In Australia, women are under-represented across all levels of politics despite their proven ability as leaders and their right to participate equally in democratic governance.
To tackle this challenge QUT has introduced the QUT Pathways to Politics for Women, modeled on a similar program offered by Melbourne School of Government, University of Melbourne in partnership with the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the Trawalla Foundation.
A nonpartisan initiative, the program seeks to increase female participation in all levels of government by equipping women with the skills to succeed in being elected to public office and to thrive as political leaders.
After a tough application process, the inaugural cohort of 15, from a range of professional and personal backgrounds, commenced the QUT Pathways to Politics for Women program in February of this year.
Led by Academic and Program Lead Professor Vicky Browning, Director, Client Programs and Learning Innovation for the Graduate School of Business and QUTeX, the program is comprised of three workshops spread over three months structured around hands-on training and networking, including panels and conversation sessions with women elected to office in local, state and federal government. A total of 37 speakers participated over the course of the 2020 program from across the political spectrum including politicians (both sitting and retired), public speaking professionals, advisors, public policy experts, and leading figures in Australian political and public life.
Prior and between workshops, participants were asked to engage in a variety of online learning materials, virtual classrooms, networking activities, coaching, and to familiarise themselves with the prescribed book Get Elected – A step by step campaign guide to winning public office – local, state and federal by Ruth McGowan OAM.
The first workshop in February covered topics such as ‘Reflections on political culture’, ‘Making the decision to run’, ‘Creating your story – how to articulate your political vision and why does it matter?’, ‘Being an effective and inspiring leader’, and ‘Building your base’. This workshop was informative and jam-packed with 4 panels, 2 Q&A sessions, 3 collaborative presentations, and a tour through Queensland Parliament, all accompanied by rich conversation and reflection for enhanced learning.
The cohort were welcomed at the first networking event by QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil AO followed by an engaging and insightful Q&A with Ms Sallyanne Atkinson AO, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane facilitated by Madonna King, the Lead Facilitator for the QUT Pathways to Politics for Women program.
The next intensive 2-day workshop in March included topics such as ‘From political vision to stump speech’, ‘Putting your best foot forward: Media Training’, ‘Policy Making’ and ‘On the campaign trail’. This workshop focused on the practical skills of being a politician and was pivotal in preparing the cohort for their final speech. The networking event for this workshop featured an invigorating fire-side conversation led by Madonna King with Mrs Linda Lavarch, Former Minister for Justice and Attorney-General, and The Honourable Mary Crawford, Former Member for Forde.
Due to the unfolding COVID-19 situation, the final workshop in April was offered online through a series of virtual engagement sessions over two weeks on topics such as ‘Moral Dilemmas in Politics’, ‘Social Media’ and ‘Creating Balance and Building Resilience’. Although originally planned to be conducted in Parliament House, the final speeches were delivered virtually with the quality and delivery of these speeches impressing our panel and mentors.
So, what did the cohort have to say about the program?
“The mix of political spectrums within the group was useful to allow for discussion on some topics in a non-partisan arena. The facilitators and faculty were energised, engaging, educational, and of great value and support.”
“Collaborating with women from all career backgrounds and level of interests in politics. I have been able to gain confidence in taking the process at my own pace and learn as I go.”
“The program was set up in a way that encouraged us to ask questions, investigate, and learn without judgements. There are few places in politics where this can be done without the sense that people are assessing you, so it was a welcome opportunity to have a safe learning space. Beyond the learnings within the sessions, I believe the personal connections we have made – with the facilitators, speakers, mentors, and each other – will be a rich source of ongoing support and advice. The timing could not have been better in terms of the lead up to the state election. Thank you!”
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