Gender quotas

Over on the Anti-Room group blog, Amanda posts about female political representation and gender quotas. She notes:

Now we hear news that Irish female politicians as a group (all be it a very small one in comparison to their male counterparts) are not in favour of introducing quotas to ensure a greater number of women get into power.

A very thorough article in today’s Irish Times by political correspondent Mary Minihan, found that of the 23 female TDs currently in power,

“Fourteen are against and eight are for a proposal that candidate quota legislation be introduced in an attempt to bring more women into politics. One TD is undecided on the issue.”

The NI Assembly currently has 15 female MLAS sitting alongside 93 male MLAs. That’s exactly the same proportion (13.9%) as the Dáil.

Up at Stormont, the party breakdown is 8 Sinn Féin; 3 SDLP; 2 DUP; 1 Alliance; 1 Other; 0 UUP. At the last Assembly election, 18 female MLAs were elected, but three have moved on, all replaced with males: Iris Robinson (DUP), Carmel Hanna (SDLP) and Naomi Long (Alliance).

Amanda goes on

The main issue here though, is whether introducing quotas would downgrade all women’s place and participation in main steam politics …

This is a country that implemented a blasphemy law so as not to offend religious people, yet refusing women an equal voice in power is not openly considered ignorant, even by the women who are in power …

It brings an old Roddy Doyle quote to mind.

It seems the land once ruled by Queen Medb is still firmly under the heel of religiously implemented patriarchical power.

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  • I dont believe in quotas for women or any other group. Equality means just that.

    M Robinson didnt need it, nor did M McAleese, although she only won because we all wanted another Robinson. M Thatcher didnt need it, and as much as I disagreed with her on everything els, she was right to get there on merit.

  • Mark McGregor

    SF’s AC operates on gender equality. Has meant female nominee’s being automatically selected while males faced party election.

  • Drumlin Rock

    The issue is not at the top, politicians don’t come out of thin air they are selected usually because of a proven record within their parties, or else a high profile in the community. That is where the problem has to be tackled.

  • So that explains why Ruane got where she is. A shining example of why gender selection does not work.

  • Mark McGregor
  • Drumlin Rock

    Well that’s the debate over now i guess 🙂

  • Mark McGregor

    Just read it, who would have thought I would agree with anything in Anphoblacht, but I must say, with a couple of reservations, I agreed.

    There are as many women voters as men, women are very able to speak for themselves and, on occasion, others.

  • Mark McGregor

    Justin’s a smart cookie.

  • White Horse

    Contrary to Justin’s view, I would have thought that Sinn Fein is just a photo opportunity and rather a joke as a political party.

  • Kevin Barry

    That was quite a good read, well thought out as well.

  • Granni Trixie

    I do not like the idea of quotas to address the glass ceiling existing in political culture. Would constantantly make an MLA wrong footed.

    On the plus side however quotas may be the only way we will can tackle this problem. The special measures of Patton at recruitment stage for instance seemed to have addressed the imbalance of P & C.

    Despite the figures (which speak for themselves) however the big stumbling block is lack of recognition by political parties that there is a problem of gender imbalance which they need to address.

  • Mark McGregor

    GT,

    As the article by Moran and god knows how many ‘selection’ conventions prove, we have to be honest and admit the only elected party in Ireland making even an half-hearted attempt to address gender imbalance is SF. The rest seem happy to deal with addressing a not very many members issue 😉

  • Drumlin Rock

    and all those mothers of 11 yr olds are saying thanks Sinn Fein, We are glad you promote people because of their gender and not their ability.

  • As one of those women TDs I have commented on the blog referred to above and linked to here:

    http://theantiroom.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/female-politicians-reject-quotas/

    Just a reply to Mark McGregor’s point above – Sinn Fein have no women TDs.

  • On Mark McGregor’s point again (should have read it right the first time). Actually I agree with the article you link to. That is the issue – more women members.

