AN ILLAWARRA academic believes the lack of women in the Coalition's new cabinet has set back equality within Australia's political leadership roles by decades.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled his new frontbench last week with incoming foreign minister Julie Bishop the only woman in cabinet, and one of just six in the 42-strong ministry.
The line-up has drawn criticism from some women within the Liberal Party and Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose, claiming it proves the "glass ceiling" still exists.
Senior Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop defended Mr Abbott's decision, also blasting Julia Gillard's "misogyny speech", saying it was "disgraceful".
Dr Paul Smith is a School of Psychology lecturer at the University of Wollongong, who completed his PhD on glass ceilings.
He described the new cabinet as an "archaic notion" that left him "flabbergasted" .
Dr Smith cited calculations by Catalyst, an international, non-profit organisation aiming to expand opportunities for women and business. They claim that at the current rate of change for gender equality, it would take 70-75 years before women could achieve equality in leadership positions in the West.
"That ratio [in cabinet] throws it all away," he said.
"You would have to predict it will take well over a century if you have one woman in cabinet. They can be at lower levels, [but] as they go up the scale, the glass ceilings come into effect.
"When the O'Farrell government won in a landslide, the number of women in the lower house dropped markedly.
"You have three female CEOs/general managers out of about 150 councils in the state.
"The men who dismiss it say women don't want to be leaders, which is rubbish."
Dr Smith also lamented that Australia's female political leaders were more likely to be subjected to greater abuse than their male counterparts.
"If you're under-utilising half of your population, how are you going to be truly successful?
"We need a higher number of women in the cabinet, so they can act as role models and mentor other women."
Newly elected Liberal Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis said they were a merit-based party in which you "have to earn your stripes".
"We have never believed in quotas … Most [of those appointed] have been shadow ministers for some time," she said.
"I didn't get pre-selected because I was female; it was because I was the best candidate to go forward.
"That makes a woman feel better about herself and gives her confidence, because she knows she got the job because she was the best person for it, rather than because of genetics."
She said claims Mr Abbott was a misogynist was "nothing more than muckraking".
She added he was "one of the most gentlemanly members of Parliament I've met".