Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Our Prime Minister is being criticised

for not having women in his Cabinet.
I am wondering whether this criticism is really justified. It may be our fault, not his. After the howls of outrage at that remark have died down may I be allowed to explain?
Let's first consider this. How many women take a real interest in politics? I think there have always been women who have been interested in politics. This is a good thing. I think there are more women than ever before with a real interest in politics and this is a very good thing.
But, having said that, an interest is not enough. There has to be action too.
I don't belong to a political party. I doubt there is a political party around that I would feel comfortable about joining, even with the aim of trying to make changes from within. But if women want to be involved in politics then, like men, they probably need to join a political party. They need to go to meetings. They need to join in the discussions and the debate. They need to make themselves heard. They need to put themselves forward and get nominated as candidates. The rest of us cannot vote for a woman if there is no woman on the ballot paper.
I know there will be people who will say, "It's not as simple as that Cat. You don't understand how political parties work."
Well, I am not suggesting it is simple or that the process is simple. It is not. Nevertheless that is what it comes down to in the end. Women need to become more involved and demand more representation. They need to be there on the ballot paper and convince men as well as women to vote for them.
If women do get into politics then there are other issues. If you are single some of these will not apply although questions might, unfairly, be asked about why you are not married. (Who asks men that question?) If you are married or in a relationship then your partner's position will be scrutinised. (Again, the partners of men rarely get scrutinised with such intensity.) If you happen to have children as well then there can be real problems. Remember when one of the female politicians wanted a "pair" so she could go home to a sick child. What comes first, parenting or parliament? (And why isn't a father expected to do the same?)
Then there is the question of experience. A first time male MP is not expected to be a Minister for Anything. That is something that may, or may not, come with experience. You are expected to prove yourself. It may take more than one term in parliament too. You have to be there for the long haul. That means continuing to convince your party that your name is the one that needs to be on the ballot paper, that you have been doing your job (the job of getting re-elected) and that you can handle the extra work involved.
So, our Prime Minister has one woman in his about to be Cabinet now and a woman lined up to be Speaker. He has women in his outer Ministry.
Will there be more women involved in the future? I suspect that, despite the criticisms currently being levelled at him there will be. But, it will not be up to the Prime Minister. It will be up to us. We have to elect them and tell them they are doing a good job. That way they cannot be ignored.  


Philip C James said...

Experience suggests many women are their own worst enemy when it comes to 'Women in Politics', preferring, eg, to vote for a man over a woman.

I have suggested that if we are serious about equal representation for women in Parliament we have to act decisively. For a transition period (terminated with a sunset clause) each constituency return one female and one male representative to Parliament. Ipso facto 50:50 M:F representation. I'd go even further and permit each gender to vote only in the election for representatives of their own sex.

Give the 50% of women in Parliament 20 years to change culture and institutions to make them more amenable to female participation. After 20 years it can revert to the old system of males and females competing for places.

Frankly, if women have not established themselves in the political milieu by then, then they don't want to...

PS it wouldn't lead to a Parliament double the current size if you halve the number of constituencies!

PPS Have been disappointed by the number of women who have rejected the idea. As I said, you can lead a horse to water but it doesn't always drink...

Anonymous said...

There was a big celebration that we had our first female prime minister, but hardly a word about our first female foreign minister, and she is anything but a token woman.

We also have a female speaker, and she will be anything but a token woman either, and much more talented than the previous speaker.

Personally I don't care how many women are in parliament, providing the people in their are good.