Dr Jane Sloane

Jane smiles widely at the camera

Jane Sloane is a fiercely passionate advocate for justice and an inspirational leader, whose career as a gender equity champion has taken her around the world.

In the years between graduating the University with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in 1985 and receiving her Honorary Doctorate in May 2024, she has worked with women all over the globe, lived a decade in a houseboat in California, had a heart-to-heart with Nelson Mandela, and driven true change in the global movement for equality.

She shares how her family set her up for this work, how she learnt to embrace her voice to create impact, how diverse leaders from around the world continue to be her inspiration, and her step-by-step recipe for a successful career in advocacy.

Her early years …

"I feel like I was wired for justice from a young age. I remember fierce arguments with my Dad over ideas of what girls could do compared to boys, which also helped hone my advocacy skills very early on!

"My Dad was a diplomat, and my Mum had started a small dance school with friends after she left school, before she met my Dad. That combination of diplomacy and creative expression has been essential in my life. It was a conversation with Nelson Mandela when I spent a day with him that set me on my journey. He told me that if I really wanted to make a difference in the world, I should focus on conflict resolution and citizen-led change."

Her University of Adelaide days and early career…

"I remember some of my lecturers in politics and history who meaningfully deepened my analysis of issues and broadened my worldview. Crucially, they also challenged us to be fearless advocates for justice. I recall how our tutors engaged us in a dialogue on navigating seemingly intractable conflicts and interrogating ideas and information.

"I was emboldened by working for student radio and On Dit, which fed my insatiable curiosity and love of writing and interviewing. Later, while doing my honours in history, I was inspired by the connection between art and activism, which has been an enduring link in my work and life.

"I also remember how much I loved going to Theatre Sports on campus, rolling Jaffas down the aisle, tossing Fantales, and laughing ‘til it hurt. I loved riding my bike along the river, finding quiet places to read and think, and sitting under a tree opposite the Botany building in the Botanic Gardens and dreaming for a while."

The challenges she has overcome…

Jane Sloane wearing a colourful shirt and smiling, using a microphone

"There’s often a through-line of a lifelong challenge or issue; for me, it’s been about my voice.

"When I moved to the US, the then-head of the Women’s Funding Network kept admonishing me – your voice is too soft; speak up, Jane! I’ve had to pay attention to how I use my voice and influence in different settings to achieve transformative change. I’ve also had to learn to hold on to my power and not let it dissipate or give it away too freely.

"I often felt like I should give my ideas, strategies, and solutions to others who might be more worthy of the attention, and I would step back rather than step up. I’ve learned how to hold my voice and power while also working to shift power, resources, norms, policies, and voices to women and other marginalized groups who are best placed to know the approaches needed in their communities and countries."

Inspirational leaders, thinkers and change-makers…

"I’m inspired by the movements for justice and the leaders of those movements in many countries where I’ve worked and continue to work. So many girl-led, women-led, and youth-led movements have helped change the course of history, and they deserve to be better known—women like Wangari Maathai, who led the Green Belt movement in Africa.

"Farwiza Farhan is another icon for me. She founded Forest, Nature & Environment Aceh (HAkA) in Indonesia to save the Leuser ecosystem, an area of forest on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, which covers more than 2.6 million hectares and is one of Southeast Asia's richest expanses of tropical rainforest.

"Akshat Singhal and Ayushi Banerji founded Gender Lab in India, a youth movement that created a Gender Lab for Boys to create conversations in schools about power and masculinity. One of the boys in the program speaks of spending his breaks beating up his friends because ‘that’s what boys do’ and how he came to realize he was hurting himself as well as his friends. So, he and his friends started challenging and changing ideas about what it means to be male. I believe diverse youth movements like the Gender Lab are our great hope to advance gender equality and change the course of history."

Achievements that make her proud…

"As executive director of the International Women’s Development Agency in Australia, I led an initiative called Asia Pacific Breakthrough. This initiative focused on programs at the nexus of women, faith, and development, and it raised $1.2 billion in funding commitments for programs in Asia and the Pacific.

