50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)


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Figure 5: Proportion of women senators and members in the Commonwealth Parliament, — The candidate selection process used by political parties is another significant factor in determining the level of parliamentary representation by women. Whereas, when there is only the one position there is considerable competition. Between and , only 26 female candidates were nominated for election to the Commonwealth Parliament, and no woman was endorsed by a major party for the Senate prior to the start of World War II.

By , only seven women had been elected to the Senate and three to the House of Representatives. A survey conducted by Malcolm Mackerras in the s however showed that, once female candidates were preselected, they were generally getting equal results to those of male candidates. It shows that the ALP has had the highest party representation of women in the Parliament since Table 7: Number of women in the Commonwealth Parliament by party, — Figure 6 illustrates the trends in female representation by major party across all Australian parliaments between and Figure 6: Percentage of women in all Australian parliaments by major party, — Source: Historical data for composition of Australian parliaments by party and gender, maintained by Parliamentary Library since The group claimed to have helped elect Labor women to parliaments across Australia by The Nationals provide opportunities for women to participate in the party and seek leadership or parliamentary office.

Amongst the larger minor parties, both the Australian Greens and the Australian Democrats have embraced gender equity as a founding principle in their respective organisations. In the ALP Conference endorsed affirmative action principles whereby women were to hold 25 per cent of all internal party positions. In the ALP adopted a mandatory 35 per cent preselection quota for women in winnable seats at all elections by Figure 7: Female candidates and elected members in House of Representatives by major party as percentage of total candidates and members elected, — Nevertheless, the issue has been the subject of debate in recent years.

In Liberal Party historian Margaret Fitzherbert noted that women gained prominence in the early years of the Liberal Party as a result of party activists promoting female candidates.

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Since the s, however, she observed that there had been a decline in numbers and an increasing reliance on merit-based preselection processes. An analysis of female candidates compared with the percentage of women elected to seats in the House of Representatives by major party see Figure 7 above shows that in both major parties had a similar level of female representation Even where women do stand for election, they are less likely than men to seek leadership positions or to be motivated by political ambition.

The Westminster system of representative democracy has tended to promote a confrontational style of politics in the chambers. Political scientists Marian Sawer, Manon Tremblay and Linda Trimble argue that this model of democracy makes cooperation on areas of interest to women more difficult on the floor of the chamber, suggesting that women parliamentarians find more scope for cross-party cooperation on committees. The fact that a vote like the one on RU has yet to be repeated prompts some reflection.

These arguments continue to resonate in public debates about women in parliament in Australia. One of the principles underpinning democratic government is that parliament should represent and express the will of the people. Civil society is seen by many to be more effective if parliament is widely representative of the population.

Since women make up approximately half of Australia's population, their representation in parliament is seen as crucial in a democratic society. Recent studies of women in leadership in the corporate sector have framed the argument differently, placing less emphasis on equality and diversity, and more on the outcomes including corporate image, economic performance and good governance. One factor that has historically influenced the number of women seeking election to Australian parliaments relates to their personal circumstances and networks.

In a study of 36 women political candidates contesting the Victorian state election, political scientists Marian Sawer and Marian Simms found that most had experienced conflict between campaigning whilst meeting their family and childcare responsibilities. Since the s, lack of access to established networks is less likely to be an issue for women standing for election because successful candidates are increasingly coming from professions that equip them for their political careers.

As the following table illustrates, women entering the Commonwealth Parliament are now more likely to come from occupational backgrounds similar to those of their male colleagues. In , teaching was the most common previous occupation amongst women in the Senate, whilst their male colleagues in both Houses tended to come from occupations in law, business management, unions and other professional or administrative roles. By , there were fewer parliamentarians coming from a career in education, and women and men were tending to come from professional careers in law, business management and professional or administrative roles in the House of Representatives, and unions, politics and business management in the Senate.

