The under-representation of women in Australian politics has led both major political parties to adopt different strategies to increase the number of women candidates. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) adopted successive internal party quotas aiming at increasing the percentage of women candidates. By contrast, state branches of the Liberal party implemented candidate training programs in the mid-1990s aiming to provide women with the skills needed to run for office. Yet these programs were short lived and were discontinued by the 2000s. Using the Australian Candidate Survey (ACS) from 1987 to 2016, this paper aims to assess whether the adoption of party quotas by the ALP has influenced the paths to candidacy. We found little support for different paths to power among Coalition candidates while, after the adoption of the party quota, women Labor candidates have increasingly higher levels of elected and party experience than male Labor candidates. Previous explanations for this gendered pathway among Labor candidates have argued that female candidates need to compensate for gender biases toward them by being more qualified than men candidates. Our qualitative investigation suggests an alternative process. We argue that the over qualification of female Labor candidates when compared to male candidates is not solely due to the response of party elites but the consequence of the institutionalization of the female-centered networks, such as EMILY’s list, which provide alternative networks for women to gain political experience for successful selection in the Labor party. That is, we argue a greater role for women’s own agency.
About the presenters:
Dr Marija Taflaga is a post-doctoral researcher at the Australian National University. She researches Australian politics in comparative context. Her research examines political parties’ relationship with parliament and the executive. Marija has undertaken research fellowships at the Australian Parliamentary Library and the Australian Museum of Democracy, Old Parliament House. Her Research has been published in Political Studies, International Political Science Review, Australian Journal of Political Science and the Australian Journal of Politics and History.
Dr Katrine Beauregard is a Lecturer at the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Calgary, Canada. Her research focuses on the intersection of gender, political behavior, and political institutions. Previous work has been published in the Australian Journal of Political Science, European Journal of Political Research, Political Research Quarterly, and Politics, Groups, and Identities.