Four out of five women running for one of the main parties in the upcoming election face a common problem.
A new study shows that only two out of 10 women candidates from Labor or the Liberal National Coalition are fighting for seats that can be won.
An analysis by the Australian National University of 151 Coalition and Labor candidates shows that both major parties are much more likely to nominate men for positions they are expected to win or retain.
The share of women candidates running for Labor and the coalition is 43 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.
But Professor Michelle Ryan of the University’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership says those numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.
She says that the mentality of the “old boys’ club” prevails in Australian politics.
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As for Labor, 24% of women candidates from the party claim safe seats, which the party holds with an advantage of 6% or more, compared to 33% of male candidates.
Liberals and citizens have 20% of their women candidates in safe places compared to 46% of men.
Professor Ryan says that the election in Australia is an example of the phenomenon of the “glass break”, when women are nominated for leadership positions that are more risky and unstable.
A study she conducted believes that 76 percent of women Labor candidates meet this definition based on their participation in places they are unlikely to win or find difficult to abstain from.
In the analysis of women candidates for the Coalition elections, the share of candidates in the “glass rock” increases to 80 percent.
By comparison, the equivalent share of male candidates from Labor running in marginal or “unbeaten” seats is 67 percent and 54 percent for the coalition.
Professor Ryan argues that while some women candidates will win in seats that are marginal or securely occupied by their political opponents, their positions in parliament will remain volatile.
“If you don’t know about the idea of glass rock, you can just conclude that women just aren’t that good at politics; they did not get that many votes, ”said Professor Ryan.
She says the “short answer” to why there are so many female candidates in Australia who fit into this category, “is sexism and misogyny”.
“The long answer is probably that I think there may be several reasons. We see some differences between Labor and the coalition (but) both have problems, ”she said.
Professor Ryan says he supports the idea that every Australian political party should introduce a gender quota to improve women’s representation in parliament.
She notes that improving gender equality was one of the recommendations made by Jenkins ’independent review of workplace culture in the House of Parliament.
This report recommends setting targets for gender balance among parliamentarians.
Since 1994, Labor has used the quotas it has met by launching a number of women to safety, with a target of 50 per cent representation of women by 2025.
Both the Liberal and national parties have rejected calls to introduce their own quotas, saying there are other ways to attract women to parliament.