‘Glass cliff’: Most female candidates are running in unwinnable seats

‘Glass cliff candidates’: Most female candidates are running in unwinnable seats

Women in the major parties are not being given equal opportunity to run in winnable seats this election, with new analysis showing 80 per cent of the Coalition’s female candidates are running in seats they are unlikely to win, or that are difficult to hold.

The analysis from the ANU Global Institute for Women’s Leadership shows just 20 per cent of female candidates in the Coalition are contesting winnable seats, compared with 46 per cent of male candidates.

In the Labor Party, the numbers are only slightly better, with 24 per cent of female candidates contesting winnable seats. Meanwhile, 33 per cent of male candidates are contesting winnable seats for Labor.

Professor Michelle Ryan, Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, said Australia remains a long way off achieve gender equality in parliament, and ensuring more women in major parties are preselected in seats they have a decent chance of winning would help.

“As major political parties make up the vast majority of MPs in the House of Representatives, increasing the number of female candidates they put forward at each election is important in ensuring our Parliament represents the diversity of the community,” Professor Ryan said.

“What is equally important is making sure that these female candidates are running in seats they can reasonably be expected to win.

“We’ve found that not only are there fewer women contesting seats in this election overall – they’re also less likely to win. This is a big loss for our democracy and for Australia.”

This election, 43 per cent of Labor candidates are women, and 29 per cent of Coalition candidates are women.

The analysis shows creating a level playing field for women in politics is not just about preselecting women as candidates. It’s more important for major parties to consider whether they can genuinely win the seats they are preselected in.

Professor Ryan labelled this election a “classic glass cliff moment”, a phenomenon where women are appointed to leadership positions in times of crisis or when a leadership position is precarious. Essentially, it means women are given the opportunity to step in when men aren’t interested.

“While political parties are publicising their efforts to increase the number of women candidates they put forward, we need to look at whether these candidates are simply stepping into seats that males aren’t interested in, or if they will genuinely increase the diversity of our Parliament,” she said.

“On this analysis, it would seem that, sadly, diversity isn’t the driving motivation.”

Professor Ryan said she will keep a close eye on the election results, but would expect female candidates will not do as well as their male counterparts.

“Almost two decades of research into the glass cliff tells us that women will not fare as well as their male counterparts at the ballot box. Especially Coalition candidates. This will not be because women can’t do
politics, but rather because they are preselected in seats that are more risky and more precarious,” Professor Ryan said.

Feature Image: Professor Michelle Ryan. Jamie Kidston/ANU

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