Gender-wise philanthropy is proving a game changer for gender equality

Media Release: 16 November 2021:

In a year when the challenges for women in politics have rarely been out of the headlines, a program which has boosted the number of diverse candidates standing for election has won a major philanthropic award.

The Trawalla Foundation, Women’s Leadership Institute Australia (WLIA) and the University of Melbourne have today been named winners of the Eve Mahlab AO Gender-wise Philanthropy Award 2021 for their Pathways to Politics Program for Women

The program’s goal to redress the chronic underrepresentation of women in Australian parliaments has already created pathways to electoral success in a remarkably short period of time, the judges noted.

Named after gender equality pioneer and donor Eve Mahlab AO the award recognizes outstanding initiatives that strengthen society through philanthropic investments that target women and girls and use an evidence-based approach for long-term impact that advances gender equality.

Eve Mahlab AO


Pathways to Politics was launched in 2015 by the Trawalla Foundation with the University of Melbourne and the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, and is now also run by QUT and UNSW with plans to make it nationally available, said Carol Schwartz AO, Chair, leading philanthropist and founder of WLIA.

“Six years ago, we launched the Pathways to Politics Program for Women with Professor Glyn Davis AC, the Honourable Julie Bishop and the Honourable Tanya Plibersek in partnership with the University of Melbourne.

First session of Pathway to Politics for Women in 2016 – Prof Margaret Sheil AO, Prof Margaret Gardner AC, Carol Schwartz AO, Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, Prof Glyn Davis AC

Today the Program’s aspirations are taking effect, with 14 of the program’s alumni successfully elected to federal, state, and local government and the majority of alumni indicating they will run in the next ten years.”

Australian women are still significantly underrepresented across all levels of politics, limiting their participation in public life and, crucially, the decision-making shaping our nation, said Sarah Buckley, Chief of Staff for Carol Schwartz AO, and CEO of Trawalla Foundation.

“We’re very proud that the Pathways to Politics Program for Women is genuinely changing the face of politics in Australia”, said Buckley who also acknowledged Eve Mahlab AO as an amazing role model pushing for greater gender equality in this country.

Buckley said they have no doubt the program will continue to go from strength to strength in the coming years.

The Pathways to Politics Program for Women is the first Australian multi-partisan initiative aimed at political gender parity and equipping women to succeed in running for elected office, and to thrive as political leaders.

The Philanthropy Australia Awards are announced annually and the Eve Mahlab AO Gender-wise Philanthropy Award is a partnership initiative of Australians Investing In Women (AIIW) as part of their advocacy for an intentional focus on gender equity in giving. AIIW encourages all Australians – particularly philanthropic, corporate, and community leaders – to apply a gender-lens to their giving and increase investment in women and girls, to help create a fairer and more inclusive society.

The Award is in its sixth year however this is the first time it honours AIIW’s co-founder and her lifelong advocacy for women and girls and the first under Australians Investing In Women (established as Australian Women Donors Network and rebranded in 2020).

Reflecting on the Award, AIIW CEO, Julie Reilly OAM, ; “This highly strategic multi-year investment is a great illustration of philanthropy as a powerful lever for gender equality.  By supporting individual women seeking political office, and at the same time addressing systemic gender inequality by boosting the number of women in our parliaments, it ensures a healthy, diverse, and inclusive democracy.”


For media enquiries please contact Julie Reilly at

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