Women in government Activity 2
In 1994, Dame Margaret Guilfoyle DBE, who was a Victorian Senator from 1971-87, said, 'While increasing the number of women in Parliament is important, other factors such as increasing the number of women in the House of Representatives (particularly in safe seats to allow for longevity of service) and including them in the Outer Ministry are also of significance.' She noted that, unless women were in the Cabinet, then the effect of more women in Parliament would not be felt in the arena where the decisions are taken and the policy directions are set.
Australian Parliamentary Library: Women
As a class, break up into teams of six to debate the issue of gender representation in politics. Each team of six will need to divide into two groups of three to make affirmative side of the argument and the negative side.
Possible statements to be debated include the following.
- Parliament should reflect the actual proportion of women in the population.
- Women should be given safe seats to allow for longevity of service.
- For Parliament to be fair, there needs to be more women in power.
The Australian Parliamentary Library publications Women parliamentarians in Australia 1921-2009 and Representation of women in Australian parliaments provide historical information on women in Australian federal cabinets.
Use spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel to graph the data supplied by the Australian Parliamentary Library. Historically speaking, have women been under-represented in the Parliament? Record your conclusions based on this data.
Use the Internet to find out the number of women members are in the current Parliament. Are women still under-represented in the Parliament?
The Women in National Parliaments website <http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm> provides data on women in government in 189 countries. The countries are classified by descending order of the percentage of women in a lower or single House.
How does Australia compare with other countries? Did this data surprise you? Why or why not?
As a class, brainstorm reasons as to how some parliaments have managed to have more female representation than others.