At the ALP's 2015 National Conference in July, EMILY's List will be seeking rule changes to increase Labor women's representation to 50% by 2020.
To underpin this campaign, we have produced the Status of Women 2015 report (195) which provides an update on the current representation by women in our parliaments.
This report was launched by Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on 31 May.
While the report shows that the ALP's current national target of 40/40/20 has played a significant role in increasing the number of Australian women MPs since its introduction, 40% is not equal.
This status report on the representation of women in Australian parliaments comes two decades after the introduction of the ALP’s first affirmative action rule in 1994.
The report has been compiled by EMILY’s List, which was set up in 1996 by a group of progressive Labor women intimately involved in the campaign to introduce AA. Realising quickly that structural change to the ALP Platform was not going to ensure equality within the party, they set about creating cultural change.
EMILY’s List, which remains Australia’s only political, financial and personal support network for progressive Labor women candidates, was the result of these efforts.
This Status of Women Report shows that the ALP’s quota system has been a success. It has increased ALP women’s representation from single digits in the early 1990s to 43% today. But the report also shows that there is a lot more to be done.
Overall representation of women in our parliaments stands at just over 30%, with Liberal women still struggling for representation in the absence of a quota in their own party.
There are still barriers to women participating in the ALP, too. The fact that the ALP has no female State/Territory or National Secretaries remains a problem for the party. Women continue to face challenges in the timing of meetings for women with children, insufficient training and mentoring as well as having to deal with attitudes amongst some men that deliberately discriminate and want to hold women back.
The ALP’s current national target of 40/40/20 has played a significant role in increasing the number of Australian women MPs in recent years, but 40% is not equal.
In the lead up to National Conference, EMILY’s List is launching a campaign for gender equality - 50% representation of women by 2020. We will be working to strengthen the sanction for failing to comply with targets and ensuring that they are applied in all areas of the party, not just in preselections.
Supporting women and getting them elected to parliament matters. In the past 18 months, EMILY’s List has analysed the impact of its endorsed women MPs in parliament. Assessments of Federal Labor in power from 2007-2013 and the Tasmanian Labor Government 1996 - 2014 have shown that a critical mass of women in our parliaments has a significant impact on legislation of benefit to women, children and their families.
More women need to be at Caucus and Cabinet decision-making tables as their presence brings about a broader, more representative legislative program.
It also makes electoral sense for the ALP to ensure it maintains a steady flow of quality women candidates. Recent election results in Victoria, Queensland and NSW have also shown that women candidates resonate strongly with voters, particularly those unhappy with male-dominated conservative governments. Such results have echoed recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology research showing “a simple way to improve a political party’s chances at the ballot box is to have more women as candidates”.
This report and our campaign to lift the target and strengthen AA across the party has been the work of hundreds of women, across many generations and diverse groups within the party.