A woman's place is in the house ... of representatives

Sarah Kerby looks at barriers and pathways to election for women in local and central government.

Beehive Peter Flickr CC BY NC 2.0

Women continue to be underrepresented in elected roles, and there is an opportunity to use Direct Voter Contact to make women’s election campaigns more successful. Sarah Kerby came to her Master of Professional Practice research after doing a Psychology degree and with experience as Field Organiser for the Labour Party, recruiting volunteers and running the Direct Voter Contact (DVC) side of candidates’ campaigns. She has been involved with ten different candidates’ campaigns, in New Zealand and Australia. She believes that increasing women’s representation in elected roles benefits everyone, beyond just those who are elected.

For her research project, Sarah interviewed 10 women about their election campaigns, as well as drawing on her own experience and reading. Interview transcripts were analysed thematically. The women identified time, money, and confidence as barriers to election to public office. A DVC campaign is low cost and time efficient, so helps to overcome these barriers. The focus of the study was to look at how direct voter contact strategies for women can support their election campaigns. A successful campaign does not necessarily mean being elected; desired goals include increasing the party vote, promoting a single issue, or reducing the win margin of another candidate. Women became involved in politics because they saw a community need, or because they were motivated by a single issue to start with. Often they stand for election because they are asked to. 

Direct Voter Contact done well can be a means to build social cohesion, and help to rebuild society and bring people together, providing an opportunity for them to have their say. Sarah has produced a free DVC Guide (available below) to help women and other interested people to develop and implement effective strategies to mobilise and persuade voters to turn out and vote for them. This will be a powerful resource for those who are needing extra support, without relying on Party resourcing.

August 2022

Image credit: Peter (Flickr). Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial license 2.0 

Published on 03 May 2023