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Try harder for gender steadiness, says Julie Bishop

Nations, organisations and other entities would be more productive with greater diversity in their upper ranks, former foreign minister Julie Bishop said.

Ms Bishop, who repeated that the Federal Liberal Party had an unacceptably low number of women MPs, was speaking to a receptive home crowd at a Master Builders’ WA Women in Building and Construction lunch at The Westin yesterday.

“I believe we can all do better in attracting talented, competent women,” Ms Bishop said.

“I don’t believe we are trying hard enough to find competent women to stand for election.

“We are looking for more leadership … for more people to take on the leadership roles that we are going to so desperately need as the world is more contested, more congested, more competitive.”

Ms Bishop deftly ducked questions about her prime ministerial ambitions, decried the pursuit of populist policies with long-term costs and conceded the “political class” had lost constituents’ trust.

Since she resigned as foreign minister she was often asked what she had learnt.

“I learned a lot of things,” she said. “My advice, to women in particular, comes down to four things.

“Never let anyone else define who you are.

“Set your own high standards and strive and aspire to meet them.

“There are plenty of people who will set for you standards that they can’t or won’t meet themselves.

“Back your judgment, back your instincts. I find the times I don’t are the times I get into trouble.

“Mentoring works. Find a male or female you trust, whose views you value who has an interest in your welfare and well-being.

“My last piece of advice is: you have got to be having fun. If you are not enjoying what you are doing … you really should have a long, hard think about whether you are in the right position, the right job.”

Ms Bishop, who opposes quotas, said on her watch the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade achieved targets of 50 per cent women on its boards.

“If you say work harder to find qualified women — I will not accept for a minute there aren’t qualified women available to fill at least 50 per cent of those positions — you can achieve it,” she said.

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