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Politics isn't super-appealing to women in Australia right now. Is it different elsewhere? – ABC News

Politics isn't super-appealing to women in Australia right now. Is it different elsewhere?
Forty. That's the number of countries around the world that have chosen a woman to lead since Julia Gillard was ousted on June 27, 2013.
In the past year alone, Sweden, Tunisia, Samoa and Estonia all elected their first female prime ministers while Tanzania, Honduras and Barbados chose women as their presidents.
This month, Germany's Angela Merkel handed over the reins after four consecutive terms as chancellor — 16 years and 16 days to be precise, just 10 days shy of a record.
It's the end of an era as the woman called the 'Iron Chancellor' by her critics and 'Mama' by her fans prepares to retire after 16 tumultuous years in power. 
Across the ditch in New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern leads the nation's most diverse cabinet in history, well into her second term as the nation's third female prime minister in 20 years.
In the meantime, Australia hasn't gone to a single federal election with a woman leading a major party since Ms Gillard's exit.
Currently, there are no women among the leaders or deputies of the Liberals, Nationals, or Labor Party.
Although there are now four more women than men in the Senate, the number of female faces among the ranks in successive parliaments hasn't exactly skyrocketed. 
In fact, with less than a third of Lower House seats filled by women, Australia is currently ranked 56th in the world when it comes to female representation in parliament, according to figures from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
So what's holding Australia back while women elsewhere are seemingly smashing through glass ceilings to hold top office? 
Given Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins's findings about the toxic culture that pervades Parliament House, it's perhaps not surprising that women aren't beating down the doors to work there right now. 
The Jenkins inquiry, sparked by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins's allegation that she was raped inside Parliament House, found one in three people working in the building has been exposed to sexual harassment.
The inquiry found these unsafe working conditions were "largely driven by power imbalances, gender inequality and exclusion and a lack of accountability".
This isn't a new problem. Women in politics have been calling out the gender imbalance and the bad behaviour it breeds for years. 
Women from all sides of the political spectrum, including Nicolle Flint, Julia Banks, Kate Ellis and Emma Husar, have cited a toxic workplace culture as among the reasons for them ending their political careers.
I spoke to women MPs across different generations and political belief and was prepared for them to disagree with each other. But what shocked me most was the one experience almost all of them had in common.
One of the key recommendations to address this problem from the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's report is to introduce targets to achieve gender balance among parliamentarians and staff.
Blair Williams, a research fellow at the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at the Australian National University, says Australia has stagnated compared to other countries when it comes to representation.
While the raw numbers of women in parliament have gone up since Australia ranked 15th on that same IPU list in 1999, it's been out of step with gains made elsewhere. 
Dr Williams says there are a few reasons for this, but it's really up to major political parties to address that mathematical imbalance.
"You can't have gender parity in the House of Reps if you don't have all parties that have gender parity," she told the ABC. 
"You have two major parties, if one of them doesn't have gender quotas, and they don't do anything to elect more women, then that really … restricts the number of women in politics."
The Labor Party, which introduced quotas in 1994, currently has women in 49 per cent of its federal seats. On the other side, just under 30 per cent of Liberal MPs and senators are women. 
Another significant barrier to entry that Dr Williams has researched extensively is the way the media portrays women in politics. 
In an analysis that compared Australian, New Zealand and UK press coverage of female prime ministers, Dr Williams found the Australian media were the most likely to use gendered tropes in their coverage of Ms Gillard.
The former prime minister has repeatedly described the way the media focused on her appearance and the fact that she was unmarried and without children as a huge distraction from her politics and performance. 
Dr Williams's research found both of these tropes, as well as references to femininity, the use of first names and comparisons to former British PM Margaret Thatcher, persisted throughout Australian, UK and NZ coverage of female leaders, though less so in New Zealand.
Another global study has found this kind of gendered media representation not only exhausts and denigrates those women in power, but also discourages women from pursuing politics as a career and makes parties reluctant to consider them as candidates.
The numbers would suggest Rwanda is the place in the world where women are having the most success at getting into politics.
