Politics for to long has been viewed as a ‘men’s game’, but it shouldn’t be. Politicians are our representatives and make decisions on our behalf, they decide how to run our country, what sort of things we need to do, what our money should be spent on, what laws need to be in place to protect us and what needs to be done to support us. So why should half the population be cut out of the discussions that make these decisions. The answer obviously is they shouldn’t, you need to have a well rounded group of people figuring out what needs to be done now, what can wait and what doesn’t need to be done. You can see by looking at the gender break down of our parliaments that women are still being overlooked, but how do you fix this?
You can have affirmative action and quotas which have both been proved to increase the number of women participating in the decision making process. But I feel that this is almost treating the symptoms of the problems but not the cause- the cause being there is obviously a systemic problem that is preventing women from engaging in preselection processes and managing to get elected.
A study in the US has shown that young men are twice as likely at having considered running for office many times than young women. While 63% of young women and 43% of young men had never considered a career as an elected official. This is where the problem becomes evident. What is it that is making young women not consider the idea of running? Particularly when American youth have gender parity in political participation.
Is it that the life of a politician is not overly enticing for young women?
There have been points made before that being an MP is not a desirable job when raising a family and our society still expects that the mother will take a primary role in raising the child as well as leading the charge on the domestic duties due to the large work load, erratic hours, travel and unpredictability.
There is also a legitimate argument to be made that the ‘boys club’ simply does not include women enough for them to rise through the ranks and take on a preselection in winnable seats.
New ideas are coming out saying that as young men grow up they are more likely to have been encouraged to engage in the political process and consider a career as a politician than young women. Which from a young age could incredibly impact on a young persons decision.
Or is it simply that the rusted on old men that have been kicking around since almost the dawn of time are more comfortable with the know, the way things are and its easier for them to train and promote men rather than women.
The same study also said among young men and women who didn’t feel as they’d be qualified to run for election after becoming established in their careers, 23% of young men and 15% of young women still considered the idea of putting their name on a ballot anyway. Which shows that there is something that is making our young women feel unqualified and therefore decide not to run where as young men decide they can simply wing it.
Other studies have shown that women wouldn’t consider running if they had less than a 20% chance of winning where as the odds did not affect whether a man would run or not. Meaning long shot elections favour men because women wont run.
And the age old argument that you want to be what you can see could also be playing a part, which I almost hope is the biggest reason for us not having gender parity in our parliaments because we will soon be seeing the first group of young women who the first or second Prime Minister they remember was a woman as well as many of the senior ministers so the idea of a women being powerful in Canberra or in our states wont be this new crazy idea. It will be what they are used to and can view themselves doing.
While I know AA is not fixing the root of the issue directly it is an attempt to deal with the problem and it is working, because of AA we have more women in parliament than ever before and hopefully they can inspire and encourage young women but also work to fix the barriers that are preventing women form engaging at a more senior level.
I am lucky enough to have had some amazing role models through student politics, party politics and through politics in general who have inspired me to strive and fight and not take no for an answer or let any of the boys push me around and for that I am more grateful than I can express and I can only hope that soon my experience of have political women as role models will be the norm and evey young woman will have these people to look up to.
You can find the study(Girls just want to not run) here
You can find a video talking about the gender political ambition gap and girls just want to not run here
National Womens Officer 2013