Why ask a question when the answer is there to see? Yesterday, Felicity Huston, asked why there was no improvement in the proportion of women appointed to serve as members and/or chairs of public bodies in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Public Appointments highlighted that:
In 2005/06 men hold 68% of all public appointments in Northern Ireland and 75% of chair appointments.
The statistics she used were taken from the 10th annual report on public appointments (pdf file). This data is pretty clear, it isn’t the appointment process but the lack of applicants that is the problem. (Hat tip to Wild Turkey and Rubicon for making me take a deeper look).
In 2005/2006 the 10th Annual report shows that 13% of applicants for the Chair positions and 29% of applicants for all available positions were female. However in 2005/06, 18% of chair positions and 35% of all appointments were women (a slight bias in favour of female candidates of 5% and 6% respectively).
Rubicon also highlighted Simpson’s paradox in which:
the successes of several groups seem to be reversed when the groups are combined. This seemingly impossible result is encountered surprisingly often in social science and medical statistics, and occurs when a weighting variable which is not relevant to the individual group assessment must be used in the combined assessment.
One of the best known examples of this paradox is the Berkeley sex bias case where:
U. C. Berkeley was sued for bias against women applying to grad school. The admission figures showed that men applying were more likely than women to be admitted, and the difference was so large that it was unlikely to be due to chance. However when examining the individual departments, it was found that no department was significantly biased against women; in fact, most departments had a small (and not very significant) bias against men. The explanation turned out to be that women tended to apply to departments with low rates of admission, while men tended to apply to departments with high rates of admission.
Could such a paradox be in operation here? Yes, it could. You have a wide range of bodies and positions all looking for different skill sets and the 2005/06 figures for each Department show a very uneven spread of female applicants. For positions on Executive NDPBs and HPSS Bodies, the Department of Cultural Arts and Leisure, Department of Social Development and Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister all received no female applicants. The remaining Departments rank as follows:
DARD – 11% female applicants (-18% below total applicant %)
DRD – 18% female applicants (-11% below total applicant %)
DE – 28% female applicants (-1% below total applicant %)
DETI – 34% female applicants (5% above total applicant %)
DEnv – 35% female applicants (6% above total applicant %)
DHSSPS – 35% female applicants (6% above total applicant %)
DEL – 38% female applicants (9% above the total applicant %)
Now that Felicity Huston has raised the issue of female representation and distortions on public bodies she may also care to look at the suprising ability of members of the NIWC to gain appointments to key public bodies.