Women not getting recognition they deserve, says academic
9 November, 2009
By Rob O’Brien
Women in government are being judged more on their appearances despite being better community representatives, a former federal politician and academic has said.
Convenor of the fifth Women in Parliament conference, Dr Mary Crawford, from the Queensland University of Technology’s School of Management, said women parliamentarians are better at serving their constituents but are denied recognition because they are often judged on their appearance.
"My research in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States shows that women MPs spend considerably more time looking after their constituents and on constituency work that men do," Dr Crawford said.
"Men MPs spend more time pursuing a career in self-aggrandisement, singing their own praises and ingratiating themselves with those in power to get the big jobs."
Speaking at the Women, Parliament and Image conference, Dr Crawford, who was the Federal Member for Forde from 1987 to 1996, said the unrelenting focus on appearances had denied women MPs recognition of their true contribution to political life.
"Women have more scrutiny in terms of their appearance, who they are and what their relationships are," she said.
"Women’s appearance, hair style and clothes in Parliament are valued and evaluated, instead of the work they do.
"Men are traditionally valued for their competitiveness and for being seen to be strong and tough. It doesn’t matter how fat, old, untidy or grubby they are."
Dr Crawford said that even though there were now more women in top government roles, including Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Anna Bligh in Queensland, women still faced criticism of their image rather than performance.
"Our society does not look like Federal Parliament. It is more diverse than that. Women do have a contribution to make – they may or may not be different but they do have different skills and connections to bring to Parliament," she said.
"The media seek out people who are a bit different – it’s okay to be a man and a bit different like Wilson Tuckey or Barnaby Joyce but women tend to try to blend in with men.
"They don’t want to be noticed for what they wear but for what they say."