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Why politics is pale, male and stale

13 July 2015

Pale male stale

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.


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  • Adrian Totolos

    Adrian Totolos 4 years ago

    Dear Jenny, On the issue of Politics. Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac - Henry Kissinger. Political power comes from the barrel of a gun - Mao. Women in politics.... The first issue is why are women running for politics ? To change the world, feed the starving ? There is a man with Special Needs left at a homeless hostel in Woolloomooloo, who was assaulted by many male clerical finance workers. He is still there 10 years later, how many years was he there before that ? Politics is all about money. From the left Socialism, a government state that care for its people and on the right, Capitalism where the assets are sold off and farmed out to the corporate world. There is in politics, the issue of a family business a la Hillary Clinton running for President of the United States of America in the next year. She will be up against Jeb Bush, a US State Governor. Margaret Thatcher and her brand of economics of “Thatcherism’’ ran the United Kingdom back in the 1980's. Lots of industrial unrest. Julia Gillard, an industrial relations lawyer from Victoria, ran Australia for several years. It was disappointing that she lost the Australian electorate in her term as Australian Prime Minister, but she maintained the ‘’integrity of the Australian Banking System.’’ We have had Joan Kirner in Victoria as State Premier and The Toledo Tornado, running NSW for a year. Julie Bishop, disappointing. A centre left, moving to the right and a Republican, Bronwyn Bishop has left the Speakers job Federally. That is what you get for telling a lady’s secret…. The issue of Me’to ism and having a Tampa come in, will a female PM run this strategy ?? In Canberra there are no friends. Camelot was in King Arthurs court. The issue of style over substance or buying the ballot boxes in the mid West. What is the cost of a vote ? Pork Barrelling and Gerrymandering. The party gets a $1.50 per vote at a Federal election. Judgement day for politician is at the ballot box. Kind regards, Adrian Totolos. Business Analyst.