The political equality struggle

What do the Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, Lord Tui Afitu, and Irish parliamentarian Lucinda Creighton TD have in common? They don’t like gender quotas. Lord Tui Afitu in fact doesn’t altogether see the point of having women in parliament at all. He has just been reported as saying:

‘Increasing women’s share of seats in parliament alone is not a solution and does not guarantee that they will make decisions that benefit the majority of women.’

Women, he said, have a ‘mystical status’, and he perhaps therefore thinks that this is incompatible with the rough and tumble of politics.

Lucinda Creighton, to be fair, doesn’t have any doubts about the contribution women politicians can make, but she doesn’t want them to get into parliament on the back of gender quotas, and she opposed moves to introduce these in her party, Fine Gael. But she is speaking as one of only 23 female members of the Irish lower house, Dáil Éireann. That means that women constitute  just under 14 per cent of Irish parliamentarians. This compares with 21 per cent in the UK, 33 per cent in Germany, and 46 per cent in Sweden.

And then, how can this improve at all when the new Fine Gael/Labour government in Ireland can only manage to include two women in the new cabinet? Yes, the pool is limited, but it does contain some highly competent women – and far more than two – who would make excellent ministers.

The fact is, if people like Lucinda Creighton do believe that women should be more visible in the political landscape, then it would seem increasingly logical to conclude that some measure such as quotas will be required to break the existing pattern. The argument that eventually women will break through because their obvious talents will push the system that way doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, as this things have not really got much better over recent years. It is time to get more radical.

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11 Comments on “The political equality struggle”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Granted.
    Seems though that having Social Protection -for no matter how you rename it’s the Ministry for Workhouses- is the most insanely damaging political appointment for a leftwing politician. Especially a politician that’s instantly identifiable. I hold that the actions of Proinsias De Rossa in that portfolio caused the non-reelection of the last Labour attempt.

  2. anna notaro Says:

    *It is time to get more radical* Yes, I could not agree more,the situation is dire because politicians and the finance sector join forces in seeing quotas as a threat (see http://www.efinancialnews.com/story/2011-02-24/lord-davies-report-women-in-boards)and in rejecting the Eu comminsion’s idea of imposing quotas on women in business (http://euobserver.com/9/31944. If anything quotas should be considered for other sectors as well besides the financial one. The
    http://www.quotaproject.org/
    is a research tool that provides information on the various types of quotas in existence today, detailing the percentages and targets in countries where they are applicable. It would be great to have finally something to celebrate on the next International woman day (which was 2 days ago!)

  3. evertb Says:

    I disagree that artificially enforcement of gender quotas will do anything but have a negative effect. What we need is the creation where women are stimulated to participate in public life more. The number of women in politics is a reflection of society, enforcing gender quotas in government (or other public sector areas) would create a government which is not reflective of society.


    • Really? I mean, really? Are you seriously suggesting that a parliament with 21 per cent female membership ‘reflects’ a society which is 50 per cent female? How do you work that out?

      • evertb Says:

        Did I say that?
        I thought that it was obvious that the number of women in government is a reflection of the number of women active or interested in politics in society.
        “positive” discrimination is just that, discrimination.

        • wendymr Says:

          I thought that it was obvious that the number of women in government is a reflection of the number of women active or interested in politics in society.

          Obvious, is it?

          Where is your evidence for this assertion? Show me the peer-reviewed research that proves only 21% of women are interested in or active in politics and I’ll believe you. Until then, I’ll stick to believing that it’s discrimination, thanks🙂

      • Al Says:

        It reflects the intentions of the % of women that voted as a % of the electorate.
        This is the franchise delivered.
        Our consideration should be meritocratic.
        Perhaps something could be done to assist female candidates in running: mentoring and the like?

  4. Kate Bopp Says:

    The difficulties that women (mothers in particular) face in professional or public life are largely practical ones. “Who will fill the enormous gap created by my absence in the home?”. Society needs to adjust perception of gender roles in all areas of day to day living. A more comprehensive & structured back up needs to be in place for those who choose to work outside of the home. We need to seriously look to training more male teachers, nurses, childcare professionals. There are many facets to gender equality & only a few of them are being addressed. Yes, more women in politics & the higher professions, but because they are the better contender for the role, not because they are the ones with ovaries

  5. Cian Says:

    The reason there are so few women in political office is simple – there are less women in politics. Gender quotas won’t change this (which is the actual problem), they’ll just ameliorate one of the symptoms (less women in political office). And in doing so, it’ll remove any drive to actually get more women into politics, at every level.

  6. anna notaro Says:

    Norway provides an interesting and rather successful example with regards to women quotas in company boards
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,705209,00.html

  7. Mark Dowling Says:

    Lucinda thinks that people who can’t have babies together don’t have real marriages so do we care what she thinks?


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