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Women in politics | When it’s more personal than political

With the passing of International Women’s Day, The Brew’s interview with Kerry Chikarovski seems especially relevant to this week’s conversation surrounding the topic of sexism. On the 7th of March, The Guardian published a story titled ‘Australian report finds disturbing evidence of gender inequality’, where sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins revealed widespread opposition to advancing equality in Australia. One of the key areas where equality was found “particularly lacking” is in leadership positions for women.

In the 21st century, women in politics still have to fight to be taken seriously and treated with respect. And often, the sexism and disrespect becomes personal rather than political.

In our latest episode of The Brew, Kerry Chikarovski, former leader of the Opposition in NSW, describes her challenges and experiences while she was part of NSW State politics.

Chikarovski isn’t the only politician to face hardships in her career and she won’t be the last. Julia Gillard spent her years as prime minister constantly being ridiculed by a sexist media and politicians, being called “deliberately barren”; just recently Gladys Berejikilian spent her first day as premier of NSW fielding questions about her childless state; and Kristina Keneally has been inundated with requests to provide advice for Berejikilian just because they’re both women with the same job. These four women are just a few of many whose position in government is overshadowed by the casual sexism of the Australian political scene.

My personal experience is also still top of mind, when rather than focusing on policies I was proposing for the City of Sydney, the media were more interested in writing articles about whether I was looking for a husband.

Despite Chikarovki’s experiences, she says, “I constantly encourage women to think about a political career because it’s one of the few careers where you can say ‘I’m here because I’m doing things for people’.” She encourages women to persevere because in her view, regret for not trying is worse than failure.

So, why should women keep trying? Because all around the country, and the world, women are reshaping gender roles and breaking oppressing stereotypes and expectations. It isn’t a fight we can win in one day or even a year, and female politicians, on all sides of the political spectrum, are vital to advancing the cause for all women.

Listen to my full interview with Kerry here

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