"I was proud to be part of the early days of Women Moving Millions, a global philanthropic community of women dedicated to creating a gender-equal world, which ended up exceeding its $100 million target in record time, in under nine months instead of two years. 

"At Global Fund for Women, I was part of the team that created AmplifyChange as a global initiative to fund SRHR [Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights] advocacy projects across Asia and Africa. Since its beginning, the initiative has mobilized almost $100 million in grant funding.

Jane Sloane with Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor in academic dress

Jane Sloane after receiving her Honorary Doctorate, with the Honourable Catherine Branson AC KC, Chancellor and Professor Peter Høj, Vice-Chancellor and President.

"In my role at the Asia Foundation, I’ve led work focused on advancing care justice in Asia and the Pacific by strengthening care policies, delivery, and movements to support care workers and address the level of unpaid care women assume for childcare, disability care, and eldercare. We’ve now created a Global Roadmap for Action with our care collaborative partners, and we’re working with governments, civil society, and the private sector to mobilize new commitments for promising and proven care delivery models.

"I was proud to spend time with Gloria Steinem and Indonesia's women forest defenders when we honoured them at a Gala ceremony in New York last year. I also edited a book on the global women’s funding movement, which will be out this year.

"And, of course, I’m so proud to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Adelaide. My almost 90-year-old Mum is in aged care, and she’s telling all the care workers that her daughter is a Dr Sloane!"

What she’s up to today …

"I conceived the idea of a Pacific Women Climate Leaders fellowship to support Pacific Women climate leaders in strengthening their networks with climate foundations and funders in the US, attending the iconic Bioneers Conference and undertaking climate diplomacy training for UN forums and COP. We just had our first cohort in the US, and it was a great success.

"Following that, we welcomed some Bangsamoro women who had mobilized 50,000 women to lead the peace process in Mindanao in the Philippines to New York. This was an opportunity to allow these women to speak about what they had made possible as an inclusive peace process and their vision for the time ahead.

"We’re now funding a film to document the role of the Bangsamoro Women’s Movement and their phenomenal contribution – including organizing across religious and faith-based lines to agree on critical requirements for peace. Their role has not been recognized or made visible until now.

"My organization, The Asia Foundation, was also a partner in a roundtable in New York during the sixty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN to mobilize more funding to address tech-facilitated GBV [gender-based violence]."

How to join the global justice movement:

Jane Sloane at an NYC Climate march

Jane Sloane marches for climate justice in New York 

"Here’s a baker’s dozen tips:

  • Find a mentor; they're invaluable as a sounding board to help you plan and act.
  • Apply for fellowships to build your leadership, expertise, and influence. Examples include the Atlantic Fellows and fellowships offered by The Asia Foundation, Fulbright Association, IREX, Obama Foundation, and East-West Center.
  • Engage with networks that expand your knowledge and connection. Some that have influenced me include the Women's Funding Network, Prospera, Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), and The Gender Lab.
  • Monitor your reaction to different work environments – corporate, government, NGO, university, foundation – and, over time, understand where you do your best work.
  • Gain in-country experience or travel to add a valuable dimension to your experience through exposure to what is happening in different countries, communities, and contexts.
  • Research an organization's people as much as its mission, including the CEO, the Board, and the executive team. You want to step into a culture that supports your feeling of belonging, offers meaningful professional development, and allows you to do your best work.
  • Prioritize self-care – the trinity of sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Start early with this practice.
  • Centre professional development – ensure you factor this into your negotiation for new work positions to leverage your skills, knowledge, and leadership. Be clear both about your immediate needs and mid-range ambitions.
  • Get a PhD – you can do it part-time over a number of years. This will broaden the leadership opportunities available to you in the long term.
  •  Use your voice in meetings and seek out opportunities to speak on panels, at events, and to convene sessions. Voice training and singing sessions all help build confidence. You can also apply to The OpEd Project to learn how to write and get OpEds published as another way to use your voice.
  • Stay close to what you love and find ways to integrate rather than separate. Embrace nature, the arts, and whatever gives you joy, as this will give you sustained energy for your work and leadership."
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