Changing Characteristics of Women on Local Government Councils in Australia: 1982 - 1993

By Whip, Rosemary; Fletcher, Don | Australian Journal of Social Issues, February 1999 | Go to article overview

Changing Characteristics of Women on Local Government Councils in Australia: 1982 - 1993


Whip, Rosemary, Fletcher, Don, Australian Journal of Social Issues


Between 1982 and 1993 the number of women serving on local government councils, the political arena in which women have been most successful, more than doubled. Data from two Australia wide surveys, one in 1982, the other in 1993, indicate that in the period between the two studies there were also some significant changes in the characteristics of women entering local government, with the 1993 respondents better educated and more likely to be in the paid workforce than their earlier counterparts. Some aspects of the commonly held stereotype of female councillors as middle aged, middle class housewives with adult children are challenged by these data, particularly with respect to workforce participation. While this indicates that female councillors are in some ways more heterogeneous than the stereotype suggests, their characteristics remain unrepresentative of those of many women in the community.

This paper attempts to provide a picture of women who serve on local government councils, drawing on survey data collected Australia wide in 1982 and 1993. It examines the extent to which the characteristics of female councillors have changed over the period between the two surveys and the extent to which these women conform to the commonly held stereotype of women in local government, and considers the relevance of this to the issue of representation.

The last decade has seen a significant increase in the number of women in local government in Australia but our knowledge of women councillors remains limited. Local government is an area which, as Neylan and Tucker note, receives little attention from "mainstream political scientists and analysts" (1996, p. 131), and the burgeoning interest in women in politics in this country has largely passed it by. What research there has been in this area is patchy at best. Consequently we know little about women in local government, Australia wide, beyond the fact that their numbers are increasing(1).

There are several reasons why the proportion of local government membership which is made up of women, while still far from equal to that of men, is higher than is the case in either state or federal parliament. Not the least of these is local government's low status in the political pecking order and its perceived suitability for women, in terms of both its proximity to their place of residence and the focus of its concerns. In 1973 Encel et al. (1973, p.259), writing on the position of women in Australian society, noted that local government was particularly suited to women because:

   Many of the difficulties attaching to State and Federal politics do not
   apply at this level. Competition for entry into local politics is not
   great, and the general standard of membership is poor. It is relatively
   cheap and easy to run for office; the duties can be fitted into ordinary
   family life; the concerns of local government are predominantly of a
   `domestic' character; there are few paid aldermen and few perquisites; and
   party affiliation is much less important than at other levels.

Although in Encel and Campbell's updated version of this book the second sentence in the above quotation has been deleted (1991, p.277), the essential argument remains. Similar explanations are put forward by Neylan and Tucker (1996).

Despite this somewhat unflattering view, female participation in local government is important because, as Hollis has noted, local government `touches the lives of women in at least three ways. It employs women; it provides services for women; and it is a place of political power and public advancement for women' (1987, pp.470-1). Hollis is commenting on the United Kingdom but this is also the case in Australia. Local government is also the political arena in which women have been and continue to be most equitably represented, and for a number of women it has provided a launching pad to state parliaments and, to a lesser extent, federal parliament(2).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Changing Characteristics of Women on Local Government Councils in Australia: 1982 - 1993
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.