Lack of Women in Tony Abbotts Cabinet sends a dangerous message…

For heavens sake!  I’ve worked many long and hard years to be considered an equal amongst my male counterparts and for equal representation of women in our world – business and otherwise…. and now I find out that some 50 something year old bloke has decided to upturn all that we’ve worked bloody hard for.

I’ve held my opinion until now – I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a knee jerk reaction, but the more I think on the actions taken by Tony Abbott in the Federal Government arena, the angrier and more disillusioned I get.

Let me see if I have this straight:

  • We are SUPPOSED to have Gender equity in our workplaces
  • Much work has been done to improve the representation of Women in Corporate and Senior Management roles
  • Boards have defined targets for women’s participation

and yet, Tony Abbott seems to think it is appropriate that 1 in 19 Cabinet positions has been allocated to women (5%), the Office for the Status of Women be abolished (I read that somewhere but can’t find that reference) and that he take the position of the “Minister for Women”.  Is he kidding?

Were there just not enough women to appoint to the Cabinet?  Oh yes, Mr Abbott “says” the appointments were based on merit – but I think not.  Apparently Abbott admits he is disappointed to have only one woman in his cabinet

According to The Australian on September 16th, Abbott states:

Nevertheless there are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the cabinet and there are lots of good and talented women knocking on the door of the ministry.

and

You can expect to see as time goes by more women in both the cabinet and the ministry.

as some wit quipped on my facebook feed – it’s a good thing they turned the Glass Ceiling 90 degrees (sorry, I couldn’t find the actual reference).

And why take the role of “Minister for Women”?  Oh yes, “This will ensure that these key whole-of-government priorities are at the centre of government.” as well as Indigenous affairs, deregulation, national security and relations with state governments … the other roles that Tony Abbott has taken responsibility for.  Of course Tony Abbott will be able to give all these topics the attention they deserve…

I enjoyed Crikey’s piece this week titled “Crikeys Fantasy Cabinet, with Four Times The Number of Women” – it pointed to some highly qualified women within the Liberal party and highlighted why Abbott could just be wrong in only appointing 1 woman to his cabinet.  Let’s take a look at some of the women that Abbott decided were not satisfactory to provide stability or showed sufficient merit and experience.

Julie Bishop remains as Foreign Minister – and is nominated for speaker.  Yep, Julie got the gurnsey – well done Julie, well deserved I’m sure.

Dr Sharman Stone –  has a PhD in business and economics, and has worked professionally for a university. Stone was first elected in 1996 and was minister for workforce participation (and a parliamentary secretary on finance and the environment) in the Howard government.

Sussan Ley not only flies a plane around her regional electorate, she is trained in tax law and accounting, and co-ran a farm for many years.  Ley has held a front bench position since 1994

How about Marise Payne, who was in the ministry before the election?  Payne, formerly a public affairs adviser in the finance industry, has been in the Senate since 1997 and has held various posts.

Lack of experience Mr Abbott?  Let’s see, each of these Women have between 15 and 18 experience and have been representing their constituents in all that time.  Each one is imminently qualified as well.

Of course, failing to meet even the meanest of gender equity targets is nothing compared to taking the role of “Minister For Women” and not appointing a Woman to the role.  What COULD a woman bring to this position and ensure that the issues are at the “centre of government”?  Oh yes, that would mean you would have to respect that woman and listen to her opinions …. Yeah, I’ve made a leap of logic here and my cynicism is showing but I just don’t get it.

Let’s look at some stats (yet again):

  • In Australia, Women make up approximately 50% of the population
  • According to the Workplace Gender Equality agency, February 2013 Gender Workplace Statistics At a Glance:
    • Women make up 45.7% of the working population
    • On average, Women earn 17.6% less than their male counterparts (and this is an increase in disparity from 17.4% in February 2012 and 17.2% in February 1996 – we’re going backwards! ref: The Conversation)
    • 87.8% of women aged 20-24 have attained year 12 qualifications or above, compared to 84.1% of men in the same age bracket
    • 15.4% of directors in the ASX 200 are women
    • 52 ASX 200 companies do not have women on their boards (26%)
  • In politics, women comprise only 30.3% of all Australia’s parliaments

Well, that last point was true until Abbotts little gem this week.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget that countries like Afghanistan and Iran have been female representation in the cabinet – how embarrassing for us?

Equal representation means we have to work at it – we have to be prepared to shelve our pre-conceptions and make some tough decisions to ensure that we reach gender equality in our Government and Businesses.   Excuses like “appointments were based on merit” can not be accepted… we need to question and object to these decisions when the gender equity balance is so unbalanced.

I’m pretty disappointed by this weeks actions, as I know many other women and men are.  How sad to think we live in 2013 and have 5% female representation in our parliamentary cabinet… What’s next?

 

 

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