Today is my last day as Chair of WOMEN FOR ELECTIO. Together with the like-minded women and men who have served on the Board, as ambassadors, as advisers or volunteers, we have built something special. It is overwhelming to reflect on the thousands of women our courses, events and activities have influenced. It is with great pride that I reflect on what WFE has achieved.
Referring to her time as Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said that gender ‘doesn’t explain everything’ about her prime ministership, ‘it doesn’t explain nothing; it explains some things. And it is for the nation to think in a sophisticated way about these shades of grey.’
Seven years on, 2021 has more than any other year, brought greater clarity around the challenges facing women in elected office and politics. Clearer still are the barriers to women’s election to office and the countless benefits their presence in the halls of power bring to improving the democratic process, to women and families through better policy outcomes, and to society more broadly.
The establishment of the new cabinet task force on women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and wellbeing is a practical acknowledgement that more needs to be done for women in Australia and that involving women can only lead to better outcomes.
Both major political parties now agree about the need for more women in our parliaments. Prime Minister Morrison recently said, “There has never been a more important time for women to stand in this place. I want to see more women in this place… I intend to do more.”
When I founded WOMEN FOR ELECTION in 2013, it was clear that there was a need for an organisation dedicated to inspiring and equipping women to get elected. The private and public sectors were taking action to empower women leaders – they could see the strategic and commercial benefits – while the political class continued to lag behind.
A testament to this need is the speed with which our purpose and our passion has intersected with an emerging wider, mainstream movement that acknowledges the need for more women in politics. Within 5 years, our fledgling organisation has come to maturity and has the capacity, expertise and experience needed to deliver when the Australian community needs its services the most.
For myself, in 2021, the contrast has been dialled up, and there are no longer any shades of grey. Things are indeed black and white. There is an urgency to nurture and keep more women in politics throughout Australia. If we’re to rise to the challenges of the 21st century, restore the public’s faith in politics and ensure democracy delivers once again, more women must be at the heart and helm of our democratic institutions.
While I retain the role of Emeritus Chair, it’s not without some sadness that I step down. The empowerment of women leaders has been my passion for over 20 years and is enduring. WFE was born of that passion.
I thank all those who have supported WFE, whether it be through time, money or simply a leap of faith that we were a safe pair of hands and would deliver on our promise. In particular, my fellow directors and our CEO Licia Heath have been extraordinarily generous with their time, blood, sweat and tears, and I will miss our constant collegiality.
Tomorrow, Helen Conway takes the reins as chair of WFE. Her energy, profound commitment to gender equality and solid experience as a non-executive director will open new doors and place the organisation in good stead for its next chapter. I leave with great confidence that WFE is superbly placed to continue this work and make our collective vision for a better, more equitable Australia, a reality.
For more information on WFE, visit www.wfe.org.au
MEDIA: Call WFE Director Andrew Butler, 0423 296 903 or [email protected]
WOMEN FOR ELECTION is a non-partisan, not-for-profit that aims to strengthen our democracy by increasing the number, influence and diversity of women in politics in Australia and engaging more women in the political process. It does this by providing the very best training and support for women to enter political life, run for office, support electoral campaigns and move up the ladder to higher elective and appointed office.