''not campaigning'' in Sydney's western suburbs. But asked how she had dealt with ''boys' clubs'' and how she handled the barrage of criticism, Ms Gillard seemed willing to share a few secrets.
She had learnt to ''build a psychological barrier between what you know about yourself as opposed to these things that are being said about you'', she told the mostly younger women.
''The more I've done it, the stronger it's got, it's like a muscle you can work.
''So I feel quite insulated in a psychological sense from all of that now.''
Asked about the best advice her mother had ever given her, Ms Gillard told 36-year old Jasmin Gray that her mother had had a ''very strong sense of self and doesn't let other people's opinions of her enter her head in a bad way''. She added, ''I think part of my ability to do that comes from her''.
The gathering included readers who had won a competition run by Fairfax Media's Daily Life site, submitting questions they most wanted to put to the PM.
How to forge ahead in male-dominated environments was a key theme, with others asking about the struggle to balance work and family, and one young student, Amelia Gilbert, asking what the Prime Minister would most like to be remembered for.
Ms Gillard said in the ''distant, distant future'' when she was out of politics she'd like to live in a time when it would not be ''interesting any more'' whether political leaders were male or female, because ''so many women and so many men'' would have done all of the jobs by then.
She also spoke about the support she drew from close female colleagues in the cabinet.
By contrast, she said, Joan Child, whose funeral she had attended this week, had been the first Labor woman elected to the House of Representatives in 1974. ''Who did she go and have a coffee with, have a drink with, who did she go and talk to when it was really tough?'' she mused.