  • wee buns

    Quotas don’t cut the mustard, such is tokenism, when the issues that effect women in politics are: family friendly hours; the four C’s…cash, childcare, culture and confidence; work-life balance; target setting versus quotas; getting more women to vote for women.

    How the GFA has panned out, it polarized politics, so everybody has to be segregated Nationist, Unionist or Other, which squeezed out small parties like the Woman’s Coalition, which was pretty stoopid, seeing as they were the genuine grass roots female cross community article.

  • Granni Trixie

    Much as I long for a system in which women have an equal chance in politics, this is not above other values. So even if SF makes an effort to address the problem (and I am not sure that they really do) this policy is not enough to make me a supporter.

  • drumlins rock

    I agree with your four C’s, but of course these have to apply to all politicians, and at the moment we have “open season” on all politicians by the media, including the online media.
    As for the WC, the system was designed to suit small parties, we have a 5 party government for goodness sake, but the electorate rejected them, its called democracy!
    But its seems the ladies of the WC are more interested in the anti democratic world of Quangoland these days.

  • Oracle

    There is no such thing as positive discrimination….. Bringing through people into important positions because they possess a vagina is just completely insane.

    Here’s your new health minister hasn’t a clue about management, budgets, targets, advancements, unions, or community care… but sure don’t worry about that, he’s black!

    Here’s your new Lord Chief Justice worked as a solicitor’s clerk for a few years and is really devoid of knowledge of European law… but sure don’t worry about that, just look at his shinny new wheelchair!

    Here’s your new Minister, she’s completely unable to make decisions and has let herself get bullied constantly over the years… but sure don’t worry about that sure she has a vagina!

    The Cream rises to the top they say, but Shite floats too, now we want to equip the Shite with airbags as well???

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    We have to face the reality, whatever the rights and wrong of the current system, it is not delivering fairness on gender. 13 per cent of MLAs being women is just ridiculous. We really have to look at quotas, if only as a temporary measure. Laissez-faire on gender fairness is all very well if it works, but can people really show me evidence it is working?

  • Neil

    I suppose it also boils down to interest. Plenty of women like politics, football and formula one. More don’t though or at least think there are many more important things in life, so maybe the question ought to be why are so few women interested in politics, or maybe it ought to be why are so many men obsessed with it?

  • Danny Boy

    I think the real question is what we mean here when we say ‘politics’. What passes for ‘politics’ in NI is a very narrow set of interests and behaviours. If you’re not engaged in macho sectarian posturing, you’re not seen as being ‘political’, so it’s no wonder so many people react to ‘politics’ as if it were a dirty word. We have been exceptionally slow to make our politicians realise that what they often dismiss as ‘women’s issues’ – the childcare vs paid work, reproductive health and freedom from the fear of violence, for example – are in fact much more universal concerns than the endless tit-for-tat point scoring of a tiny cadre of old white men in suits.

  • Danny Boy

    I think the real question is what we mean here when we say ‘politics’. What passes for ‘politics’ in NI is a very narrow set of interests and behaviours. If you’re not engaged in macho sectarian posturing, you’re not seen as being ‘political’, so it’s no wonder so many people react to ‘politics’ as if it were a dirty word. We have been exceptionally slow to make our politicians realise that what they often dismiss as ‘women’s issues’ – childcare vs paid work, reproductive health and freedom from the fear of violence, for example – are in fact much more universal concerns than the endless tit-for-tat point scoring of a tiny cadre of old white men in suits.

  • Danny Boy

    Sorry! Bit trigger happy there : )

  • tinkerbell

    I think the recent Hansard from the Environment Committee is worth considering in the debate, for those not aware of it.

    Just a sample of strange perceptions.

    ‘Many women cannot leave the house at teatime, although they might be able to do so at other times. If more women were in political life, those issues could be addressed.’

    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/committees2009/Environment/100520LocalGovDisqualificationAmendmentBill2.htm

  • tinkerbell

    ‘Many women cant leave the house at tea time’???

    How very nineteenth century of Hansard – and NI

    The mind just boggles..

