Tracey Clark

When it comes to women in parliament, Australia is 48th in the world

With Julie Bishop’s exit, the amount of women in our parliament continues to dwindle. When matched up against other countries, the magnitude of our problem becomes clear.

 

 

Julie Bishop would have won the upcoming election for the coalition if she had secured the Liberal party leadership in that controversial spill last year. At least, that’s her take on things, according to an interview in Western Australia’s The Sunday Times.

The political death of Bishop is nothing new. With well-respected potential leaders like her continually pushed aside, ignored for promotion or bullied out of the job all together, is it any wonder that Australia ranks 48th in the world in terms of political empowerment for women?

We have 28 female senators out of a total of 76 (36.84%), and 45 female members of the house of representatives out of a possible 150 seats (30%). The underrepresentation of women in Australian politics is talked about repeatedly, and yet nothing seems to change.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has praised the Liberal Party’s efforts to improve gender equality, yet when speaking about a labour party proposal to address the gender pay gap in 2018 he was very quick to distance himself and his party from the issue. Morrison also denied the need to introduce gender quotas to boost the number of women in federal parliament.

This Friday marks International Women’s Day, the theme of which for 2019 is “Balance for Better”. A global day of celebration focusing on the economic, cultural and political achievements of all women, International Women’s Day is focused on improving gender equality around the world. The first International Women’s Day event was held in 1911 and was supported by over 1 million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Since then, the event has grown in recognition and is now celebrated in some countries as a public holiday.

But back to Australia. What would “Balance for Better” look like for us? It would certainly mean Morrison taking his hand out of his pants and doing something about the lack of female representation in Australian politics. But what else?

The statistics around equality in Australia are far from balanced.

Let’s start with the much talked about pay gap. Women’s full-time wages are an average of 15.3% lower than men’s. Superannuation for women aged 60-64 is 58% lower than men of the same age. Things aren’t all that better for the younger generations, and the average woman is still expected to retire with almost half as much super in total, thanks in large part to time taken out of the workforce when they are raising children.


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Which takes us to the second point of imbalance. 68% of all unpaid carers in Australia are women. 70% of unpaid carers for children are women. In fact, on average, 64.4% of a woman’s work day consists of performing unpaid work, compared to just 36.1% for men.

Only 29.6% of board members on ASX listed companies are female.

37.4% of the 1,400 people honoured on the Australian Honours Roll in January were women.

Don’t worry though, there are some areas where women are leading the numbers. 33% of women are subjected to workplace bullying that directly contributes to mental illness, compared to just 20% of men. 18% of women will experience sexual assault after the age of 15, compared to just 4.7% of men. Oh, and one in three women will be subjected to domestic violence compared to one in five men, with intimate partner violence the leading cause of death for women aged 18-44. For men, it’s suicide. Oh yes, we’re winners alright.

Balance is clearly not happening simply by talking about it. Whilst some of these figures are showing slow positive growth, it’s not enough. As we celebrate International Women’s Day in 2019 with the idea of balance in mind, it’s time to stop playing and start acting.

As much as the idea of quotas scares people (read: men), and as much as Morrison and his Liberal Party try to stomp their feet and mansplain to the little ladies that quotas would be worse for us in the long run, they do work.

In Belgium, quotas are used in politics, business and more to overcome gender inequality with great success. In 15 years, a quota requiring all parties to fill their lists with at least a third of female candidates has seen the Belgium parliament grow from just 16% female members to 41%. Similar quotas are now being implemented in executive boardrooms, with listed companies required to maintain boards with a minimum of one third female members. Similar stories have played out in Norway, Argentina, France and Spain, just to name a few.

A Liberal Party gender quota may have seen Julie Bishop lead the coalition to victory. And who knows, maybe she was the leader our country needed to start really making headway on the gender inequality issue. It stands to reason that if we have female politicians representing female issues raised by their female constituents, things are more likely to change. Unfortunately, we’ll never know. But I expect Morrison and his cronies might just rethink their stance if they lose.

 

Tracey Clark

Tracey Clark is an emerging writer from picturesque north-west Tassie. She spends most of the time trying to convince people that she’s normal. Luckily for us, she’s a better writer than she is an actor.

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