Why We Need More Women In Politics

Marlyn Glen

27 January 2013

What discourages so many women from thinking about entering the world of politics?

Consider the following :

US Congressman Dana Rorhabacher posted a message on his Facebook page that his Foreign Affairs Committee would be inteviewing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Take the bitch to the floor!” was one response.

“Rake her over the coals” was another.

In the roughhouse politics that some Australian male politicians roam around, the country’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is a prime target.

While Deputy Leader of the Australian Party in opposition she was described by a male political opponent as "deliberately barren" and unqualified for leadership, because she has no children.

He apologised for his remarks.

Another who apologised for different remarks was a radio host who said that Julia Gillard’s father, who died after a short illness last year, had “died of shame”

"Every person in the caucus of the Labor Party knows that Julia Gillard is a liar,'' he was reported as saying.

"The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame. To think that he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for parliament.''

Her main protagonist in Parliament is Opposition leader Tony Abbott who displays an interest in a pre-destined order of society, politics and family life.

“What if men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?” he once asked.

The Australian Labor Government has introduced a carbon tax that levies a levy on every tonne of greenhouse gases by the forms that pollute the most.

Abbott spoke out against the tax, addressing his speech to “the housewives of Australia, as they do the ironing.”

Tony Abbott addresses crowds outside the Australian Parliament with placards calling Julia Gillard a "bitch"

Then, in other political chambers , comes the macho politics of bluster, swagger, and boorishness, and the prominent use of personal attacks and derision as legitimate instruments of political debate.

Of course, very many men in politics do not behave anything like this, but those who do, as if it were a male preserve, dishearten countless more women from engaging in politics.

Beyond the barriers of incivility and bad boy behaviour , a good many women see politics as not for them because it appears to be for the competitive, the combative, the risk-takers, and less so for the co-operative, the consensus-seekers, and the cautious.

There is also the encroachment of politics on to family time and family life.

American research suggests that some women regard themselves as less qualified than men for public office in politics because they have received less encouragement than men from others to become involved.

This creates a gender gap in potential recruits into politics.

However, the recent rise of a new “ism” may provide a new perspective.

It’s called “Talentism”.

The Founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Klaus Schwab, maintains that the present foremost economic model – capitalism - is giving way to talentism.

To make your city stronger or your country more competitive, you need those with "talentism" -, the ability to imagine , create and innovate more than you need capital.

The WEF expands on this with regards to women :

“Long-term progress is difficult if half of a population is not fully engaged in the development process. As consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and caregivers, women are central to solving today’s most pressing global challenges.

“In a world moving from capitalism to “talentism”, gender parity can no longer be treated as superfluous.

"Women make up one half of the human capital available in any economy and businesses and governments may reap a rich diversity dividend from investments in gender parity.”

The same can be said of politics.

The more that women are involved in politics, the greater the shift in the political agenda.

It would mean a higher priority given to issues that women regard as more important such as child care, care of the elderly, maternity/paternity rights, low pay, the work-life balance, health, education, gender equality , and the gender pay gap.

It would mean a more consensus-building style of doing business in politics.

It would mean more favourable decisions being made , as the European Union puts it, “ to counteract the variety of practical obstacles competent women face in reaching the top on the basis of equal qualification and merit.”

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