More and more, it looks like the next federal election will be about women.
Our politicians can continue to debate who’s the biggest misogynist but ultimately, securing the vote of women requires much more than winning the daily news cycle.
As Jane Caro wrote earlier this week, if Tony Abbott has to prove he’s a feminist before he can hope to become a prime minister, then that can only be a good thing for women.
And as we saw yesterday, when both sides of politics are attacking each other over who continues to support broadcasters, protesters and MPs who have been deemed sexist, that too can only be a good thing.
But more important will be how such talk translates into real policy that addresses the concerns of women.
This morning, Australian Women Lawyers president and flexible childcare advocate Kate Ashmor told me women of child-rearing age have become the most powerful demographic in Australian politics.
She believes yesterday marked an extraordinary day in politics, and a watershed moment for Australian women.
“The political party who best meets their desperate need for flexible and affordable childcare will win the next election,” she said.
Childcare and paid parental leave are expected to be huge issues at the next election. And while an Abbott government still looks set for a 2013 victory, it won’t occur before these policy areas are more adequately addressed.
As we’ve seen with social media over the last couple of weeks, women are very happy to swiftly mobilise around issues that matter to them. Online women are a powerful and persistent force, and one that will be dangerous for politicians to ignore.
And as we saw with our recent online poll of 1200 people, professional women are feeling overstretched and overburdened. When we asked what their most pressing concerns actually are, the words we heard over and over again were work/life balance, guilt, managing work and family life, lack of support and competing priorities.
We heard that woman are still feeling the pressure to choose between motherhood and their careers.
Policy could play a major part in addressing some of these concerns – and ultimately, winning the women’s vote.
So let’s get the debate rolling. What issues will matter the most to you next election? Let us know below.