While data has not been collected for this paper in relation to the seniority of women prior to entering parliament, recent research suggests that women are poorly represented in senior positions. A study of the legal profession in New South Wales, for example, revealed that whilst the number of female solicitors in the state had increased to 46 per cent since grown at a rate of per cent compared to 65 per cent for men , there was only one female managing partner in the largest 30 firms in Australia.

Of those law firms with 40 or more partners, only 23 per cent were women, and the figure was even lower in mid-sized and small law firms. Table 9: Previous occupations by gender in House of Representatives, , and Annabelle Rankin, as Minister for Housing, was the first woman to administer a Commonwealth department in Since then, 51 women have served as ministers Cabinet and non-Cabinet and parliamentary secretaries in the Commonwealth Parliament see list of women at Appendix 3.

An analysis of portfolios held by women see Figure 8 below shows that few women have held senior portfolios associated with matters of government, defence, foreign affairs, justice, finance, infrastructure and communications. These include:. To date, no woman has been appointed as Treasurer, Minister for Defence, or Transport, although women have served in the more junior positions of Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister assisting the Minister for Defence.

The majority of portfolios held by women have been associated with social and cultural services including the community services and housing, ageing, employment, training and workplace relations, education, health, sport, tourism, Indigenous affairs, women, arts, housing, local government, and social security.

Figure 8: Portfolios held by women in Commonwealth Parliament, — In the 44th Parliament see Table 10 below women chair 40 per cent of committees in the Senate and 32 per cent in the House of Representatives. The parliament delegates some of its tasks and associated powers to committees comprising small groups of senators or members.

They have the power to perform functions which the Houses themselves are not equipped to perform, including gathering evidence from expert groups and individuals, and allowing direct contact between the parliament and the people.

Representation of women in Australian parliaments – Parliament of Australia

Most committees comprise representatives of all parties, and participation has become a very important aspect of the work of senators and members. The earliest committees were established in , mostly dealing with the workings of the parliament. The current Senate committee system took shape from with the establishment of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees and Estimates Committees.

In the House of Representatives established a comprehensive committee system with eight general purpose standing committees. The numbers have increased since then and the names and subject areas have varied over time. Table 10 below lists the gender composition of committee chairs in the 44th Parliament. The role of committee chair is regarded as a stepping stone to senior political positions including minister or parliamentary secretary, and the roles are highly sought after.

Table Committee chairs in the 44th Parliament by gender, as at 30 April Parliamentary researcher Sonia Palmieri examined committees between and and identified a number of factors that influence the selection of committee chairs. These included the chamber in which they sit, their political party, their experience as deputy chair, and their expertise in relevant fields prior to entering parliament.

She also noted particular differences that have emerged between the two chambers. The House of Representatives, for example, has a strong tradition of appointing women to procedural committees, whilst relatively few women have chaired joint committees which tend to deal with higher status issues such as foreign affairs.

The proportion of women parliamentarians has grown steadily since the s, and some reforms have been introduced that go some way to addressing these changes. The Standing Orders were amended accordingly on 9 November With the increase in the number of women having children whilst in office, there have also been cross-party calls for family-friendly reforms to the parliamentary environment and its practices.

In Ros Kelly became the first woman to have a baby while serving in the Commonwealth Parliament. Since then a number of female parliamentarians have had children whilst in office and there have been several instances where very young children have been brought into the chambers.

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The presence of children in the chambers has attracted a range of responses from presiding officers, parliamentary colleagues, and the media. In more recent years, some measures have been put into place to accommodate the parenting needs of parliamentarians, staff, and members of the public visiting Parliament House. These have included an on-site childcare facility, rooms for breast-feeding mothers, and a special provision for nursing mothers to vote by proxy during divisions in the House of Representatives.

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The IPU has called for parliaments to strengthen their role in advancing gender equality in parliamentary environments and mainstreaming a gender perspective into parliamentary processes. One such strategy that has been widely adopted in national parliaments is the establishment of parliamentary bodies or standing committees specifically dealing with matters of gender equality. According to the IPU, there are currently such bodies in countries, although the Australian Parliament does not have such a body.

