ANU: Most female candidates contesting unwinnable seats

Just two-in-10 female candidates from Australia’s major parties are contesting winnable seats in the 2022 federal election, new analysis from The Australian National University (ANU) shows.

Led by the ANU Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL), the analysis examines how many female candidates from both Labor and the Coalition are up for election in safe seats compared to marginal or unwinnable seats across 151 electorates in the House of Representatives.

The analysis found 20 per cent of female candidates in the Coalition were contesting winnable seats. In comparison, 46 per cent of Coalition male candidates are running in winnable seats.

For Labor, 24 per cent of the party’s female candidates were contesting winnable seats, compared to 33 per cent of male candidates.

Professor Michelle Ryan, Director of GIWL, said the analysis shows “Australia has a long way to go to achieving gender equity in politics”.

“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.”

Ms Emma Summerhayes, who helped lead the data analysis for GIWL, said: “We know quotas work to get more women into politics. Our analysis shows us why it’s not just about how many women are preselected as candidates, but how many are put into positions where they genuinely can win.”

In the 2022 federal election, 43 per cent of Labor Party candidates and 29 per cent of Coalition candidates are female.

As part of her previous research, Professor Ryan developed the concept of the ‘glass cliff’ – a phenomenon where women are appointed to leadership positions in times of crisis or when their position is precarious.

“The 2022 federal election is a classic glass cliff moment,” Professor Ryan said.

“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.

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

The analysis comes as the latest ANUpoll shows Australian voters are more likely to vote for women than men. The survey of more than 3,500 voters found 52.8 per cent of voters would be very likely to vote for a woman, compared to 43.4 per cent of voters who said the same about male candidates.

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