Alyssa Hayden: A voice with experience
Almost 100 years ago, Edith Cowan became the first woman elected to an Australian parliament, in March 1921.
In Her Seat is asking as many currently serving female politicians as we can how they view gender equality, politics and their impact.
This is a non-partisan project that is soliciting contributions from women in all parties, or none at all, in every parliament.
Alyssa Hayden is the Member for Darling Range in the Western Australian Parliament. Previously, she was the Member for the East Metropolitan Region.
After completing her schooling at Eastern Hills Senior High, she started her first small business at the age of 19. Her passion for this part of the economy comes through everything she does.
When she was first elected to the Parliament in 2008, she held a succession of Parliamentary Secretary roles to the ministers for Health, Tourism, Police, Deputy Premier and Premier.
What does gender equality mean to you?
I believe gender equality is when we stop seeing genders and we start seeing the person and their qualities.
Equality is not just between genders, it must also be within them. Men often support each other, whether through formalised mentoring programs, or in casual settings outside of work.
Sadly, from my experience women are not as supportive of one another within the workplace as men are. This may be a direct result of the limited career opportunities for women, in turn creating a competitive culture.
Women also have a tendency to wait until we’re asked to get involved, when we need to just step in and involve ourselves rather than waiting for an invitation.
Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?
The female politician that inspired me most is the Hon Judi Moylan.
Judi epitomised the true value of a successful female leader, quietly confident, her strength was in her ability to work with people and communities to find solutions.
Judi symbolised the evenness of liberal-conservative values, the necessity to support law and order, foster economic growth and the need to nurture our social institutions. She proved to me that you can hold your femininity while still being strong, you can be compassionate and tough at the same time.
As the first Western Australian woman to be elected as a Liberal Party MP to the House of Representatives, Judi was a trailblazer who used her position to improve the lives of others and she continues to do so through her role as President of Diabetes Australia.
What inspires you to serve your community?
I was inspired to serve my community by entering politics because I didn’t feel that there was a current Member of Parliament who shared the same path in life as me and lacked the personal experience of what it takes to be a small business owner.
There were many doctors, lawyers, teachers and farmers in politics at the time, and while they all made their own valuable contributions, I believe that in a representative democracy such as ours, we must have a Parliament that reflects our entire community, not just academics, but the many of us who took another pathway.
What are the most important contributions you are making in Parliament?
When entering Parliament, you have a list of goals you wish to achieve.
My priority was and still is to be a voice for the average Australian who works hard for a living to provide for their family.
They need government to get out of the way and provide support without the added burden and cost. This couldn’t be more important right now with the rising cost of living and the hits on small business.
I know I have the strength to stand up for what is right, no matter the consequences and I believe we need more of that than those who choose to play safe politics.
One of my other passions is to see our State develop its true tourism potential and to encourage Western Australians to think outside the square.
What is next for gender equality in politics?
The next step for gender equality in politics is making leadership more accessible for women at a younger age.
While we are seeing more women enter politics, it appears to be driven by a quota system, rather than a meaningful cultural shift. This may increase the numbers, but it doesn’t change the way women are treated when they get there.
To solve that problem, we need women in leadership across our community.
The only way to lower the barriers preventing women from entering politics is to empower women to put themselves forward for leadership roles. One of the ways we can do this is by fostering and mentoring them. I am currently mentoring several women and I’m proud to see how far they’ve come already.
We must also be proud of other women’s achievements and acknowledge them both publically and privately. Only then will we see more women enter politics.