At the current rate of progress, gender equality of MLAs at Stormont will only take another 65 years

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Bronagh Hinds’ chapter of Everyday Life After the Irish Conflict: The Impact of Devolution and Cross-Border Cooperation [reviewed yesterday] examines women’s political participation points to limited progress in addressing the gender balance of political institutions.

The proportion of councillors who are female rose to 24 per cent in 2011 from 14 per cent in 2000.

Sounds good. But of the 14 opportunities for co-option in the NI Assembly between 2007 and 2012 2010 “to replace MLAs who had resigned or died, including to three seats previously held by women” the parties “decided in every one of these fourteen instances that a man should fill the vacancy”.

Percentage of female candidates for parties in 2011 Assembly electionSounds not so good.

In the 2011 Assembly election, fewer women stood as candidates than 2007.

The BNP, Alliance and Sinn Fein were far ahead of the other parties in terms of their proportion of female candidates.

Yet despite the low ration of candidates, more women MLAs were elected and indeed women “topped the poll in almost a quarter of the constituencies”.

Screen Shot 2012-03-10 at 08.39.00Mick touched on the subject last March, and included this table in his post, suggesting that quotas are often used to make a difference.

Local politician – and in particular, local women politicians – are very unsure about the use of quotas, preferring to be chosen on merit not gender.

Without a major intervention, it seems unlikely that 50:50 will be reached anytime soon. Bronagh Hinds explains:

However, at the current rate of progress it would take sixteen election cycles, about sixty-five years, for women to become 50 per cent of MLAs, and thirteen elections, spanning fifty-two years, to reach gender balance in councils.

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  • Cric

    My wife prefers to be a full time mum – I’d prefer to go to work and not to be a full time dad. There is a sex bias for these preferences – more women prefer to stay at home than men – and not everyone can afford childcare. This is not coercive, my missus gives me dirty looks every time I suggest she get a job.

    So given that there will always be at least a slightly smaller pool of women who potentially want to work the long hours associated with politics we shouldn’t be artificially pushing those women ahead of men using a kind of PSNI style ‘positive’ discrimination, if that’s what you are suggesting.

  • MALCOLMX

     “But of the 14 opportunities for co-option in the NI Assembly between 2007 and 2012 “to replace MLAs who had resigned or died, including to three seats previously held by women” the parties “decided in every one of these fourteen instances that a man should fill the vacancy”.

    This is not true, at least were SF is concerned. Martina andersons, paul maskey, Michelle gildernew and conor murphy were all replaced by females within this time period.

    It is very stark when comparing SF and the various unionist parties how much unionism is still an old mans club, obviously unionist supremacy exist also within their parties as to who goes forward for election. Once again shows that unionists dont understand the word equality.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    From a list on Wikipedia

    1. Alastair Ross (DUP, 14 May 2007; elected 5 May 2011)
    2. Danny Kinahan (UUP, 9 June 2009; elected 5 May 2011)
    3. Billy Leonard (Sinn Féin, 7 January 2010; did not seek re-election)
    4. Jonathan Bell (DUP, 25 January 2010; elected 5 May 2011)
    5. Conall McDevitt (SDLP, 21 January 2010; elected 5 May 2011)
    6. Paul Givan (DUP, 10 June 2010; elected 5 May 2011)
    7. Paul Frew (DUP, 21 June 2010; elected 5 May 2011)
    8. Sydney Anderson (DUP, 1 July 2010; elected 5 May 2011)
    9. Paul Girvan (DUP, 1 July 2010; elected 5 May 2011)
    10. Chris Lyttle (Alliance, 5 July 2010; elected 5 May 2011)
    11. Simpson Gibson (DUP, 2 August 2010; did not seek re-election)
    12. William Humphrey (DUP, 13 September 2010; elected 5 May 2011)
    13. Pól Callaghan (SDLP, 15 November 2010; not re-elected)
    14. Pat Sheehan (Sinn Féin, 7 December 2010; elected 5 May 2011)

    I’ve fixed my typo above – the 14 were between 2007 and 2010.

    I do note that the previous three co-options had been women:

    Sue Ramsey (Sinn Féin, 29 November 2004; elected 7 March 2007)
    Marietta Farrell (SDLP, 9 January 2007; not re-elected)
    Dawn Purvis (PUP, 24 January 2007; elected 7 March 2007)

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    You lost me in the headline.

    Please adequately define “gender neutrality”.

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    I’ll be impressed (from beyond the grave, probably) if we get as far as 40/60 by then! The endless, largely unremarked parade of XY chromosomes, the mascot-isation of the odd female candidate and the ghettoisation of so-called ‘women’s issues’ in favour of ‘universal’ macho bickering are massive turn-offs from the whole party political process.

  • David Crookes

    Agree 100%, Cric.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    This is not true, at least were SF is concerned. Martina andersons, paul maskey, Michelle gildernew and conor murphy were all replaced by females within this time period.

    Anderson was replaced by Maeve McLaughlin when she stood down.
    Maskey was replaced by Rosie McCorley.
    Gildernew was replaced by Bronwyn McGahan.
    Murphy was replaced by Megan Fearon (who was, as the media noted, only 20).

    In fairness to SF they do have a policy that if a female rep stands down or dies, that they will only be replaced by another female. It’s one way to keep up their gender balance, though there have been headaches caused at times by trying to find candidates for co-option.

  • MALCOLMX

    Scath thanks for that detail which I didnt have time to input earlier.

    Murphy and maskey were replaced by females so SF do were possible try to push for more representation from females although there needs to be a balance if young male talent may lose out when in individual cases maybe better placed to do the job.

    Its definitely a difficult balancing act.

  • 925p

    Of course quotas are a controversial measure, for both men and women. How you view equality is another aspect. Is it equality of opportunity or equality of result? Does equality exist just because you remove barriers to participation?

    There are many good women within our political parties, they need to be placed in winnable constituencies. If that means quotes then so be it. Once the party reflects the whole of society then quotas will no longer be needed.