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Erin Molan; Jim Molan

Jim & Erin Molan: standing in admiration of gutsy women

March 9, 2020
By Ioni Doherty

While they have had wildly different life experiences, professionally and generationally, both have direct experience with diversity and the benefits it can bring.

Father and daughter Senator Jim Molan and Erin Molan were impressive keynote speakers at the Drinks Association’s International Women’s Day event on Friday.

Erin considers herself the beneficiary of diversity, having been hired as the first full-time female panellist and co-host in The Footy Show’s history.

“I got that opportunity because I was female, and I was capable,” she said. “They [Network Nine] wanted to put a woman in that position and they were waiting for someone capable. I never look at being in the minority or being female as a negative. On the whole I have thrived and been given amazing opportunities because I am the only female.”

Unwavering tenacity earned Erin her start in broadcasting with community television before moving to WIN TV in Canberra. From there she went to the very tough environment of the Network Nine newsroom, but it was the opportunity to work on the Sunday Footy Show that changed everything.

Erin had found where she wanted to be in broadcasting and set about learning everything she could about rugby league before being given her first opportunity on the Thursday night Footy Show.

“I would not be where I am today without the support of incredibly strong men. Men have supported me and given me opportunities,” she said on Friday.

Erin Molan; International Women's Day

For her continued success, she worked extremely hard and performed well. But maintaining a good relationship and picking her battles was crucial to her continuing success.

Paradoxically, it was also while working on The Footy Show that she faced an enormous backlash, simply for doing her job as a broadcaster. The online backlash was vicious, sexist and persistent. It focused largely on her appearance, and the supposed limitations of her female-ness. This online trolling continued right up until and including the cancellation of The Footy Show in 2018 when Erin was often blamed for the cancelling of the show.

But, she said, “If I give up, they win.”

This resilient attitude has seen Erin endure, succeed and be a part of the transformation of sports journalism in Australia, although she concedes there is still a way to go.

Her father, Senator Jim Molan served with the Australian Defence Force for 40 years and has seen much change in that time. He gave an admiring speech about the places where he has seen women acting as a force for change, both when he served in the armed forces and now as a member for parliament.

“I stand in admiration of gutsy women,” he said, when talking of the Aboriginal elder women who travelled from their remote community to speak with him about the devastation, violence and poverty being endured in their rural community.

A diverse workforce brings a diversity of approaches and ways of thinking, he said. He cited the armed forces and politics as bodies where diversity and inclusion make it possible to better serve the communities they are instilled to represent.

Firstly, Jim spoke at length of the Australian Defence Force and the strides it is making towards improved diversity and inclusion. He discussed the achievements of Captain Stephanie Sheldon, a combat engineer who joined in 2013 when combat roles were made accessible to women.

In Afghanistan in 2017, working on an educational exercise to raise awareness of the danger posed by long forgotten landmines, armaments and shrapnel buried in land that has now been built on, Stephanie and her team observed that the campaign failed to target the often illiterate audience of women and children who fall victim to these deadly weapons in eighty per cent of all cases.

Stephanie and her team brought a new perspective and new approach to the armed forces, one that was life changing and lifesaving, as they petitioned to have the communications funnelled through the same channels as child vaccination programs, already well established and effective in reaching their target audience. It was a shift in perspective that was simple, logical and profound in its outcome.

Senator Molan said: “I am under no illusion that there remains work to be done. However, I feel a tremendous sense of pride at how far the institution has come and of the contributions made by our female soldiers, sailors and air fighters.”

Senator Molan also cited Operation Bushfire Assist as an example where diversity of gender, age, race and religion led to an effective outcome. With a defence force that is representative of the population it seeks to protect and care for, he observed that it was this diversity that was crucial in bringing about calm and stability during the terrible bushfires of our most recent summer.

He is hopeful of a time when somebody’s gender is not even called out, citing trailblazer Captain Stephanie Sheldon again, who said: “If you’re a good boss, know your stuff and lead them well, they won’t even notice what your gender is.”