Women in the workforce face more than just a gender pay gap. There’s also gross under-representation in the halls of power, writes Courtney Green.
Beyoncè got it wrong when she said girls run the world. The world is run and lead by men. I’m not asking for girls to run the whole world, just half of it.
50.7 per cent – that’s the female population in Australia, so it would only make sense that that same number represents the percentage of women in federal Parliament, right?
Wrong. Only 28.6 per cent of federal politicians in Australia are female. I’m no mathematician, but those numbers seem a bit off to me.
Gender inequality is real, and we need to step up and do something about it. So yesterday, myself and 16 other girls stepped up and took over Parliament to advocate for women’s rights in a ‘girls takeover’.
If you’re unfamiliar with a ‘girls takeover’, it’s when young girls get the opportunity to ‘takeover’ the position of someone in a position of power and follow them around for the day learning what it’s like to be a leader and showing them they can do it too.
My role for the day in the parliamentary takeover was to shadow Senator Linda Reynolds, the only Liberal parliamentarian to take part in the event. What I learned from my day at Parliament is that it’s really hard to be a politician… like really, really hard. The hours the federal politicians work almost equal the same number of hours in the day. Not to mention the back-to-back meetings and the constant running every time the bells ring.
My politician, Senator Reynolds sits on or chairs 10 different committees. I got the chance to sit in on one of these committees and struggled to keep up with what was going on. As well as following Senator Reynolds around for the day, myself and the other girls involved in the takeover met with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was gracious in his talk and spoke about how the Liberal Party is working towards having more women in Parliament, I wont believe it until I see it. And I don’t want to have to wait 50 years to see it. I want to see a gender equal election at the next election. It’s not impossible, it just takes action.
To say we were fan-girling over meeting Julie Bishop would be an understatement. No matter where your political views lie, there is no denying the strength it takes to, at one point, be the only woman in Cabinet. As well as just being the extraordinary woman that she is.
But don’t be fooled into believing a ‘girls takeover’ is an everyday occurrence at Parliament House. This event only occurred because of Plan International Australia, the organisers who worked tirelessly for many months to make it happen.
This isn’t the first girls takeover in Australia, or even around the world. October 11th, was International Day of the Girl Child, and Plan International takeovers happened all across the globe. On that day, I also took part in a takeover at the ACT Legislative Assembly. I learned that Canberra is home to the first Assembly in the entire Commonwealth to have a female majority. That means out of 52 countries, only one has ever managed a female parliamentary majority. Justin Trudeau eat-your-heart-out, because it looks like Canberra does gender equality better than you.
Obviously, Australia is not the only country with parliamentary problems with gender equality. As of January this year, only 10 women are serving as Heads of State and just nine women are serving as Heads of Government. 2011 may have been a big year for women in politics in Australia – at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting four out of nine representatives were female, and our Prime Minister in 2011 was a woman. So was our Governor General, and I’m sure this comes as no surprise but our Queen is as well. But that progress didn’t last – you’re lucky to find more than one or two women sitting in on a COAG meeting today, and only the Queen remains as a female head of state.
This shows that just because you can progress in one area, it doesn’t mean it will last. But equal gender representation shouldn’t be a rarity, or a luxury. It should be the norm.
Plan International Australia’s ‘She Can Lead’ report found that, as girls get older their confidence decreases and they feel less confident they have a real opportunity to become a leader. It also revealed that 98 per cent of girls aged 10 to 25 surveyed didn’t think that girls are treated equally to boys. If you’re ignorant enough to believe there isn’t a problem with gender inequality, then look at that number and read the report, and you’ll realize we have a long way to go.
This means more women need to put their hands up for pre-selection and put themselves forward for the jobs they want. It also means that men need to encourage women to go for these roles, and not put barriers in their way.
We need to be teaching young girls confidence and leadership skills that will last us a lifetime. There needs to be more support for women as they get older, so that they don’t feel like they have to choose between having a career or children.
No matter where you come from, or where you are, every girl, every person deserves the right to be treated equally, fairly, and respectfully.
So we continue to fight for gender equality in the hope that the generation of women who stand behind us don’t have to. Instead they can stand on our shoulders and walk down the path that we have paved, a path that leads to equal representation of the population in Parliament, and sees girls as the amazing, powerful leaders we can be.
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