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Emma
Jane

Award-winning author, internationally renowned scholar, and gender rights advocate

Profile

Dr Emma A. Jane is a writer and Associate Professor based at UNSW Sydney where she researches the social and ethical impacts of emerging technology with a particular focus on sex and gender.

Her 11th book, Diagnosis Normal - a memoir published by Penguin in 2022 - combines academic research with a frank discussion of her own experiences of child sexual abuse, mental illness, cancer, and autism.

Current Work:

Emma is an experienced public speaker and media performer and has presented the findings of her research to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, and the All About Women, festival at the Sydney Opera House. Stanford University has ranked her as being in the top 2% of researchers in the world in her field, while her contributions to helping solve the problem of gendered cyberhate have been commended by the NSW Parliament. She has also appeared in documentaries such as Cyberhate with Tara Moss (ABC iView), Is Australia Sexist? (SBS), and the award-winning #FatUglySlut (Kwassa Films, Belgium).

Prior to her career in academia, she published as “Emma Tom” and spent 25 years working in the Australian print, broadcast, and electronic media. Over the course of her working life, she has received multiple awards and prizes for her research, teaching, journalism, and fiction.

Expertise
Talking Points

Diagnosis normal - living with abuse, undiagnosed autism and COVID-grade crazy

Emma Jane has lived a thousand colourful lives. She escaped a small town and a traumatic childhood by moving to Sydney, where she made an indelible imprint on the oppressively blokey mediascape. She played in an all-girl band, married a rock star she hardly knew, had a baby, changed her name, and ditched journalism for academia where she now works as an internationally renowned researcher. But all the while, she was struggling with her mental health. Then, during the first Sydney COVID lockdown, she was accidentally sectioned in a psychiatric ward. When she was subsequently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), many things suddenly fell into place.

Who is this for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profit and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, those working in the health and mental health sector, young people, parents, adults who suspect they have undiagnosed autism, general audiences.

Three key takeaways:
- A frank, first-person discussion of a number of critical - but difficult to talk about - social issues delivered by a passionate, entertaining, and knowledgeable speaker who does not see herself as a victim and has learned to thrive rather than merely survive.
- Enhanced ability to understand, relate to, and work with the large number of Australians who live with trauma, neurodivergence, and mental illness.
- Inspiration drawn from a story of resilience and extraordinary personal reinvention.

Are we already living in the Matrix?

The robot apocalypse is unlikely to take the form of those depicted in films such as the Matrix or Terminator franchises. Instead, it’s more likely to resemble a more extreme version of the world we currently inhabit: a cybersphere full of hate, bullying, and misinformation; users driven by addiction, polarisation, radicalisation, outragification, and an inability to separate the real from the fake; and a big tech business model whose profits depend on the harvesting of human attention. (It’s said there are only two industries that refer to their customers as “users”: software and drugs. It has also been pointed out that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.) As we stare down the barrel of the “Web 3.0” era (think virtual realities, artificial worlds, metaverses, exponentials AIs, and “mutant” algorithms) we find ourselves at a crossroad where we must move fast to learn from past mistakes and design more humane technologies.

Who is this for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profit and advocacy organisations, young people and parents, educators, policy-makers, those working in the tech sector, general audiences.

Three key takeaways:
- A fresh take - delivered by an entertaining and experienced researcher - on why bad architecture rather than bad actors is the main culprit for so many contemporary problems associated with (anti)social media and the internet.
- Concrete tips on how individuals can develop a healthier and more productive relationship with technology and how organisations can take action to reduce cyber abuse and harassment in the workplace.
- A sense of agency, empowerment, and optimism about the possibility of strategically shaping our technology (rather than passively letting it shape us) to help create a future worth wanting.

Entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and innovation

“Entrepreneurship” and “innovation” are vague terms that can be difficult to realise in material ways. This presentation explains how entrepreneurial approaches from lean startup and design thinking are not only useful for founding new businesses and making money, but can be used to formulate novel responses to pressing social issues. Further, while startup founder stereotypes often involve images of ramen-eating hipsters in basements, encouraging a culture of “intrapreneurship” in large existing businesses has the power to keep established companies cutting-edge and competitive in an era of constant disruption.

Who is this for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, those working in the tech sector, general audiences.

Three key takeaways:
- An evidence-based understanding - delivered by an acclaimed academic who teaches and researches in this area - of new ways to understand the power and potential of entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and innovation.
- A presentation that cuts through the jargon to provide concrete tips on ways individuals and organisations can foster entrepreneurial mindsets to found new enterprises and keep existing businesses innovative and competitive.
- An empowering understanding of how entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and innovation can be harnessed not just for financial gain, but for forging a better world.

