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Letter From the Editor: International Women's Day 2021

05 Mar 2021
By Nancy Schneider
Illustration of diverse women. Source: Angelina Bambina, Shutterstock.

Welcome to the fourth annual International Women’s Day special edition of Australian Outlook! International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, acknowledge the specific challenges women face, and think critically about the ways in which these challenges can be addressed.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, Australian Outlook will spend the first two weeks of March highlighting the voices of women working in international affairs and specific challenges women face in a myriad of contexts. This week, all commissioned articles explicitly engage with gender, including discussions of menstruation, gender norms, and female leadership.  This theme will continue in next week’s edition, alongside interesting general analyses by women authors on topics ranging from Australia-New Zealand relations to outer space relations.

When this special edition of Australian Outlook was first conceived by former Editor Apoorva Kolluru and former National Executive Director Melissa Conley Tyler in 2018, arranging for ten women to write articles for Australian Outlook all in the same week was a significant challenge for a fledgling publication. Not only did they succeed, but they established a legacy that, four years on, is a defining feature of this publication. The first article I wrote for Australian Outlook was part of that first International Women’s Day special edition, and to be at the forefront of this initiative now is a privilege and an honour.

Australian Outlook has experienced significant growth in its readership, acclaim, and its author base over the past year. It has now become clear that there is great potential for this initiative to be expanded. This year, I am very proud to be publishing 20 articles written by women in commemoration of International Women’s Day 2021. It is with my deepest thanks to our readers, authors, and editorial team that this ambitious goal has been realised. I look forward to seeing where we will be at this time next year.

Yet even in 2021, arranging for ten articles published over the course of a single week written exclusively by men remains a far easier endeavour.  The discourse on international relations has historically been dominated by men both because men have historically wielded the vast majority of political power and because universities were generally accessible only to men when the academic study of international affairs began. Change has been occurring over the past decades, and young scholars today are exceptionally lucky to have so many strong female role models. Australian Outlook is certainly lucky to count many of these women among our authors.

At Australian Outlook, sharing the voices of women is most certainly not limited to a brief period at the start of each year, nor are women the only underrepresented group in the discourse on international affairs. The mission of the Australian Institute of International Affairs is to help Australians to know more, understand more, and engage more in international affairs. Australian Outlook plays a key role in promoting these objectives, both within Australia and through its substantial international readership and authorship.

One can know more simply by reading the articles we publish and attending the events the AIIA puts on, but true understanding does not come from reading one single article or attending a webinar on a given subject.  Regular readers of Australian Outlook will know that we regularly publish multiple articles on the same subjects.  This is because true understanding comes from knowing how multiple perspectives, experiences, and accounts come together to form a more complete picture.

We strongly believe that a diversity of perspectives comes most authentically from a diverse network of authors. It is for this reason that we actively seek out authors of all genders from a myriad of different geographic, ethnic, cultural, language, academic, and professional backgrounds to provide insights on key topics in international affairs. Constantly expanding our author network is the most direct way that Australian Outlook promotes greater engagement in international affairs. Especially for emerging authors, many a publication here represents the first step toward lifelong engagement with international affairs.

In fact, one need not be the world’s foremost expert on a particular subject to put forth a nuanced and informed analysis. Students and recent graduates, your opinions are valid and valuable! At Australian Outlook, we are committed to publishing high quality, well-reasoned, and well-written articles. Those with “fresh perspectives” regularly write insightful articles that invigorate the discourse, and it is always a pleasure to work with these emerging authors. So if you have a fresh perspective on an issue of international affairs, we invite you to send your well-written article to where it will be considered as seriously as that of a top expert.

In closing, I am exceptionally optimistic about the future of Australian Outlook and the AIIA.  The entire editorial team is conscientious, supportive, and committed to always improving and expanding the possibilities for this very special publication. Our authors are always a pleasure to work with and learn from, and I cannot thank them enough for their ongoing enthusiasm for sharing their thoughts and expertise. And readers, it is for you that we do what we do!  Your feedback is always welcome and appreciated.

Finally, I do wish to emphasise that it is not only women and girls who face daily challenges in this world that remains structurally masculine. I invite you all to join me in unpacking some of the complexities of gender, especially as they play out in the humanitarian sector, at an in-person, COVID-safe event in Canberra on Tuesday 9 March. This event will also be streamed online. Register to attend here: I hope to see you there!

Warm regards,

Nancy Schneider, Editor, Australian Outlook