Women’s Political Representation
WEL’s Policy Demands
- All political parties set targets to achieve equivalence by 2030 for the representation of women and for people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, First Nations people, people with disability and younger women to ensure that the NSW Parliament reflects the diversity of NSW.
- To ensure transparency parties commit to reporting on progress with achieving their targets for candidates once nominations to the electoral Commission have closed and before the election.
- All parties commit to urgent and ongoing implementation in the 2023-27 Parliament of the Broderick Review recommendations with regular reports to Parliament on progress.
The NSW Parliament needs to reflect the population of NSW to function effectively and efficiently. As at 2 March 2023 there were 13 women members of the Legislative Council in a house of 42 members, representing just over 30%. There were 32 women members in the Legislative Assembly out of a total of 93 members, representing 34.4%.
In our parliamentary system political representation still largely depends on political parties attracting, mentoring, selecting and funding campaigns for representative candidates.
In the 2019-2023 NSW Parliament the Labor Party and the Greens had more women members in both houses than the Liberals and Nationals. The NSW Labor caucus is 42% women, compared with 30% for the Liberals and 22% for the Nationals. Lacking an enforcement mechanism like a quota system the Coalition parties risk failure to genuinely represent 50% of the population.
You cannot be what you cannot see. Nor can you represent women whose needs and aspirations you do not understand or reflect. The two major NSW political parties and the NSW Parliament are still a long way from being fully representative, with few women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) women or women with disabilities, no First Nation women and few women from the LGBTQ plus community.
Distrust in political parties and in political engagement through parliament is also a major impediment to achieving the long term change we need to ensure parties and parliaments reflect the full range of the Australian population.
In a 2022 survey, Plan International and You.gov reported that 90% of young women felt that it was easier for men to succeed in politics than women and 82% supported introducing diversity targets to ensure the representation of women and people of different ethnicities.
Political life is rightly perceived as toxic by many young women. Following Kate Jenkins’ Set the Standard: Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces (2021), the NSW Parliament Executive Group commissioned Former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick AO in 2021 to lead an independent review into bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct in NSW Parliament workplaces.
She reported that: ‘Sexual harassment and everyday sexism occur at unacceptable rates, with prevalence of experiences particularly high for women, people who identified as having a diverse sexuality and younger people (24-35 years old). Both women and men reported experiences of actual or attempted sexual assault, and prevalence was highest among people who identified as having a diverse sexuality. The impact of these behaviours is heightened for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds’.