Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Women and Politics, Diplomatic Academy

Dr Melanie Sully spoke at the SAGE gender project run by the students, pictured here with Dr Brigitte Wolf, Austrian Radio and Television

The Austrian quality daily "Der Standard" covered the story of difficulties women face in politics and possible solutions in an article "Wenn die schwangere Abgeordnete elektronisch abstimmt", 27.2. 2015 with an input from Dr Melanie Sully.
Statistics produced every year before international womens day speak for themselves and the article provides links to the official stats on the websites of the European Commission for EU countries and to the Austrian parliament. In addition in Austria there has never been since the war a female head of state, chancellor, governor of Vienna or Lower Austria important posts or a female head of one of the two big parties that have dominated politics since 1945. In the federal states for the most part when women are assigned jobs in the government it is mainly for "soft" topics such as the elderly, children, kindergarten, the family. One problem is that the parties believe women dont bring in the votes, something which is an assumption and could be changed if more women were in politics to start with. That is why the critical mass of 30% is important to establish in a sustainable way the visibility of women in politics. In addition ongoing research by the Group of States against Corruption GRECO was quoted which aims to test the theory of whether women are less open to corruption in public life than men. This was first raised in a real way after the economic crash in Iceland where major banks run by young males taking risks contributed to the disaster. One way often discussed to compensate for the underrepresentation of women in politics is the carrot and stick approach which would give or take away state money for parties depending on the percentage of the underrepresented sex on their party lists. That can only function though in coutnries where there is a high dependency on state funds, says Dr Sully such as Ireland but not the UK. In addition she mentioned current thinking in the UK to harness modern technology so MPs on parental leave could have the possibility to take part in parliamentary votes via electronic voting and contribute to debates via Skype. In Sweden in the Riksdag MPs do not have to resign when taking parental leave (an option not available in Austria); MPs can also apply for sick leave or leave of absence if eg they are on visits abroad. There is also a creche in the Riksdag for children aged between one and 12.

The Austrian weekly "News" also covered international womens day 2015 with an article by Renate Kromp and Tessa Prager "Power and Influence: what women really want" 7.3. 2015 in this they interviewed Prof Melanie Sully who recalled the financial difficulties women face in standing for office and the often uninviting parliamentary culture when elected. A recent study in the UK revealed that female MPs are frequently turned back from entry to parliamentary offices with the words "this is only for Members of Parliament". Some have even suggested getting larger parliamentary ID cards so that this oversight does not happen. The article also looks at opinion polls commissioned for News showing a majority would favour quotas, and cites the experiences of women in the practical world of politics.

The SAGE (Students Advocating Gender Equality) project of the Diplomatic Academy is run by Virginia Ottolina, Jelena Vicic, Jenae Armstrong; the first event, Getting WoMen into Politics, was held in February and speakers included besides Dr Melanie Sully of Go-Governance, former foreign minister of Austria and current Ambassador for Austria in France Ursula Plassnik, the Director of the Academy, Dr Hans Winkler and Lousewies Van der Laan, Vice President of ALDE

See also data and analysis by the European Commission, March 2015; statistics on gender and the power gap are updated regularly