Women’s Day: More women in pol­i­tics? It’s 2016!

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

When asked why he had picked a gen­der par­ity cab­i­net the Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter replied “be­cause its 2015” – a sim­ple ri­poste to a jour­nal­ist’s ques­tion of why there should be more women in pol­i­tics. asks if par­lia­ments or gov­ern­ments can be a mir­ror re­flec­tion of so­ci­ety. The point is that to­day our con­cept of rep­re­sen­ta­tion has changed in com­par­i­son with even that of last cen­tury. We talk of in­clu­sive pol­i­tics and ci­ti­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion which cov­ers women but also other un­der­rep­re­sented groups (the dis­abled, those with mi­gra­tion back­ground, eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups). The think­ing be­hind this is to achieve a wider form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with pol­i­tics than in the past so that not only will more cit­i­zens feel it has a rel­e­vance to bear on their lives but that they could also play an ac­tive part in shap­ing de­ci­sions. Whereas for most pro­fes­sions, qual­i­fi­ca­tions and job de­scrip­tion are pretty clear, for pol­i­tics th­ese are at best neb­u­lous fa­cil­i­tat­ing “jobs for the boys” or re­ward­ing party loy­alty. Pro­mo­tion and dis­missal fol­low on an equally mys­te­ri­ous ba­sis.



Even in Canada it has been noted that gen­der par­ity is just one side of the story. When it comes to an­swer­ing par­lia­men­tary ques­tions and dom­i­nat­ing the head­lines, it is still the male min­is­ters that steal the lime­light. Bri­tish Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn also learnt the les­son that par­ity is not enough when he proudly pre­sented his shadow cab­i­net com­posed of 50% women only to be crit­i­cised by fe­male Labour MPs com­ment­ing that the top jobs had gone to the boys.

For­eign affairs, fi­nance and in­te­rior min­istries at­tract key me­dia at­ten­tion and here there were no women to be seen. Cor­byn awk­wardly at­tempted to jus­tify the choice by ar­gu­ing that for Labour the re­ally im­por­tant posts are in education and so­cial affairs but it wore thin with the ladies. Cur­rently just over 10% of se­nior party staff in the Labour party are fe­male whilst 44% of the mem­ber­ship are women.

Spain and France had in the past a gen­der par­ity cab­i­net and now Swe­den too whilst some EU coun­tries tra­di­tion­ally have no women in their cab­i­nets at all such as Greece, Slo­vakia and Hun­gary. In Ire­land lead­ers have pledged to aim for gen­der par­ity in the next govern­ment, a coun­try where fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in par­lia­ment has hov­ered around 15%.

It is the par­ties that are the gate­keep­ers to a political ca­reer and there­fore be­gin­ning with their de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­cesses from the lo­cal level up, is a sound way to pro­mote more women in political life. Par­ties could al­lo­cate more of their bud­get for ex­am­ple to their women’s sec­tions which could be used for child care or for train­ing can­di­dates. Of­ten they nom­i­nate fed­eral elec­tion of­fi­cials who can play a key role in judg­ing dis­putes. Ef­forts can also be made to go tal­ent spot­ting as the Scot­tish Na­tional Party did to ac­tively re­cruit women.

That im­por­tance of the me­dia’s pres­ence was high­lighted in the UK par­lia­men­tary elec­tions last year. Af­ter some hag­gling it was agreed there would be tele­vi­sion de­bates with lead­ers of all the main par­ties in­clud­ing those from the re­gions. This in­cluded fe­male lead­ers from Scot­land and Wales and also the fe­male leader of the Greens.

Dur­ing the de­bates it was judged th­ese out­per­formed the men in the de­bates but they were rel­a­tively un­known. They were the most “googled” dur­ing the live shows than the oth­ers and sub­se­quently be­came house­hold names, like Ni­cola Stur­geon out­side of her na­tive Scot­land.

One way to in­crease aware­ness would be for political par­ties but also re­gional and lo­cal gov­ern­ments to pub­lish on their web­pages, as many par­lia­ments do, in­for­ma­tion on num­bers and posts held by women as well as facts and fig­ures on their can­di­dates for of­fice. Should tar­gets not be met then ex­pla­na­tions could be given. Can­di­dates not se­lected of­ten have lit­tle feed­back and qual­i­fi­ca­tions re­quired from the par­ties could be made more ex­plicit in the in­ter­ests of trans­parency.

Why? Be­cause it’s 2016.

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