Former Liberal deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop announced today that she will not be re-contesting her Western Australian seat of Curtin at the next election, effectively ending her decades-long political career.
Bishop told Parliament she hopes her seat will be filled by a woman, hinting at the Liberal party’s highly publicised struggles with gender diversity, after the recent resignations of Liberal MPs Julia Banks and Kelly O’Dwyer.
Bishop has become a loud advocate for increasing female representation in politics since her failed bid for the prime ministership in 2018. Speaking at Future Women’s launch event in October, the former deputy leader didn’t hold back, claiming, “If you’re trying to be a man, it’s a waste of a woman.”
Bishop spoke to a packed room of 360 people, including former Liberal MP Julia Banks, former ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja and newly elected Wentworth representative Dr Kerryn Phelps, who she thanked for coming to her rescue in an undisclosed incident which she said demonstrated that their friendship “went beyond politics”.
Bishop reflected on her decision to step down as Liberal deputy leader and foreign minister after the leadership spill.
“It was painful, but I knew it was the right thing to do for the new leadership team, it was the right thing to do for those in cabinet, but most importantly, it was the right thing for me,” she said.
Drawing from her own experiences throughout her life, both starting out as an articles clerk in Adelaide, to becoming the first ever Australian female Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2013, Bishop spoke about what she had learned about women and leadership.
“Now I don’t want to generalise, and I don’t want to get into the stereotypes, but after seeing leadership up close I am convinced by the research that concludes that women’s leadership style is transformational, men’s leadership style is transactional,” she said.
“What I mean by that, and what the research shows, is that women are more likely to be emotionally engaged with the individuals, they are more likely to be empathetic and sensitive to the needs of those individuals, to pursue professional development to achieve the goals of their team. Men are more likely to be driven empirically, to set team goals. They’re less likely to focus on the individual, it’s much more punitive, less sensitive, and they set goals and judge the team and call them to account at every step. This research concludes that transformational leadership invokes higher morale, and leaders to longer-term elevated productivity. It leads me to conclude if you are trying to be a man, it’s a waste of a woman.”
Despite the glaring issues when it comes to female representation in politics and in workplaces more generally, Bishop still maintains a “very optimistic, confident and constructive” outlook for women in Australia.
Thanking Future Women founder Helen McCabe, Bishop expressed her enthusiasm for a platform that will encourage, inspire and empower women.
“I’m really excited at the opportunities that this will provide for women to share experiences and ideas and support each other and I think the momentum will take us to a very positive place,” she said.
“As I’ve so often said, no nation will reach its potential, unless it fully engages with and harnesses the skills and talents and energy and ideas of the 50 per cent of its population that is female, in the case of Australia that’s 51 per cent.”
Julie Bishop’s Four Pieces Of Advice
1. Be Yourself
Bishop spoke of the time she was instructed to change her appearance after becoming Minister for Aged Care in 2003. “I got a phone call from a senior male member of the then-Prime Minister’s staff. He said ‘Okay Julie, out with the power suits, no more corporate lawyer image, you’re now the Minister for Aged Care, I wanna see cardigans and frocks.’ I obliged, and then after a while I thought ‘This isn’t me, why am I dressing like somebody else, I need to be myself.’”
2. Trust Your Instincts
Reflecting on the lead up to the 2016 US Presidential Election, Bishop said, “ I asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to send me two incoming briefs: one for the Republican candidate, one for the Democratic candidate, so we would be prepared, whoever won. The commentators around the world believed that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in, but I couldn’t get the Trump brief from the Department. And I was spending a lot of time in the United States during 2016, and I remember coming back home in September and saying to DFAT, ‘Send me the Trump brief’ because I had detected support for candidate Trump from some of the most unexpected quarters and I just had a feeling that he was going to win. And I demanded to see the brief. The department probably thought it was a waste of time, but they sent up the brief. And so instinctively I knew that we had to prepare for an incoming Trump administration. And just as well we did, because few other nations did, and it gave us the opportunity to engage very early on with very senior levels within the Trump administration, in some very early decisions that were taken by this administration, and it ended up being in our favour.”
3. Always Back Other Women
“In 2013 I was elected by my party room as the deputy leader when we came into government, and I was the only woman in the cabinet at the time,” Bishop said. “I was continually disrupted, and I found that I would come up with an idea or proposal on an issue, and they’d move onto the next person, and then three down, somebody would say exactly what I said and the guys said ‘Yeah let’s do that!’ This happened time and time again, so when more women were appointed to cabinet, we would instinctively, say ‘Don’t interrupt, she’s speaking’. Or, ‘Why did you say that? Kim just said that five minutes ago?’ Just picking them up and reminding them that women’s voices must be heard and deserve to be heard.”
4. You Should Enjoy Your Work
If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you should reconsider whether you’re in the right place, Bishop said. “I remember, as an articled clerk, my first job in a law firm, I was the first woman that this firm had employed in their hundred year history, other than as a cleaner or secretary. And on my first Friday night there they invited me and my male counterpart in for partner’s drinks. I was the only woman in the room, and the senior partner came up with a drinks tray. And he gave it to me and he said, ‘Would you serve the drinks?’ I did, and it’s no coincidence that I left that firm a few months later.”
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