Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore if women who are in positions of leadership are influenced by gender when voting for a party led by a female candidate and if perceptions of the media's portrayal of a woman candidate influences the voting preferences of women leaders.
Design/methodology/approach - The paper reports the results of an online survey of women leaders to provide a pre-election analysis about how they would vote and what was influencing their vote for Gillard, if they chose to vote for her. Data were analysed using Content Analysis and Descriptive Statistical Analysis.
Findings - Although gender does influence the vote of women leaders for a woman candidate, they use different decision criteria to influence their voting preferences of a female candidate, of which the woman candidate's views and priorities play a major part.
Research limitations/implications - The small sample size was not statistically representative and the data were self-reported and not validated post voting. A random and larger sample is required as well as further research comparing how Abbott was portrayed in the media and how men would vote for the party leaders.
Practical implications - The paper highlights that female candidates need to clearly assert their views and priorities during an election campaign and foreshadows women's evaluation of Gillard's achievements for women, in the next election.
Originality/value - Based in a unique time in Australia's political history which led to a woman being elected prime minister of a minority government and it explores how women in leadership perceived and reacted to the electoral environment at the time.