The representation of women in Australian parliaments can also be seen as a reflection of gender diversity in other leadership and executive decision-making roles. Election to local government offers an important avenue for those seeking pursuing parliamentary careers. In the 44th Commonwealth Parliament, 12 female senators and members previously had experience in local government. A national survey of local government councillors in , for example, showed that women comprised Following local government elections in Victoria and New South Wales in , women comprised 34 per cent of all Councillors and 25 per cent of mayors in Victoria, and 27 per cent of Councillors and 19 per cent of mayors in New South Wales.

In the Commonwealth Government set a target of 40 per cent women and 40 per cent men on Commonwealth Government board positions by , and this target was achieved for the first time in Sources: Women on Australian Government boards reports for — [93]. The matter of gender diversity on corporate boards has attracted attention both in Australia and overseas, with many countries adopting strategies or quotas to increase the number of women in boardrooms. In the Australian Institute of Company Directors reported that women accounted for nearly 30 per cent of all new board appointments by the largest companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange ASX , largely as a result of the ASX corporate governance recommendations on gender diversity that required members to adopt and disclose a diversity policy, establish measurable objectives for gender diversity on boards, and provide results in annual reports.

In recent years a number of business organisations have examined the trends and proposed initiatives to address gender diversity in leadership positions as follows:. Despite the progress made over the past 50 years, Australia still has a long way to go to achieve equality of opportunity.


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The failure of meritocratic processes due to unconscious bias, gender stereotypes and the reinforcement of those stereotypes, the way we have historically designed and organised work without much thought to non-work responsibilities, lack of mentoring and role models, and the prohibitive cost of childcare are all barriers to gender equality in the workplace. Under-representation of women in parliament remains a significant challenge in Australia.

More than years after the first women contested a Commonwealth election, only one in four Members in the House of Representatives and two in five Senators are women. Despite several women having filled high profile roles in Commonwealth, state and territory parliaments in recent years, including Prime Minister, Attorney-General and Minister for Foreign Affairs, women continue to be significantly under-represented in the Commonwealth Parliament and in senior federal ministries and parliamentary positions. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and parliamentary associations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, are focusing on ways to encourage national parliaments to better accommodate women.

The proportion of women elected to local government in Australia, for example, has changed little in the past 20 years and remains well below 30 per cent. Women have been better represented on government boards in recent years since the introduction in of a 40 per cent target within five years.

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The gender imbalance in leadership positions has also been a matter of concern in the corporate sector where the representation of women on corporate boards remains low. Appendix 1: Women in national parliaments—top 50 ranked countries with and compared. Appendix 2: Women in the Commonwealth Parliament, — Appendix 3: Women in Commonwealth ministries, —, as at 1 January Appendix 4: Presiding Officers in Australian parliaments by party and gender, as at 6 June Appendix 6: Selected milestones for women in Australian parliaments.

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Appendix 7: Twenty longest-serving women in the Commonwealth Parliament as at 30 June Appendix 9: Proportion of female senators and members, — Appendix Percentage of female candidates and elected MPs in House of Representatives by major party, — Australian Electoral Commission, Senate nominations by gender and House of Representatives nominations by gender , Election , 1 November Drabsch, T, Women in politics and public leadership , Briefing paper no.

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Australian census of women in leadership , Inter-Parliamentary Union, Women in national parliaments website. Reynolds, M, The last bastion: Labor women working towards equality in the parliaments of Australia , Business and Professional Publishing, Sydney, Smith, T, Candidate gender in the Australian federal election , Democratic Audit discussion paper 1 10 , August Women in the Senate , Senate Brief no.

50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide) 50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)
50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide) 50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)
50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide) 50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)
50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide) 50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)
50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide) 50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)
50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide) 50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)
50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide) 50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)
50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide) 50 Ways to Improve Womens Lives (Inner Ocean Action Guide)

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