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Women finding their Voice

Diane Utatao, Director – D&I Consulting Services, and Chair of NAWO NSW State Committee, and Carlee McGowan, also a member of the NAWO NSW State Committee, represented NAWO at the recent AHRI NSW International Women’s Day breakfast with Tara Moss. Diane shares insights from this event…  

Tara Moss on Women finding their Voice

By Diane Utatao

Tara Moss

Tara Moss is an acclaimed author, journalist & HR advocate.  As guest speaker at the AHRI (Australian Human Resource Institute) breakfast on International Women’s Day, Tara shared her personal story and talked about helping women find their voice and driving change for future generations of women.

Tara was born in Victoria and had an ‘idyllic’ childhood.  She was called a ‘tomboy’ (otherwise known as an ‘adventurous girl’).  While many little girls longed to be a ballerina, Tara wanted to be Stephen King – she wanted to be a novelist.

At around 10 years of age she was writing horror stories.  Tara believes because she felt so ‘safe’ in her surroundings that it gave her the freedom to explore things that scared her.  When her Mum died, it taught her that “bad things can happen to good people”.

Tara was always tall and skinny and her Dad told her that if she turned sideways and stuck her tongue out she would look like a ‘zipper’.

After modelling for a few years she was told she was “too fat” and concerned about her health and well-being, Tara left the agency and decided to only work with agencies that accepted her as is!

At 23 years of age, Tara started to pursue her dream to become a writer/novelist and at first, found it took all her courage to show her writing to anyone.

Tara’s first experience of stereotypes and labels was when rumours started to circulate that Tara couldn’t possibly have written her own books.  People insinuated she was a “party-girl, dumb blonde or gold digger” – not a serious author.  Finally, after taking a lie detector test and receiving much negative publicity, Tara was recognised for her own work.

Speaking passionately about the stereotypes that are perpetuated through film and the media, Tara quoted some very interesting statistics:

  • Only 7% of film directors are women
  • only 1 woman has won an Oscar for directing a film and only relatively recently.
  • films led by women make more 15.8% more money
  • films led with both genders make 23.5% more money

It makes good business sense to have females in lead roles.


It doesn’t matter if the film is good or bad – just test the 3 elements.  Does the film have:

  • 2 named female characters
  • do the 2 characters speak to each other
  • about something other than a man (includes Harry Potter)

Tara says It is very rare to find a film that can pass all 3 elements of the Bechdel test.

Tara wrote her book Speaking Out – because these problems still exist, fewer than 1 in 4 people we hear about in the media are women.

Women’s voices in the media in Australia have stalled 

  • Only 21% female sources are directly quoted in news articles
  • Only 28% females are quoted in opinion editorials

The cumulative effect:

Front page media – quotes from experts Quotes from victims
76% Male 79% Male
24% Female 21% Female

According to Tara this is unconscious – people don’t even notice it is there. But what is it telling young people?

Research on what was quoted about women’s issues in mainstream media in the last (not most recent) election over a 6 month period showed:

  • 81% of men quoted on Abortion
  • 75% of men quoted on Birth Control
  • 67% of men quoted on Planned Parenthood
  • 52% of men quoted on Women’s Rights

Another interesting fact was that historic statues mainly depict men. For example in New York there are 22 statues of men and only 1 woman (Gertrude Stein) and in the UK – 85% men and 15% women (mainly statues of the Queen). Women are not put on pedestals.

Tara is launching a new documentary on the ABC called Cyberhate, about online abuse which she co-wrote and produced and presented. The statistics are alarming:

  • 76% of Australians under 30 are abused online
  • 73% experienced online violence worldwide
  • 1 in 10 women under 30 has suffered ‘revenge porn’

In response to the question, can women ‘have it all’ or can you economically look after your family, she believes we need to reframe the conversation to say can you ‘have your all’.

To do this Tara says you need Self Care – to prioritise your health, physical, mental well-being and protect your health by valuing your time.

Tara suggests finding the things that make you happy and have a laugh. Look out for and help other women and girls as all positive change is collective.

In closing Tara says, just like the airline ads with the air mask that drops down – ‘assist yourself before you assist others’, because if you can breathe, you can help others.

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