In April this year, we had a female Prime Minister, a record number of women in our cabinet and a rich and interesting public debate around the role of women in our society, evidenced through books like the Griffith Review's Women and Power, and the capitvating campaign, Destroy the Joint.
Fast forward a few months and where are we? In a nation where the discourse around women in leadership seems stifled and the cabinet has fewer women than that of Afghanistan. That comparison is apt. It illustrates that even in a country struggling with a war torn history and one that is generally portrayed in Western media as an oppressive environment for women has the systems in place to enable more females to play a leading role in the governance of the state. Part of me thinks this is more about the fact that there is a lack of understanding about the role the women play in Eastern countries, but that is another discussion in itself.
Should this lack of women in our cabinet be something we discuss, analyse or just accept? Should we be worried? It is definitely had the fingertips on keyboards, and for good reason.
For what it is worth, I will throw my hat in the ring here by saying that I am sick of people saying that 'women shouldn't be promoted for the sake of a quota or a target'. It is a common sentiment when quotas or targets are mentioned, and quite often by other women. There seems to be a sense that a quota will take away from the sense of legitimacy of a woman's position, and there will be a perception that gender was the only reason that position was awarded.
"It's got to be a meritocracy." said Brownyn Bishop to Radio National. On that basis, has the current 'meritocracy' has deemed that women aren't able to govern our countries or run our boards? I highly doubt it. Also, does this mean that every man is promoted on the basis of merit? James Diaz rings a bell for someone who might not fit that depiction.
Yes, a meritocracy is important. What seems to be forgotten however, is that a meritocracy is only as good as the access and equity of the pathways available. If there are 'women knocking on the doors' of the cabinet as Abbott has stated, what is stopping them from jumping that threshold? Is that door locked?
Yes, he is focusing on 'stability and consistency', and it is understandable he doesn't want to cause too much change. He said he is disappointed, but clearly not disappointed enough to make any changes. Is there a systemic issue, or is it one of circumstance?
The alarming lack of diversity among those who lead our nation is something we should care about. As Nareen Young so eloquently put it, leadership should reflect the community that it serves. No one can better represent a group that someone from that actual group - a woman for women, an indigenous for the First People, a culturally and linguistically diverse for the many migrants, and so on and so forth. The current lineup insinuates that the group - all from a similar socio-economic demographic an gender - are able to speak for and represent all of Australia. It does seem a little...disingenuous.
The best way to encourage the young and bright to any discipline is by having role models who are walking the walk.
Right now, who do we have? Our last role model in the area, Julia Gillard, was treated by the media and public perception with insults and vitriol that were lower than low. The fact that the this was said by people who are on our airwaves boggles the mind! Political correctness gone wrong they say - gah! There was no correctness at all.
So with the events of the last few months, what on earth would encourage a young woman to enter politics? Society inculcates enough self esteem issues related to appearance growing up as a teenager, you would hope people had moved on by the time they 'grew up'. Not so, it seemed.
Now, with even fewer women gracing our tv screens in a governing role, who will we look up to?
On one hand, it is amazing and awesome that we had a female PM, a female Speaker and now a female Foreign Affairs Minister. It would seem though that these are more exceptions that prove the rule. The way they were treated and their circumstances indicate that really, there is still a way to go.
The thing is, the country has chosen. Decisively, it chose the Coalition of the Liberal and National Party to represent us for the next three years. So no matter how we feel about their policies, we must accept the decision of the people and work with what we have.
What we shouldn't accept though, is a return to being represented by those who don't reflect the make up of the nation. We should keep talking about the role of women in society - in governing roles such as on the Cabinet and in the Boardroom. We should talk about the equality of opportunity and fairness. We should talk about allowing women the freedom to stay at home if they so choose, and respect that role equally - but understand that isn't the only role that they can play in our societies.
We should also, remember to bring men into this conversation. At the end of the day, they are our fathers, our husbands, brothers, uncles, friends. They are also dealing with finding their role in society, and getting them on board, to understand why this needs to happen and why it is important is imperative. Hey, no one said it would be easy, after all, no group likes sharing power.
At the end of the day though, if we really want to see any change, we have to shake the system up enough, get enough of a critical mass behind us, and demand change ourselves.
Isn't that democracy?
Bonus: The Principle of Gender Equality...cannot be articulated better than by this video.
It may seem old fashioned and ridiculous, but one wonders at times, how many of these views are actually still held today but simply suppressed due to the current climate of political correctness...