Australian women have long been under-represented in the national parliament. Although our country was the first in the world to give women the right to stand for election [in South Australia], we currently rank 56th in the world for female representation, just behind Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe, Germany and Suriname. By comparison, New Zealand is 6th.
So why, in 2021, do we have a situation where less than one-third of MPs in the House of Representatives are women?
Researchers from Griffith University investigated whether the low numbers were due to discrimination of female candidates by voters or political parties. They found that, while Australian voters used to preference men over women at the polls, they don’t tend to anymore. Political parties, on the other hand, do.
Parties can impede women being elected by simply not putting them forward as candidates or by preselecting them to stand for unsafe or marginal seats. So they can tick the women's box and maybe meet a quota, but they’re not making a genuine attempt to create real change.