WFEA Research

Futureproofing Australia:
Gender Diversity in Politics

In December 2014 it became evident, in order to deliver the most pertinent and effective training, that WFEA would need to clarify what the key challenges and issues are for Australian female politicians in order to be able to effectively draw on, and depart from, overseas research.

53 current female politicians from local, state and federal government levels and 3 past female politicians, also at all levels of government, were invited to participate in the research either via focus groups, one on one interviews or by replying to the questions in e-mail, as best suited their schedules. WFEA also conducted in-depth one on one interviews with 5 women between 23-60 years old from different educational and political backgrounds who whilst active in their community and concerned about issues of social justice, have walked away from a career in politics. These women were interviewed in order to identify their perceived barriers to entry to Australian politics, both self-imposed and systemic.

All current or past politician research participants were asked the following questions:

  • What are the key challenges women find when standing for election and when in office?
  • What do you know now that you wish you knew ‘back then’ when you started in politics?
  • What are the key challenges facing the next generation of women entering parliament and what skills will the next generation of female politicians need to equip them for the future? Are they different to the challenges you faced? If so, how?

Time permitting, research participants were also asked the following questions:

  • If a program like WFEA had been offered to you at the beginning of your political career, would you have taken it up? If not, why not?
  • What are the central training and support needs of women who have already succeeded in Australian politics?
  • Despite the challenges what has kept you in politics and what qualities have enabled you to stay?

The one on one interviews and focus groups were semi-structured so participants were able to also raise other issues that were of concern to them. These responses are reported under the heading:

  • “Other matters of concern raised by participants”

The women who, whilst active in their community and concerned about issues of social justice, have walked away from or discounted a career in politics were asked the following questions:

  • What perceptions do you have about the political arena which might make you hesitant about entering into politics?
  • What are the personal factors/information deficits that women outside politics identify as inhibiting them from considering entering politics?

The de-identified responses from this research can be found in the WFEA Research Report.