Dr Sharman Stone. Photo: Ken Irwin
Tony Abbott is under pressure to find space for more women in his ministry, with one Coalition member saying many female MPs were the ''best qualified'' candidates for frontbench roles.
Having weathered criticism during the campaign for describing his daughters as ''not bad looking'' and praising the ''sex appeal'' of his candidate (now MP) Fiona Scott, the prime minister-elect is open to attack over the under-representation of women in his senior ranks.
It is expected one senior Liberal woman, Bronwyn Bishop - a former minister for aged care and defence industry, science and personnel in the Howard government - will be passed over for cabinet promotion and will instead be offered the Speaker role.
Tony Abbott with Senator Michaelia Cash. Photo: Penny Bradfield
At present, only one woman - Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop - is certain to join Mr Abbott's cabinet, which is expected to be announced on Monday.
The only other female member of Mr Abbott's 20-member shadow cabinet, Sophie Mirabella, has excluded herself from frontbench selection.
Mr Abbott's deliberations will be made more difficult by a need to reduce the size of his frontbench from 32 to the maximum allowed of 30.
Among the contenders for promotion are Sharman Stone, who served as minister for workforce participation and parliamentary secretary during the Howard government. A supporter of Malcolm Turnbull, Dr Stone was moved from the immigration portfolio to childcare by Mr Abbott when he assumed the Liberal leadership in December 2009 and was dumped from the frontbench after the 2010 election.
Dr Stone said it was important there was a balance of men and women in the ministry.
''We should have the best people in each position,'' Dr Stone said on Friday.
''There will be many women in Parliament right now who will be the best equipped and the best experienced and the best qualified.''
Other possibilities for promotion include West Australian senator Michaelia Cash, Victorian MP Kelly O'Dwyer and NSW senator Marise Payne.
Senator Cash, who was shadow parliamentary secretary for the status of women, made headlines recently with a speech in which she denounced the Labor ''sisterhood'' after the leadership spill against Julia Gillard.
''I wonder how loud former prime minister Gillard screamed when her own sisterhood knifed her in the back,'' she said in the Senate chamber.
Ms O'Dwyer is viewed as a possible future leader, but her lack of frontbench experience could cruel her chances of being elevated to cabinet.
Senator Payne, who is shadow minister for housing and indigenous development and employment, also has strong experience in defence, trade and foreign affairs.
Two female Nationals MPs were elected to leadership positions in their party yesterday, with Fiona Nash becoming deputy Senate leader and Bridget McKenzie becoming Senate whip.