Michelle Staff, a PhD student at ANU with an interest in women's and gender history, analyses the current and historical drivers of women's Parliamentary representation.
Australia was the first country in the world to grant (some) women the dual rights of voting and standing for parliament in 1902; South Australia had already granted these rights to all women in 1894.
Despite some significant advances since, Australia still lags behind global standards. Before the 2019 federal election, Australia was 48th in the world in terms of women’s lower house representation, tied with Angola and Peru and falling below many other countries such as Rwanda, Nepal and Ecuador.
The election has increased the proportion of women in parliament from 33% to around 35%, which clearly falls short of equal representation. This is a problem particularly for the Liberal party: only 23% of their representatives are women compared to the ALP’s 47%. Although Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new ministry is being touted for its “record” number of women, the 7 women in the ministry hold just 8 of the 28 total cabinet positions.
So why are women still struggling to make gains in our parliament and what does this say about the state of our democracy? In The Conversation, Michelle explores the history of women's suffrage and tracks the discriminatory barriers that still impact today.