International Women’s Day: In conversation with our CEO Jo Johnston

March 8, 2024

Each year the world comes together for International Women’s Day (IWD) to celebrate women’s achievements and reinforce a commitment to women’s equality.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is Inspire Inclusion and Copyright Agency marked the occasion by sitting down with our CEO Jo Johnston, to learn about her experiences, Copyright Agency’s dedication to improving gender parity and how we can all inspire inclusion in the spaces we live and work in.

This year’s campaign theme for International Women’s Day is Inspire Inclusion. Did you have any role models, or mentors, at the start of your career? How did they inspire or motivate you?

I grew up in a really interesting time in New Zealand and when I was in my teens, the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, the Chief Justice, and the CEO of the biggest company in New Zealand at the time, were all women. I think that that was incredibly powerful as a young woman thinking anything is possible.

In terms of mentors, when I started my first job as a very young lawyer, there was a group of women who were a few years older. Those women were so good to the graduates coming through and so supportive and generous with their time, their experience; they were mentors even though they weren’t particularly senior. They were an amazing example of having a community, of having a good network of peers and other people to lean on and to learn from, and lift each other up.

Has gender diversity and equality in the working world improved over recent years? What do you think has been the biggest factor in driving this change?

It has improved incredibly, particularly over the last 25-30 years. But I think change has only happened because of very, very deliberate decisions to force that change. I have heard the CEO of a [very large, old company say in response to complaints about quotas “You’ve always had the merits, it’s not an argument about the merits but we have to do something systemically different to affect a change.”

Change has to happen as a conscious decision within an organisation. You can’t just let it happen organically, and this is to do with inclusion of women or any kind of diversity. It has to be a conscious decision, and there has to be a system and processes to support that. 

Does Copyright Agency have a responsibility to its female members to Inspire Inclusion for the next generation of women? What are we doing to support female creators and is there anything more we can do?

We absolutely have a responsibility to increase inclusion throughout our membership. We are the supporters of so many stories and so much art, and we need to make sure that there are opportunities for all creators that reflect the diversity of our society. We support through our Cultural Fund, for example, the ongoing creation of art and literature that reflects the full experience of Australian life.

Lastly, what advice do you have for women that are working towards a leadership role?

Women should be proud of their achievements and it’s OK to have ambitions. I would say, just own it.