  • Damian O’Loan

    The record pointed to by Tinkerbell is interesting. The quote is taken from Dr Margaret Ward, who was representing the Women’s Resource & Development Agency. She was looking at barriers to female participation. It is reflective of the quality of evidence that was given.

    Dr Wilford from Queen’s, along with the Dr Ward and Ms Carvill, only really made a case for positive discrimination. As Oracle provocatively pointed out, positive discrimination is not uncontroversial.

    I disagree with it for the same reasons I disagree with prejudice in general. If you disagree with quotas for women, you should logically oppose 50/50 PSNI recruitment, and personally I do. Because democratically the means are more important than the ends.

    The problem, as others have rightly stated, is the dire standard of debate in public life and the violence associated with it. If those two factors were addressed, you wouldn’t have to enforce quotas. The one measure that would address all of these would be term limits – as mentioned by Prof. Wilford – and another is encouraging generational change by giving youth wings more power to influence policy, with the accompanying responsibility. Another is offering low-cost memberships and one-off low-cost voting rights for candidate selections.

    Another issue is that female participation at senior level does not guarantee female representation, as seen more clearly in the private sector. It’s like expecting Iris Robinson to support minority interests.

    Glad to see another female blogger on Slugger by the way.

  • wee buns

    ‘As for the WC, the system was designed to suit small parties, we have a 5 party government for goodness sake, but the electorate rejected them, its called democracy!’

    Yer DR we all know what it is called, and we all know what tripe goes down in it’s name too. After the assembly was in the first instance elected, it was a mistake to dismantle the negotiating framework of the Multi-Party Talks, as it then became impossible to include all the parties to resolve the outstanding issues, to implement the GFA . Instead the problem was framed as being between unionists and nationalists. That was done by those professional mediators from both governments….NOT by the electorate.
    Which ensued in polarization…. long political stalemates ….the decommissioned patriarchy inches tediously towards it’s gruelling task of …er…talking to each other.
    Is it any wonder women are inclined to be disdainful spectators.

  • wee buns

    ‘If you’re not engaged in macho sectarian posturing, you’re not seen as being ‘political’

    DB, good point; the past tweleve years has been consumed utterly by the a patriarchal crisis of not talking, brinkmanship, recriminations, threats, the usual shite. FAR more important than jobs, economic development, child care and after school programs, education and training, transportation (especially in rural areas), healthcare, domestic violence, children’s rights,

  • The system in the north is designed to maintain the status quo, but some women are putting in the time to make a difference. Robinson was not defeated by another unionist or even a man. He was defeated by a woman, and a non sectarian one at that!

    Women do not need special treatment or relaxation of rules, they need a salary that allows them to make satisfactory arrangements, given that they can outperform most men and I believe would have zero time for sectarianism or the, alleged, abuses of the system. Of the examples we see in Stormont, the successful women members are without exception non sectarian.

    Hansard is the UK method of recording debates but it does sound so old, and quoting from it on a debate such is this is like the icing on the cake…

  • Granni Trixie

    Pipakin

    Dont know that I would agree with you that women in politics tend to be more or less sectarian than men.
    (though women probably cuter than men at covering up).
    Most parties are structured and have policies based on a sectarian basis after all.

    The case for more women in politics is based on equality not virtue and the need for the place to be run with all the talents, so a lack of women in the mix cuts out around 50% talent/diversity.

  • Granni Trixie

    Tinkerbell

    Thanks, this quote is great (couldn’t make it up, could you).

  • Granni Trixie

    Better and better – the quote is from Mgt Ward!!

  • Granni Trixie

    I have already given my opinion of quotas and on the whole I think women are politically more able and less sectarian. As far as Im concerned the examples in Stormont, with one or two exceptions, demonstrate that.

    The glass ceiling. if it exists, has never prevented the most able from achieving their ambitions. Equality means just that. It does not mean jumping over the heads of others no matter what their sex, race or ability.

    It is more than possible that most women, given their other responsibilities are unable to pursue a political, or any other, major executive career. If salaries allowed them to delegate some of those responsibilities that might change.