Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Gender Quotas

There has been talk in recent days about the need to improve the representation by women in the political process. Gender quotas - where there are separate competitions for women and men - are proposed as a possible solution. Some male commentators, presumably in a need to demonstrate their feminist credentials, claim that this is grossly insulting to women.

Well insult me if you like, because any change to the current political system that removes the inherent bias against women gets my vote time and again.

By its very nature, the political process attracts a certain type of character. Generally these individuals are passionate about making a difference and want to leave their mark on society. The very process of putting oneself forward for public evaluation will surely only appeal to those who are confident that they will withstand this scrutiny or else those who don't care about the outcome. I know that it is something of a sweeping generalisation but these characteristics tend to be alpha male linked. Even the phrase "fighting an election" speaks to a male perspective. I'd argue that most female candidates who stand for election do so as something of a last resort. Their preference would be for the issue to be addressed rather than have themselves elected . Cathy Sinnott + Autism Services is a case in point. But single issue candidates tend only to capture support from those people interested in that particular issue. (Of course this is probably a good thing for society.) Women tend to care less about getting the credit and more that the issue be addressed. So should we be surprised that male candidates predominate?

Now don't get me wrong, I imagine that there are many many men who take a similar view and hence self-select themselves out of the election process. So rather than have separate lists of male and female candidates, perhaps we should have a list of people who want to run for election and one of people who we'd like to try to persuade to represent us. Having 1/2 of our public representatives reluctantly serving the national good has to be better than having all of the Oireachtas so disposed.

It's just a thought.


Blogger KnackeredKaz said...

I once interviewed several male politicians and lobbyists involved in politics about the number of women involved in the sector. Time and time again they said "We'd love to have more women involved, but they don't seem to be interested. Women don't put themselves forward for selection for election".

When I put it to them that perhaps if there was adequate childcare in Dail Eireann and provisions for working mothers, or perks or extra help that in fact men in many sectors recieve (company car, mobile phone, golf club membershpi etc) then maybe it would be a different story?

They hadn't even considered that. In fact one of them actually said something like "now that's a good idea". It hadn't crossed their minds that perhaps one reason why women don't put themselves forward for election or get involved in politics is because they have children/families to consider.

I then spoke to a female politician who had been a county councillor for 25 years and she said "If I was a younger woman now starting out in politics and I had a family, I just wouldn't do it. Childcare is a nightmare and you're given no help in either local or national government at all."

Add to this the fact that politics is male dominated and opportunities and support for women are blatantly less than for men and it's no wonder there is an imbalance in the chamber. It is almost an unwritten rule that if a party runs a male and female candidate in the one constituency that the female candidate will be used to shore up votes for the man and not as a candidate in her own right.

Ok, rant over from me! It's a thorny issue alright! I like your blog, I'll be back! Thanks for taking the time to look at mine and comment too!

11:03 p.m., October 25, 2005  
Blogger MaxiSmeg said...

Excuse the late comments.

I haven't researched this myself but one of my lecturers often refers to it in passing.

A lot of women get involved through accidental activism as you mentioned. An issue doesn't get addressed and they try to make the difference.

There is no provision as Knackered Kaz points out to make it any easier for women to get into politics. Fianna Fail is introducing 50% quota for women at selection stage.

Ireland is behind on this issue even with some high profile women in important positions. In local government I think it currently stands at approximately 18%.

France has around 50% at local level. Sweden is phenomenonal in this regard at the central level.

If you're interested you should check those out.

...I'm sure I intended to contribute something original. I just can't remember what it was...

11:39 p.m., November 04, 2005  

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