Following the brutal genocide that claimed a million lives and wrought political unrest throughout the late 90s, Rwanda wrote quotas into its new constitution in 2003, mandating that a third of seats must be reserved for women.
Today, 49 of the 80 Lower House seats are held by women.
In the top 10, authoritarian-leaning nations like Rwanda sit alongside democracies like Mexico, New Zealand, and countries in the progressive Nordic bloc. 
But even in places like Sweden, lauded around the globe as a proponent of gender equality, those in power still have their fair share of difficulties to navigate.
Just seven hours after Magdalena Andersson was sworn in as the country's first female prime minister last month, she promptly resigned over a budget she couldn't get over the line with her junior coalition party, the Greens. 
She was swiftly re-elected, but now faces a trickier path to legislate as leader of a minority government — something Australia's first female PM knows a thing or two about. 
Ms Andersson faces what media analysts have described as a hostile political environment, which is unusual given the country's history of cooperative coalition politics. 
In Samoa, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa had a rough time even stepping her foot through the front door as PM after she was elected in April this year. 
Despite Fiame securing a majority, her opponent Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi refused to step down, sparking a constitutional crisis that took months to resolve.
While newly minted Barbadian president Sandra Mason has been sworn into a largely ceremonial role, her executive counterpart Mia Mottley faces her own set of challenges as PM. 
After winning election in 2018, Ms Mottley announced her government had inherited billions in previously undisclosed debt, putting the Caribbean nation's debt-to-GDP ratio at 175 per cent, fourth-highest in the world at the time.
Three years after Ms Mottley called in the International Monetary Fund and restructured public debt, the country still owes a significant amount to its creditors. 
The Prime Minister is also in the midst of a climate change battle. 
At COP26, Ms Mottley offered one of the strongest statements of any world leader, taking industrialised nations to task over their inaction and urging them to provide more funding to island nations facing the deadly consequences.  
"Two degrees [of warming] is a death sentence for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, for the people of the Maldives, for the people of the Dominica and Fiji, for the people of Kenya and Mozambique, and yes, for the people of Samoa and Barbados," she said. 
"We do not want that dreaded death sentence and we have come here today to say: Try harder."
Meanwhile in Finland, Prime Minister Sanna Marrin's late-night partying during a COVID scare seems to have done little damage to her reputation, after she made a swift and frank apology. 
As nations around the world chip away at achieving gender parity in parliaments, there is some hope that the job of actually governing will become easier as it becomes less of a novelty. 
As Julia Gillard famously declared as she returned to the backbench:
"What I am absolutely confident of is it will be easier for the next woman, and the woman after that, and the woman after that." 
Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark agrees. 
In a recent interview on Ms Gillard's podcast, she credited her predecessor and opponent at the 1999 election, Jenny Shipley, for forging a path. 
"It was normal, there was a woman prime minister and a woman leader of the opposition. So whoever won the election, you were going to have a woman as prime minister. It normalised it," she told A Podcast Of One's Own. 
Fast-forward to today, and New Zealand is among a small handful of nations that have had three women serve as prime minister. 
"I think for young women of Jacinda [Ardern's] age, they grew up with these role models," Ms Clark said. 
"Young women across the political spectrum could see women doing these jobs.
"Having women visible is just so important at encouraging more women to step up and take on this kind of work."
But oftentimes, it still requires women to dive into a system that is not set up to make room for them, in which they cop criticism and judgement far more than men doing the same jobs. 
Dr Williams says while 2021 has served as a major shake-up for the Australian federal parliament, she is not as optimistic as Ms Gillard and Ms Clark. 
"I don't blame women for not exactly putting their hands up. I mean, how will the Murdoch press portray them? Have they learned their lesson? Are they getting better?" she said.
"I think the media has changed in some way in the last few years, really since 2018, but particularly this year, in light of all the stuff that's happened in parliament.
"They can't get away as much [with] being so obviously sexist. But there's still that big voice in the media, of conservative commentators that really do continue that misogynistic note." 
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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