The Future of Work

The unsettling but exciting truth is that many university students will find themselves applying for jobs that didn’t exist when they first started their degrees. Further, given the exponential progression of disruptive technologies, even the most forward-thinking educational institutions struggle to keep their curricula current.
This presentation discusses ways we can ensure both our kids and our businesses are able to stay agile in an era of constant disruption and labour market upheaval in forms such as rapidly increasing automation and robotisation.

Who is this for: Business folk, not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, those working in the tech sector, young people, parents, those considering a career change, general audiences.

Three key takeaways:
- An evidence-based understanding of the risks and opportunities of the future of work delivered by a pragmatic and straight-shooting academic who teaches and researches in this area.
- Concrete tips on the ways individuals and organisations can free themselves of outdated “jobs for life” mentalities and engage in horizon-scanning to help futureproof their careers and business prospects.
- A sense of excitement rather than worry or despair about the opportunities (rather than just the risks) associated with labour force unpredictability and upheaval.

Maybe I should have burned more cars” - girls and the autism gender bias spectrum

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is diagnosed four times more often in males than females. Yet this is no longer thought to reflect the actual rates of the condition in girls and women. Instead, research shows that girls excel at camouflaging or masking their autism. At the same time, the medical profession too often dismisses them as shy, disruptive, or simply not making enough of an effort. (As one woman diagnosed late in life told a researcher: ‘I look at stories online of kids who were going off the rails and I think, “I should have just burned more cars.”).

This presentation explains why so many of our girls are missing early diagnoses, why even late diagnoses can be incredibly helpful, and how we can take steps to improve the situation overall.

Who is this for: Not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, those working in the health sector, young people, parents, adults who suspect they have undiagnosed autism, general audiences.

Key takeaways:
- An evidence-based understanding of why girls are slipping through the diagnostic net when it comes to ASD delivered by an academic drawing on her own experiences of a late diagnosis of autism.
- Concrete tips on identifying autism in girls and adult women and ensuring they get the support they need.
-An understanding of the many advantages of receiving an autism diagnosis, even if it comes late in life.

Invisible disability and workplace inclusion

Mental illness and conditions such as autism and ADHD are invisible disabilities that can make working life - or even finding a job in the first place - extremely difficult. Yet just as much of the physical envi¬ronment is not equipped for people in wheelchairs, much of the professional world is constructed for the 50 per cent never to have experienced a mental illness. Increased awareness among employers and the mental illness and neurodiversity equivalents of wheelchair ramps are sorely needed.

Who is this for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, unions, those working in the mental health sector, general audiences.

Key Takeaways:
- Insights into invisible disability delivered by an award-winning researcher drawing on her own experiences of a late diagnosis of autism.
- Concrete tips on the ways individuals and organisations can make workplaces more equitable for those with invisible disabilities.
- Tips on how those with invisible disabilities can advocate for themselves at work and beyond.

The future of sex and gender

As new personal pronouns enter our collective vocabulary at a rate of knots, increasing numbers of Australians are now ticking the “other” gender box on government forms. Yet just as we’re finally acclimatising to the idea that gender identities are fluid, cutting edge research in science reveals that biological sex (that is, whether we are biologically “female” or “male”) is not so black and white either.

In fact, many of us have biological markers of both sexes in varying degrees, with up to 5.3 per cent of Australians being born with a degree of intersex. So, what does this mean for the future? What might sex and gender look like in 100 years’ time? And how on earth can Lego help us think things through?!?

Who is this for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, members of the LGBTQI+ community, young people, parents, general audiences.

Three key takeaways:
- An introduction to some surprising insights from science into sex and gender that playfully invites audiences to rethink some commonsensical views.
- An eye-opening appreciation of how biological sex differences intersect with our gender identities, sexual orientations, psychologies, and social environments to produce not just two types of humans but a stunning smorgasbord of people.
- Concrete suggestions about how we can develop more knowledge and compassion to better support the increasing numbers of Australians who no longer identify as either “female” or “male”.

Dismantling grooming

During her tenure as 2021 Australian of the Year, Grace Tame emphasised the need to shed light on and dismantle grooming which, in her words, “has the most lasting impact on individuals”. While this is a complicated and sensitive topic, understanding more about the psychological manipulation used by paedophiles - not just to manipulate their child victims but also caregivers and communities - is essential if we are to reduce child abuse which is particularly acute in Australia. (Research shows that the highest rates of sexual abuse of girls in the world occur in this nation, with 21.5 per cent of girls being violated. The average age of victims is eight, and 92 per cent of perpetrators are not strangers but are known to their victims.)

