Women in Charge: Politics in a Women Majority Local Council in Australia

Hilde Bjørnå


The article is based on a study of a local council in Australia where women representatives hold a majority of the seats. How do these representatives understand their role in this context? What is their preferred style of doing politics, and what can explain their political aims and behaviour? What we find is that these women representatives are oriented toward green politics and prefer deliberative decision-making. This case study of a local council in Queensland suggests that the political objectives and style of women representatives largely reflect the specific local context, the electoral system and the political composition of the council, and not just the fact that women hold more than 70% of the seats. However, women representatives do feel that “numbers matter” for their ability to be acting out “who they are” in politics.

Full Text:



Arendt, Hannah. 1958. The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bachrach, Peter, and Morton S. Baratz. 1962. Two Faces of Power. The Americun Political Science Review 56 (4): 947-952. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1952796

Black, David, and Harry Phillips. 2000. Making a Difference: Women in the Western Australian Parliament 1921-1999. Perth: Parliament of Western Australia.

Bochel, Catherine, and Jacqui Briggs. 2000. Do women make a difference. Politics 20 (2): 63-68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9256.00113

Bohman, James, and William Rehg. 1997. Deliberative democracy. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Buckley, Mary. 1997. Post-Soviet women: from the Baltic to Central Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Carroll, Susan J. 2002. Representing women: Congresswomen's perceptions of their representational roles." In Women Transforming Congress, ed. Cindy Simon Rosenthal: University of Oklahoma Press. 50-68."

Celis, Karen. 2006. Substantive Representation of Women: The Representation of Women's Interests and the Impact of Descriptive Representation in the Belgian Parliament (1900-1979). Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 28 (2): 85-113. http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J501v28n02_04

Celis, Karen 2008. Studying women's substantive representation in legislatures: When representative acts, contexts and women's interests become important. Representation 44 (2): 111-123.

Childs, Sarah. 2003. The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act and its Implications. Representation 39 (2): 83-92. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00344890308523377

Childs, Sarah. 2004. A Feminised Style of Politics? Women MPs in the House of Commons. British Journal of Politics and International Relations 6 (1): 3-19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-856X.2004.00124.x

Childs, Sarah, and Mona Lena Krook. 2006. Gender and Politics: The state of the Art. Politics 26 (1): 18-28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9256.2006.00247.x

Considine, M, and I.E Deutchman. 1996. Instituting Gender. Women and Politics 16 (4): 1-19.

Dahlerup, Drude. 1988. From a Small to a Large Minority: Women in Scandinavian Politics. Scandinavian Political Studies 4: 275-298.

Dehlerup, Drude. 2006. The Story of the Theory of Critical Mass. Gender and Politics 2 (4): 511-522.

Dovi, S. 2002. Preferable descriptive representatives: will just any woman, black or latino do? APSR 96 (4): 729-743.

Grey, Sandra. 2006. Numbers and Beyon: The relevance of Critical Mass in Gender Reseach. Politics and Gender 2 (4): 492-502.

Gutman, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. 2004. Why Deliberative Democracy? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1996. Between facts and norms: contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Henderson, Anne. 1999. Getting even : women MPs on life, power and politics. Pymble, N.S.W.: HarperCollins.

Hoffman, Greg. 2008. Queensland Communities Decide. Local government assosiation of Queensland Inc.

IPU, website. 2012. http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm.

Johnson, Deb, Hope Kabuchu, and Santa Vusiya Kayonga. 2003. Women in Ugandan Local Government: The Impact of Affirmative Action. Gender and Development 11 (3): 8-18. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/741954365

Kanter, R. 1977. Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic Books.

Lister, Ruth. 1995. Dilemmas in engendering Citizenship. Economy and Society 24 (1): 35-40. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03085149500000001

Lovenduski, Joni, and Pippa Norris. 2003. Westminster women: the politics of presence. Political studies 51: 84-102.

MacGregor, Sherilyn. 2004. From Care to Citizenship. Calling ecofeminism back to politics. Ethics & The Environment 9 (1): 56-84.

Mackay, Fiona. 2001. Love and Politics. London: Continuum.

Mansbridge, J. 1999. Should blacks represent blacks and women represent women? A contingent yes'. Journal of Politics 6 (3): 29.

Molyneux, Maxine. 1985. Mobilisation without emancipation? Women's interests, the state, and revoulution in Nicaragua. Feminist studies 11 (2): 227-254. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3177922

Neyland, M., and D. Tucker. 1996. Women in local government." In Gender, Politics and Citizenship in the 1990s, eds. B. Sullivan, G. Whitehouse and Sydney: UNSW Press 130-46."

Norris, Pippa. 1996. Women politicians: transforming Westminster?" In Women in Politics eds. Joni Lovenduski and Pippa Norris. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 91-104."

Phillips, Anne. 1995. The Politics of Presence. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Phillips, Anne. 1998. Democracy and Representation: Or, Why Should It Matter Who Our Representatives Are? Feminism and Politics: 224-240.

Pitkin, Hanna Fennichel. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Reingold, Beth. 2000. Representing Women: Sex, Gender and Legislative Behavior in Arizona and California. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Sawer, Marian. 1998. Loading the dice: The Impact of Electoral Systems on Women. Women into politics: 46-53.

Sawer, Marian. 2002. The Representation of Women in Australia: Meaning and Make-Believe. Parliamentary affairs (55): 5-18.

Skjeie, Hege. 1998. Credo on differenceâwomen in parliament in Norway." In Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers, ed. Azza Karam. Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. 183-189."

Stokes, Wendy. 2005. Women in contemporary politics. Cambridge: Polity.

Swers, Michele L. 1998. Are women more likely to vote for women's issue bills than their male colleagues? . Legislative Studies Quarterly 23 (3): 435-448. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/440362

Thomas, Sue. 1994. How women legislate. New York: Oxford University Press.

Thomas, Sue, and Susan Welch. 2001. The Impact of Women in State Legislatures. Numarical and Organizational Strenght." In The Impact of Women in Public Office, ed. Susan Carroll. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press."

Tremblay, Manon. 2006. The Substantive Representation of Women and PR. Politics and Gender 2 (4): 502-511.

Tremblay, Manon. 2006. The Substantive Representation of Women and PR: Some reflections on the Role of the Surrogate Representation and Critical Mass. Politics and Gender 2 (4): 502-510.

Vengroff, Richard, Zsolt Nyiri, and Melissa Fugiero. 2003. Electoral System and Gender Representation in Sub-National Legislatures: Is There a National - Sub-National Gender Gap? Political Research Quarterly 56 (2): 10.

Wängnerud, Lena. 2000. Testing the politics of presence: women's representation in the Swedish Riksdag. Scandinavian Political Studies 23 (1): 67-91. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9477.00031

Young, Iris Marion. 1997. Difference as a Resource for Democratic Communication." In Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics, ed. James Bohman and William Rehg. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 383-407."

Young, Iris Marion. 2000. Inclusion and democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/cjlg.v0i10.2689