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This Female Politician Got Her Job Title Changed To Remove "Man" From "Chairman"

"It's a small victory but it does matter."

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UPDATE: Two weeks after this article was published, the signage outside the Deputy President's office has been updated from "chairman" to "chair".

A small but important step! Thanks Senate Services. @workmanalice #auspol @EMILYsListAus

Newly elected deputy president of the senate Sue Lines has successfully petitioned federal parliament to gender neutralise her official title and remove the "man" from "chairman".

Visited the new senate office today, some things still need to change #mansplaining #auspol

The Labor senator was elected deputy president of the senate and chairman of committees on Tuesday, and immediately inquired about changing the sign outside her office from "chairman" to "chair".

"I wouldn't feel comfortable walking into an office every day which had the word 'man' outside," she told BuzzFeed News.

Technically, the sign is a typo.

Under the Gillard government, titles and parliamentary language were officially neutralised, and the deputy president's job title was changed from "chairman" to "chair".

But the sign outside the office still reads chairman.

The parliamentary staff told Lines they "just hadn't noticed" the title was incorrect.

"You haven't noticed because you've only had males in the job!" she retorted.

Lines is the third female deputy president, the last was in 2002, but she is the first to question the office signage.

It will take a "few weeks" for it to be updated, but Lines hasn't ruled out getting a chisel and removing the letters "m-a-n" herself if things take too long.

Lines concedes gender neutralising language is a small victory, but she thinks it's an important one in a parliament where men still vastly outnumber women.

Sue Lines / Via Facebook: SueLinesWA

"It does matter... Parliament is quite a blokey place. You only have to look at the sea of men on the Coalition's side of the chamber. They have less women now than they did last parliament," she said.

Fewer than one in five Coalition MPs are women, and despite prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s declaration that “women hold up half the sky” women don't hold up half of federal parliament. They barely represent one third.

There are 73 female to 153 male politicians in Australia’s house of democracy. That ranks us at 49th in the world for female representation in parliament behind Cuba, Nepal, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago, Cameroon, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique and East Timor.

Lines says her next battle will be over gender representation on parliamentary committees.

"Defence committees are always made up of men, and women end up on health and education committees. In other countries they've introduced quotas to even out the representation so that's something we could consider here."

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at

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