Who is this for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, LGBTQI+ sector, young people, parents, general audiences.

Key takeaways:
- An understanding of the true nature of grooming and its similarities with the indoctrination, brainwashing, mind control used by cult leaders.
- An understanding of why - even though the #MeToo movement may make it look easy - disclosing abuse remains terribly difficult to do. (On average, it takes 24 years for survivors of child sexual abuse to speak about their experiences, while many never disclose.)
- A toolkit to help identify grooming, identify at-risk children and support both child and adult survivors of child sexual abuse.

Time for the “other” sex talk

Most sex-ed curricula seem stuck in the 1950s and focus almost exclusively on the mechanics of reproduction and avoiding STIs. These are critical parts of a well-rounded sex-ed curriculum but sideline the real reason most people have sex in the first place. (It would be like teaching a cooking class focussed solely on the clinical anatomy of digestion with no mention of the fact that food can also be quite delicious.) In addition to ignoring the needs of queer and trans kids, the reproduction- and risk-based model of sex-ed curricula overlooks the fact that the skillset required for negotiating pleasure is the same as that needed for dealing with sexual health and consent - the confidence to speak frankly and with a sense of non-toxic entitlement about what we’re up (and down) for in sexual situations. Providing more nuanced, inclusive, and realistic sex ed for our offspring is critical because if they don’t get this info from us, they’re going to get it from their screens - including from internet pornography.

Who this is for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, young people, parents, general audiences.

Key takeaways:
- An understanding of why it’s problematic that sex education in schools still covers the same narrow range of topics delivered to kids in the Mad Men era.
- Eye-opening, evidenced-based information delivered in an entertaining but diplomatic manner.
- Concrete tips for how to have the “other” sex talk with teens.

Trauma-based care

Up to 75 per cent of Australians experience a potentially traumatic event at some point in their lives, with around 12 per cent going on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet - even though increasing numbers of health professionals are receiving training in trauma-based care - many fail to recognise that “difficult” or “non-compliant” patients may be behaving in these ways due to conditions beyond their control. Outside of medical settings, the family members, friends, and colleagues of those with PTSD also have very little understanding of how the condition manifests and why being “triggered” in the clinical sense is very different to feeling upset or angry about what someone has just posted on Facebook.

Who this is for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, those working in the health and mental health sectors, general audiences.

Key takeways:
- A greater awareness of trauma and PTSD delivered by an academic with first-person experience.
- A better understanding of how medical personnel and other community members can recognise the signs of trauma and PTSD.
- Concrete tips on more compassionate and effective responses and an understanding of why these can help sufferers.

“Just snap out of it”!

Almost half of all adult Australians experience mental illness at some point in their lives, while about one in seven children and adolescents experience a mental health disorder each year. These conditions can require ongoing treatment and be as lethal as “non-psychological” conditions like diabetes or asthma. Yet their associated suffer¬ing, symptoms, and disabilities are not nearly as visible or socially acceptable. Those afflicted are often ostracised, blamed, and left to suffer in stigmatised silence. Meanwhile, well-meaning friends and family members can inadvertently make things worse by chipping in with unhelpful platitudes such as: “Think positive,” “Pull yourself together”, “Look at all the great things going on in your life,” “Go on a yoga retreat,”, “You don’t seem depressed,” “It could be worse,” “You think you have it bad,” “Tomorrow’s another day,” “Happiness is a choice,” “Other people have problems too,” “Stop overthinking everything,” “Don’t take antidepressants,” “Try camomile tea,”, “Check out this inspirational TED Talk,” “It’s all in your head”, and so on.

Who this is for: Corporate audiences, not-for-profits and advocacy organisations, educators, policy-makers, those working in the health and mental health sectors, people dealing with mental health issues, general audiences.

Key takeaways:
- A greater awareness of mental illness delivered by an academic with first-person experience of the problem.
-Concrete tips on more compassionate and effective responses to friends, family members, and colleagues suffering mental illnesses.
-Concrete suggestions about how those who have mental illness can advocate for themselves in the medical, workplace, and social settings.
Media
Feedback
Emma had a tough assignment, a pretty dour group. We were not an easy group, I speak from personal experience. She did excellent research on the subject, she was affable, obliging, involved herself on the night... more than simply as MC. Hunter Valley Grammar School

Emma brings an intelligent and enquiring mind as well as a lovely, playful and sometimes cheeky approach to a topic. She entertained the audience whilst nudging them to think differently about issues such as gender equality, diversity and the future of work. She was a delight to work with.

Vivid Sydney
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