Gender inequality in Australia’s Parliament is deterring women from becoming politicians, a new study has revealed.
Just 47 members of the 151 people in the House of Representatives, or 31 per cent, are women.
A Plan International Australia and YouGov report, released on May 10, found that male-bias in Australia’s political institutions creates fear in younger women and stops them from running for Parliament.
The remarks come as Australia heads to the polls on May 21 and on the back of a damning ACT Government report revealing rape and sexism in the Federal Government.
Canberra’s boys’ club revelations sparked a review of parliamentary culture by sex discrimination commissioner Sarah Jenkins in November last year.
The review found that 63 per cent of female politicians had been sexually harassed and it made 28 recommendations including that Canberra needed to set clear expectations around workplace culture.
Plan International National Ambassador Yasmin Poole said that Australia must also continue to address the additional issues women of colour will face in pursuing a political career.
“When it comes to political representation, the reality is that we are not there yet, and even when we are, we are not safe,” Miss Poole said.
Despite the number of women in the Senate jumping from 28.9 per cent in 2002 to 53 per cent in 2021, the World Bank’s Gender Index for Women’s Political Empowerment highlights Australia has dropped in its international ranking 22 places since 2006. It now ranks 54 out of 155 countries.
In the Senate, there are 40 women out of the 76 members, putting Australia ahead of Canada and the US in terms of female representation in up upper house
The new report attributes the drop to the “unsafe political culture” that came to light in 2021 after Brittany Higgins alleged she was sexually assaulted.
Murdoch University senior public policy lecturer Dr Yvonne Haigh said that historically, the Australian Parliament does not believe there is an issue with gender representation.
“The government think that there isn’t a gender issue, and we appoint on merit … they don’t see beyond that,” Dr Haigh said.
“There is no quota system and parties continue to appoint members on merit only… even the election imagery this year seems to focus on male-targeted areas.”
Plan International’s report is pushing for the Australian parliament to adopt quotas, in ensuring all women and people across all ethnicities are represented.