Women, we need you!

MALE candidates outnumber female candidates two to one at the upcoming local government elections.

And the gender imbalance in mayoral races is even more pronounced, with women only making up 25 per cent of nominees.

Joanne Fotakis is running for Vincent’s north ward and says women can be deterred by male-dominated politics and the criticism they face when putting their hand up.

She says the adversarial culture can discourage women, as well as the extra scrutiny female politicians face and the misogynistic comments that often get made about them.

Ms Fotakis says when she was growing up there was never any suggestion that a girl might be interested in entering politics.

• Joanne Fotakis and Alex Castle are running for Vincent council, encouraged by current mayor Emma Cole (centre). Photo by Steve Grant

She says there’s also a “confidence gap” between the genders that acts as a “self-imposed barrier”.

Research from the US shows that women are less likely to judge themselves capable of running for local office.

When it comes to encouraging women to run for university politics, male candidates typically only need to have it suggested to them once and they’ll decide to toss their hat into the ring, but women need to be encouraged multiple times before nominating.

Uphill battle

Vincent mayor Emma Cole says she’s been keen to get more of a gender balance on council and has encouraged both Ms Fotakis and fellow north ward candidate Alex Castle to run after seeing their work for the Leederville Connect and Mt Hawthorn Hub community groups.

Ms Cole says women need a lot more encouragement to get involved in politics.

Ms Castle, also running for north ward, says women candidates face additional scrutiny over their looks and get questioned about whether they can still perform parenting duties if they run for office.

She’s had one of her flyers stuffed back in her letterbox with derogatory commentary about her appearance scrawled on it, and been asked many times (sometimes by well-meaning friends) if she’ll be able to handle being a councillor as well as being a mum. Blokes rarely get asked about whether they can be good dads as well as being on council.

Ms Cole, elected mayor in February this year, says she’s even had a well-meaning but confused person ask her “what’s it like being the mayor’s wife?”

Ms Fotakis says it’s an uphill battle but worth the effort to get more women on council, saying “there are numerous studies that show gender diverse and representative teams are more innovative, effective and perform better than those with limited gender, age or cultural diversity.”

“We need more women in local government and in leadership positions…”

by DAVID BELL

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