In her Mamamia column this week, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop writes about the importance of gender equality in the workplace — especially, in parliament.
When I was Education Minister, I learned of a “control experiment” undertaken at one of our universities. Female academics were divided into two groups – one group was part of a formal mentoring program, the other group was not.
Each group was analysed, reviewed and assessed from time to time to gauge their progress in terms of promotion, career advancement and grants funding.
After several years, the evidence was conclusive – the members of the group who were in the mentoring program had received significantly greater career success than those who were not formally mentored.
I am an avowed supporter of mentoring – both formal and informal – in terms of supporting gender equality, and the advancement of women.
My belief in the power of formal and informal mentoring processes is founded on my own personal experiences.
Throughout my political and legal career I have received invaluable advice from a number of accomplished women and men that has had a lasting impact on me. I considered them mentors, and appreciated their support.
There has been a recent debate about female representation in the Federal Parliament.
I believe that it is vital for all governments to reflect the diversity in our society so that all people can feel that their interests are properly represented.
There should be a broad range of backgrounds, ethnicity and life experience among those elected to Parliament.
Some people have suggested we should aim for 30 per cent female representation. However if we were to reflect the gender balance of the Australian community, we should naturally be seeking that at least 50 per cent of the Parliament be comprised of female representatives.
While significant progress towards gender equality has been made, in 2015 women remain under-represented at decision making levels in most sectors, including within our State and Federal Parliaments.
I do not support a formal quota system for achieving greater representation in Parliament. Most women wish to be selected on their merits and on the basis that they are the best person for the role, not because of their gender.
History shows that Labor’s affirmative action policy offers little protection against factional influences.
The Labor Party claims it embraces affirmative action but in practice it is invariably abandoned when a male union boss, for example, claims a seat that would otherwise be reserved for a woman.
If there were to be quotas for women, what of the many groups within society who could also lay claim to quotas based on social composition?
As the female deputy leader of the Liberal Party, I am committed to supporting and mentoring women who are interested in entering public office – local, state and federal. It is a role and a responsibility I take very seriously.
As Foreign Minister, I am also committed to tackling the under-representation of women in the Pacific. The Australian Government supports the Pacific Women Parliamentary Partnerships initiative which seeks to build links between parliamentarians and parliamentary staff, share knowledge of parliamentary systems and processes, and contribute to the ongoing development of parliamentary democracy throughout the Pacific.
A number of my female colleagues recently participated in the annual forum in Suva alongside 63 other parliamentarians from 15 jurisdictions in the region.
Related content: Why we need to celebrate more women in sport.
To help women in other nations, we must continue to take a leadership role in terms of female empowerment within our communities and within our workplaces.
All Parliamentarians share a responsibility to attract the best people available for pre-selection, and remove the barriers and hurdles that exist for talented candidates.
A diverse range of voices is needed in politics to ensure our democracy continues to thrive.
Do you support gender quotas?
Read more of the minister’s columns for Mamamia: