You will be pleased to know that the topic of women in politics is being discussed in NSW’s Parliament House today. You might be less pleased to know that a panel of five representatives from Labor, the Liberals, the Greens and the Nationals discussing this important issue are men. Five out of five.
ABC State political reporter Brigid Glanville shared a photo of this panel on Twitter and, unsurprisingly, the composition of the panelists immediately attracted questions:
Labor, liberal, Nationals and the Greens speaking at state parliament talking about women in politics. pic.twitter.com/13DnNVIVCm
— brigid glanville (@brigidglanville) July 10, 2015
As I’ve written previously, in this day and age, all-male panels are almost certain to receive feedback and it’s unlikely to be positive. To be fair, this all-male panel is only one session at the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians annual conference and it’s dealing with the subject of males as champions of change. The conference line up is dominated by women including Helen Coonan, Quentin Bryce, Gladys Berejiklian, Linda Burney, Elizabeth Broderick, Marise Payne, Elizabeth Proust and Eva Cox.
The event is geared towards increasing the representation of women in politics. The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians exists for that very reason. This event is designed to support the promotion and retention of women in politics, to foster greater understanding of the issues that limit women in politics and work towards equal representation.
Yet, even with that objective, putting a team of all-men together in one panel is unhelpful, particularly when it features senior leaders like Malcolm Turnbull. It quietly and unintentionally reinforces the gap between men and women. It puts men and women in that room on different footing.
Earlier this year you might recall an advertisement for a conference that featured 10 men and not a single woman. We raised these concerns with the newspaper involved and subsequent ads featured both men and women. It felt like a huge win. But then they began running ads with all women and then all men again.
It seems pedantic but that’s not a win. The win is when men and women can share the same space and power whether it’s in newspaper pages, at conferences, around board rooms or in the home.