Representation of women in Australian parliaments 2014

9 July 2014

This updated paper draws on recent data and research to discuss trends and issues relating to women in Australian parliaments within an international context. It includes data on women in leadership and ministry positions, on committees and as candidates in Commonwealth elections.

Executive summary

  • Across Australia women continue to be significantly under-represented in parliament and executive government, comprising less than one-third of all parliamentarians and one-fifth of all ministers.
  • Internationally, Australia’s ranking for women in national government continues to decline when compared with other countries.
  • The representation of women in Australia’s parliaments hovers around the ‘critical mass’ of 30 per cent regarded by the United Nations as the minimum level necessary for women to influence decision-making in parliament.
  • There is no consensus amongst researchers in the field as to why women continue to be under-represented in Australia’s system of parliamentary democracy, although a number of factors contribute to the gender imbalance. This paper includes discussion of some of the structural, social and cultural factors influencing women’s representation including the type of electoral system, the culture of political parties, and the nature of politics and the parliamentary environment in Australia.
  • This updated paper draws on recent data and research to discuss trends and issues relating to women in Australian parliaments within an international context. It includes data on women in leadership and ministry positions, on committees and as candidates in Commonwealth elections. Whilst the focus is on the Commonwealth Parliament, the paper includes comparative information about women in state and territory parliaments. 
  • The issue of gender diversity is also discussed within the broader context of women in leadership and executive decision-making roles in Australia including local government, government boards and in the corporate sector.

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Suggested Citation

Joy McCann, Janet Wilson, 2014, Representation of women in Australian parliaments 2014, Parliamentary Library (Australia), viewed 24 April 2017, <http://apo.org.au/node/40392>.

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