The CNBC Conversation

Julia Gillard: My advice for Hillary and women in power

Gillard on being a woman in politics

Julia Gillard, Australia's first female Prime Minister, may have achieved a tremendous amount during her three years in power. But it was not, the 532 pieces of legislation she steered through a hung parliament that seems to have cemented her legacy, but one particular speech.

In October 2012, Labor Party leader Gillard confronted leader of the opposition Liberal party, Tony Abbott, in an impassioned speech about "sexism and misogyny" in the workplace.

"The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn't need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror. That's what he needs," Gillard said in 2012.

Julia Gillard
Lisa Maree Williams | Getty Images AsiaPac | Getty Images

At the time, she was commended for her fearlessness, to the point where Australia was prompted to reconsider the dictionary's terminology of misogyny. However, in June 2013, she resigned having failed to secure a majority in her own party's leadership vote. Gillard's Labor Party then went on to lose a general election with Abbott's Liberals seizing power.

"This image of women and leadership, and some resistance still to fully embrace women as leaders, i believe is right around the world, (which is) something to be conscious of," Gillard told CNBC's Karen Tso.

"It's a barrier we still have to break down as women, to make sure there is true gender equality."

It's not just her own experience that Gillard is aware of, as she looks on what's happening as Hillary Clinton embarks on her second campaign for the White House.

"As we watch for example Hillary Clinton embark on a journey to become a U.S. president - and I certainly hope she succeeds - we're already seeing some of the same things in play."

"Actually some of the gendered insults thrown at me had been test run against Hillary Clinton in her campaign in the primaries against President Obama."

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Advice for Hillary

Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton
Colin Murty | Getty Images AsiaPac | Getty Images

Gillard admits that Clinton probably doesn't need advice for her future political ventures, as the former First Lady is a "very experienced person", having been immersed in politics for decades.

However, Gillard emphasizes that any woman in power should call out sexism early, drawing on her own experience as an example.

"It's important to name and call out sexism early."

"I falsely assumed that the maximum reaction to me being the first woman prime minister would be in the first few months of my prime ministership."

"(I was expecting) the maximum sort of 'go girl' reaction, 'that's fantastic' but also the maximum reaction about 'gee we're uncomfortable about this'. Actually what happened was the maximum reaction came later on in my prime ministership, where gender insult became the kind of go-to weapon when I was dealing with controversial political matters."

"When you point it out then, people say 'well is that really gender or because it's because something has become politically controversial'."

"So the earlier you point it out and hopefully correct it and get the treatment of your leadership on a normal course, so that whether your criticised about solely about what you are doing as a leader, rather than about gender, the better."

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—By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her on Twitter @AlexGibbsy.