Australia’s foreign minister: “It was pretty lonely being the only woman in cabinet”

Julie Bishop
Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign affairs minister, has spoken out about the attitudes she faced as the only woman in Tony Abbott’s first cabinet in 2013.

Speaking at the Women’s Weekly Women of the Future event in Sydney, Australia, Bishop reflected on her experience as the only woman in a cabinet of twenty people.

“It was pretty lonely,” told the audience at the event. I would be sitting in a cabinet with [19] men and me.”

She then spoke about her frustrations with being ignored in the meetings, having her ideas for policies shut down, only for them to be ‘copied’ by men later.

“I would say something, come up with an idea, put forward a point of view and wait for a response. Nothing.”

“Halfway around the room, a guy will say exactly what I said. Exactly my idea, exactly my initiative, and the others will say ‘Brilliant, what a genius idea’.”

Bishop told the Women’s Weekly event that when other women joined the cabinet, they made “a little deal”.

“It didn’t matter what the other woman said, the rest of us would say, ‘oh, that is brilliant!'” she said. She put her experiences down to “unconscious bias” from her male peers. “It’s almost a deafness that we still see in Australian society.”

The Foreign Minister, who took up the role in 2013, also spoke about dealing with other world leaders who are not used to women in charge.

“I just try and be charming and disarming,” she explained. This includes making jokes such as, ‘I won’t bite you.'”

Speaking on a panel, Ms Bishop added that women needed to support each other in their professional lives.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted, politics. If I believed everything that was written about me, I would put the doona over my head and never get out of bed in the morning. So you’ve got to be very resilient.”

“But that’s where women can support each other. And say we can do this. We can be legislators, we can be policy makers. We can be leaders.”

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