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

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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