There has been so many elections in the past twelve months I’d forgive you for conflating them.By-elections, state and territory elections, federal, student union, foreign, presidential…. The list goes on. There’s been so many, I’d forgive you for being completely sick of politics.
It’s like the world has permanently been stuck in campaign mode. However, in these campaigns the topic of gender equity has been totally and utterly inescapable and with good reason. Despite making up over 50% of the population, women are grossly underrepresented in fields of leadership. Currently, only 28.7% of Australian Federal MP’s are female identifying. In a global ranking system, this places us at number 50. Rwanda leads this list with 63.8%.
However, events both in Australia and around the world have highlighted the shattering of glass ceiling after glass ceiling.
This year, two Australian Territories elected majority female governments and the three major parties – Liberals, Nationals and Labor – on a federal level, have women as their deputy leaders.
Despite an unsuccessful bid for presidency, Hillary Clinton’s #imwithher campaign has inspired girls from all over the globe. Paired with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet consisting of 50% women, and Theresa May becoming Prime Minister of the UK.
Justin Trudeau’s cabinet by Environment and Climate Change Canada
If you’ve been inspired, whether by one of these events, or even by binge watching House of Cards, here’s a quick bit of information about how (and why!) you should get involved in the #auspol scene.
If you think you might be interested in the Liberal Party
Xanthe Winter became a member of the Liberal Party through university. She joined after being inspired by her parent’s passion.
“I grew up going to events with my parents and helping out with them. I always saw what a positive environment it was, and have always been eager to get back involved,” she said.
Winter believes that just by women attending events they can make a difference with men making up a “vast majority” of the party, just coming along to an event can make a difference.
“I really don’t think that should dissuade women. I’ve never felt anything less than overwhelmingly welcome at all events. There’s a real drive towards inclusivity, which really becomes evident for women once they make that first step to check it out for themselves,” she said.
Although Winter admitted she was nervous after attending her first event, however, she encouraged all women to come to a meeting and experience everything first hand. Winter looks towards strong role models, such as Julie Bishop who demonstrate the success women can enjoy in their field.
Her advice for newcomers is to be confident in yourself and throw yourself into the events.
“As simple as it seems, you need to be confident in yourself. I believe one hundred percent that if you want to be in politics, hard work and confidence will help you get there. Start small, start attending events and meetings, helping out when you can,” she said.
You’ll find not only do you really enjoy yourself and make a tonne of friends, you’ll be able to start playing an important role in politics.”
To attend a meeting with the UC Liberal Society, check out their Facebook.
If you think the Labor party is more for you
Charlotte Barclay was inspired by her favourite MPs’ dedication, to join the Labor Party in 2011, and has since started to encourage other young women to get into politics, and make their voices heard.
“I remember always being in awe of [Julia] Gillard during QT, she was always so sassy and on top of all policy,” she said.
“Michelle [Rowland] was my local member back home and I saw her a lot during the 2010 election handing out at the bus stop. She’d be at my local train station from 6/6:30 am most weeks. Even after being elected she’d still come to the station to hand out and talk to people.”
Julia Gillard by Nick-D – Own work – Olympus E-PL3, CC BY-SA 3.0
Barclay praised the party, and support networks in the ALP that work to engage young women, and break down the barriers which prevent them from getting involved. One such barrier is the idea politics is a toxic environment for women.
“I think the perception that politics is aggressive and a male dominated field is what deters a lot of women. Whilst there are lots of men in politics and lots who have very big egos, there are lots of great party rules and support networks in the ALP,” she said.
Again, Barclay believes that the best way to try and get involved is by turning up to an event, with the ALP and Young Labor running regular events alongside their usual meetings.
“I’d recommend coming to events, like the ones we have in Young Labor, where we have Q&A panels with politicians. They’re usually quite interesting and give a greater insight to what the party stands for. They’re also fantastic casual events where you can chat to other members without the formalities of meetings,” she said.
And if there’s any confusion about what the party stands for, or you disagree with someone?
“I would tell women wanting to get involved in politics is to stick to your beliefs and be confident. The ALP does have people with a wide range of views, so even if someone does disagree with you they do respect the fact you can provide a solid argument to support your belief,” she said.
“Being able to have these sorts of debates is what makes the party stronger, so you shouldn’t shy away from making your views heard.”
To see what events UC Labor has planned, check out their Facebook.