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Why politics is pale, male and stale
13 July 2015
In a recent piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, I spoke about the launch and work we are doing with Women for Election Australia. The organisation for which I am the chief executive is a non-partisan training and advocacy organisation. Recently we undertook research that demonstrates the significant challenges that women continue to face when they make a decision to enter into politics.
Interviewing women of all political persuasions and from the three tiers of government, both current and former politicians, the research found five prime factors that impact on women in deciding against entering politics, or which deleteriously impact upon them once they're there.
These include the financial and career costs associated with running a campaign, the brutal (and still largely male-controlled) candidate selection process, the negative workplace culture, where bullying and intimidation - which is illegal in other workplaces - is de rigueur and where what you wear is more important than what you think.
Add to this the unavailability of childcare on the weekend, commuting-based work patterns and the fact that politicians are poorly regarded, you could ask why would anyone seek this as a career option?
Thankfully, there are many women across the spectrum who do choose to enter politics. But more women are needed in parliament and at the cabinet table in particular.
Enriching the diversity of voices in politics will lead to more robust decisions and help to create a fairer, more inclusive and dynamic society, and one better equipped to tackle future challenges.
We all know that lifelong career training is important across all vocations and we think it is important to apply this principle to politics. So why not undertake training before entering politics to confirm it's a good decision?
Why not be equipped with the necessary tools to get elected, to remain informed about the benefits of being politically active, and learn how best to sustain yourself when loneliness and isolation bite? Entering public life as an elected official is not for the faint-hearted and it would be even better if we could change the way politics was done.
But in the meantime, equipping yourself before you get there is a small but helpful step.
Women for Election Australia, was launched at the Commonwealth Women's Parliamentary Conference in early July.
Read the report here.