Pathways to Politics Program for Women: addressing the chronic under-representation of women in parliament.
Politics had always interested Stephanie Amir, even when she was a little kid. But as a public servant she had to remain apolitical.
That changed when she joined a political party and realised she needed to learn the practicalities of being an elected official. Luckily, a first of its kind initiative that encourages and supports women who aspire to elected office was just getting off the ground.
Launched in late 2015 as a partnership between the Melbourne School of Government and the Trawalla Foundation, the non-partisan Pathways to Politics program provides a select group of female University of Melbourne students and alumni with the support and encouragement to aspire to elected office at local, state and national levels.
Amir joined 24 women in the program’s first year where she spent five months learning the ropes of becoming a public representative and forming networks with her peers and elected officials. Currently serving as its program manager at the Melbourne School of Government, she says the program made her take herself more seriously as a politician.
There is the concept of feeling like women don’t belong in politics as most of the politicians are men and people have an ingrained view of who can be a politician. Successful women who we looked up to enabled us to say, ‘This is where we belong and we can do it too’ Stephanie Amir
Speakers such as Peta Credlin, the chief of staff to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and Hon Nicola Roxon, former Minister for Health and the first woman to serve as Attorney-General, were among a number of people from across the political and public spectrum who spoke about a multitude of themes such as campaign strategy, public speaking, analysing polls and understanding ethical dilemmas in politics.
The program gave Amir an increased confidence and a solid network of information, knowledge and resources which she can draw upon throughout her career. She credits the time she spent learning conceptual aids like negotiation skills and the ability to navigate difficult environments with giving her a head start in her own political career.
“The program is good for networking, hearing from distinguished speakers and understanding the real world of federal politics,” she says.
“It is worth putting your hand up. I think there were other women who weren’t sure whether they wanted to get into politics and this program helps them to make the decision for themselves and helps with their confidence.
“One thing that I have learnt this year is that the world is run by the people who show up and that is very true. Politics is a lot about being brave and putting your hand up. If you just say no then you don’t know where it is going to go.”
Banner photo: James Rafferty