Elise Stephenson – Women Deliver

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Elise Stephenson

  • Age: 32
  •    |   She/her/hers


Country of Origin:

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I advocate for women's and minorities' inclusion in international affairs, diplomacy, national security, and space - because we need good ideas, and we need a lot of them. We cannot assume they will all come from the same place.

- Elise Stephenson


Dr Elise Stephenson is a multi award-winning gender equality researcher and entrepreneur whose work focuses on intervening at critical junctures to ensure equality in international affairs. Elise is the Deputy Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at the Australian National University, founded and chaired by Australia’s former prime minister Julia Gillard, and co-founder of feminist design and strategy studio, Social Good Outpost. Elise’s research focuses on gender, sexuality and leadership in frontier international relations, from researching space policy, to diplomacy, national security, intelligence, security vetting, international representation, climate justice, and the Asia Pacific. In entrepreneurship, she works across social enterprise and for-purpose communities in Australia and the region. Elise is a 2022 Fulbright Scholar, has been recognised by Google, Deloitte and Energy Australia as one of Australia’s Top 50 Outstanding LGBTIQ+ Leaders, is a United Nations Australia Association Community Awardee, and her book “The Face of the Nation: Women in International Affairs” will be published by Oxford University Press this year.

What ignited your pursuit for gender equality?

"I fundamentally disagree with who you are" were the first words I heard from another participant at the gender-based violence prevention workshop I attended in university. As a gay woman, it reminded me that even spaces dedicated to improving the lives of women are still affected by discrimination. I’ve sought to change that ever since.

Please share your biggest wins as an advocate for gender equality.

In 2023 I will publish my first book, on women's leadership in international affairs - "The Face of the Nation: Women's in International Affairs" - with Oxford University Press. I'm currently working on gender equality and diversity reform in nation's space industries/security/governance sectors. I drove innovative youth-led, youth-focused diplomacy programs across Southeast Asia for the Australian Government's largest public diplomacy program, “Australia now.” The program I curated, the Youth Entrepreneurs & Leaders Speaker Series, worked directly with over 3,000 individuals across ASEAN in over 49 events in the span of just six months in 2019, and was extended in 2020-21 as a major part of Australia's public diplomacy efforts in the region.

Outside of your gender equality advocacy work, what do you enjoy doing?

I have traveled over 75,000 kilometres by road around Australia (one and a half time around the circumference of the earth) with my partner in a self-built tiny home working across rural and remote Australia.

Languages Spoken:

  • English (Advanced/Native)
  • Japanese (Elementary)
  • Mandarin (Elementary)

Speaks On:

  • women and LGBTI+ populations in diplomacy, security, and intelligence
  • gender-responsive procurement and entrepreneurship
  • gender equality in space

Past Awards, Certifications, or Fellowships:

  • Fulbright Scholarship 2022
  • Outstanding Young Alumni Award (2020)
  • Top 50 Outstanding LGBTIQ+ Leaders (2020)
  • Chancellor's Medal (2020)
  • United Nations Australia Association Community Award (2016)