Flat White

Why aren’t there more women in politics? Simple!

1 September 2016

7:29 AM

1 September 2016

7:29 AM

As women, we are constantly being reminded that there are not enough of us in parliament. We are being looked down on and chided condescendingly because time and time again we have failed to live up to our political expectations. I often hear the patriarchy is to blame for that, or perhaps it is the concern that the family unit (or cat) is being unduly neglected. But what if the reason is closer to home? What if women are simply choosing to pursue careers outside of politics because they know what’s good for them? I mean, does anyone even remember what Joe Hockey did in parliament before he was Treasurer for three hours?

Consider this. Why would an intelligent, ambitious, experienced and well-rounded woman choose to pursue a career within a field where she has scant privacy, a seven-day work week, little room for individualism (due to being at the behest of party leadership) and a media which will disentangle her every syllable to find fault with it? Not to mention, a meagre salary that doesn’t even begin to compare to that of a top public servant or partner in a major firm. On top of all this, in order to traverse to the frontbench, she will have to abdicate all of the morals and principles which made her a winning political candidate in the first place, because that ladies and gentlemen, is realpolitik.

Why would a woman with fantastic potential choose to go down this doomed path? When instead she could aspire to be a top public servant, senior staffer to a politician, establish her own business, charity, non-government organisation, or have a high position within the private sector? After all, a paraphrased mantra of right-leaning individuals and groups is that governments do not create wealth. And governments should not dictate cultural and societal change. That should be left up to community groups, businesses and individuals. Consequently, couldn’t a woman maintain her privacy, get paid handsomely, and most importantly retain her dignity, whilst having a successful career in any of the fields mentioned previously, and still manage to have an impact on society akin to that of a politician?

Compare the two former chiefs of staff to two prime ministers: Arthur Sinodinos and Peta Credlin. Sinodinos entered the Senate and joined the frontbench team only to perform a hugely humiliating hokey-cokey moving in and out again in a blaze of publicity thanks to the Torquemadas of ICAC. He has had had no findings levelled against him but his reputation remains tarnished. His magnum opus has been orchestrating the election of Malcolm Turnbull; he may be Cabinet Secretary but will never achieve his ultimate goal of reaching the highest echelons of Australian politics.

Credlin on the other hand, chose not to run for parliament. She currently works as a commentator for Sky News Australia, a columnist for the News Corp Sundays and has signed up for a gig with James Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings. Now, I don’t know precisely how much Credlin earns because she never responds to my fan mail but I will bet my left toe that she earns at least twice as much as Sinodinos. Further, she still has her integrity intact, because she can speak her mind in the media without compromising on her values. A privilege which aspiring politicians like Sinodinos do not possess until retirement.

So who do you think made the better choice? I think Credlin did. I think that some women are making the rational choice not to become politicians. They choose to contribute to public life in other ways, where they do not have to compromise on their values.

A final note to bring my point home: during my time working for a federal minister, I noticed that at least half of the staffers working for politicians were women. And no, they weren’t all diary managers.

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