Gender Quotas – Article From Cork Evening Echo 22nd September

Women in New Zealand were the first to gain the right to vote in elections in 1893. Ireland granted women over the age of thirty the right to vote in 1918 and equal suffrage with men in 1922. By 1994 ninety four percent of countries worldwide had granted women the right to vote. This shift in thinking about the sexes was profound. However the equality agenda was not likely to happen quickly. The culture which saw men as dominant and now has to accommodate two genders was always likely to be slow to change.

Women’s under-representation in the political system, at the higher echelons of the economic system and in institutional church structures feeds into the discrimination that is still prevalent today. Women are still paid less than men. They tend to be in a small range of paid occupations which are predominantly service ones. They also tend to carry the main responsibility for domestic and child care activities.

The argument is made that the absence of descriptive groups has led to the omission of concerns which were of particular interest to that group. In elected assemblies the representation of ideology alone is not sufficient.Gender imbalance in leadership roles and especially in representative politics leads to the omission of concerns which are of particular concern to the underrepresented group. Following the General Election in 2011, the Dail was overwhelming male -85% of TDs were male (the previous Dail was 87% male).

Though not a panacea, Quotas have been shown to be the most effective mechanism for improving the numerical representation of women in parliament. They also encourage a rethinking of the issue of representation by forcing a change in attitude to the inclusion of both genders. Quotas are a blunt instrument but the potential negative impacts are outweighed by the positive impact – the political empowerment of women.

In countries where women are expected to be the primary caregivers for children and the elderly, there will be an under-representation of women in politics. Women are therefore socialised not to see themselves as competitors in the political arena. This underrepresentation constitutes a strong signal that cultural, economic, institutional and societal factors combine to unfairly limit women’s access to equal representation in public office.

The opposition to quotas varies from country to country. In France the collection of data on the ethnicity, race or religion of individuals is restricted leading to problems with women even being considered a group. In the United States, quotas are viewed as the negation of merit, unfair competition and the interference of individual freedom. By contrast African states are more accepting of different territorial, ethnic and linguistic groups being represented descriptively through quotas.

Argentina was the first country in the world to implement legislative gender quotas in the election of national legislators in 1993. Until that point internationally, gender quotas had been limited to intraparty rules in other countries. The impact in Argentina was dramatic. In the Argentine Senate, the participation of women increased from five percent in 1993 to forty four percent by 2005.

The effectiveness of quota legislation has varied, however. Quotas are considered to be positive in principle where the targeted quota legislation is likely to be effective. Some countries have not found it necessary to implement legislative gender quotas in order to improve the representation of women, for example Denmark. Political party voluntary gender quotas have been successful in other countries, for example Sweden. However most countries that seek to increase the representation of women in politics use some form of quota.

There are different reasons for quota legislation being effective. The most effective quota laws contain several key features – a high minimum percentage of women candidates, application to all legislative seats, larger electoral districts and adequate enforcement of compliance. Quota legislation that is likely to be effective is positive.

Quota legislation that is likely to be ineffective has negative outcomes. This is because it allows the establishment to claim to have supported legislation to enhance women’s representation and to continue to resist a rebalancing. It also weakens those that have supported the quota legislation. These are likely to have been feminist and indeed female proponents. They are then placed in the position of having to explain the quotas failure to their constituents.

Quotas can promote the perception that candidates are not being elected on merit. In the political domain being part of a political family dynasty, money and established networks are just some of the advantages that can make candidates more successful than others. There is also a denial that high-ability women are not being lost to leadership positions.

Viewing groups as being a homogenous unit is a problem with promoting the use of quotas. Firstly it essentialises ‘women’. This means that the category ‘women’ comes to be understood as a homogenous group all fulfilling the same characteristics. This is clearly false.

Secondly it excludes all those that do not fall into this category – namely men. There can be the idea that in seeking to redress the imbalance in numbers for women that men somehow do not have any difficulties. This is also clearly untrue.

Thirdly when arguing for a greater number of women in politics the assumption is made that the characteristics which some women display will automatically be transferred. This is also not necessarily the experience. For example, women can be seen as being empathetic and therefore the assumption is that all women are empathetic. Conversely men can be seen as not being empathetic.

Adding women does not lead to automatic outcomes. The simplistic view that more women will lead to a more egalitarian society is naïve. The assumption that by increasing the numbers of women in political office will automatically lead to a feminist position on polices is false. Political ideas vary amongst women in the same way as they vary amongst men.

The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 which has been enacted in Ireland seeks to encourage all parties in receipt of public funding to field at least thirty percent of candidates of either gender in the next general election. It is to be at least forty percent in subsequent general elections. With this form of quota all political ideologies are being encouraged to pay attention to the gender of the candidates that they select. The political hue of the candidates elected is a decision for the electorate. Quotas are simply a means of levelling the political playing field for women.

 

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Fianna Fail Thinks about Gender Balance at Think-In

It is encouraging that Fianna Fail seem to have gotten serious about the dearth of women elected to their party…..

Read on

Markievicz Commission

Averil Power

Where are the Women

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Female commissioners call for gender equality in new Commission

The Education Commissioner urged President Jean-Claude Juncker to appoint at least 10 women in his future new team. Currently, 9 out of 28 commissioners are women.

“We are now in the course of drafting a letter to be signed by all female commissioners addressed to the President Jean-Claude Juncker asking him to appoint at least 10 women in the next Commission I think this will be great for the new Commission.” said EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou.

In an attempt to persuade national governments, Juncker promised to reward countries who appoint female candidates with a big portfolio or vice-presidency.

“The female Commissioners are very worried that the next Commission may not have sufficient number of women.” Vassiliou added.

President-Juncker will start discussions with governments on future commissioners and the distribution of portfolios.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Frederica Mogherini will replace Catherine Ashton as the EU’s head of foreign affairs while Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk will be the new president of the European Council.

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Presence of Women Increases in Cabinet

The recent Cabinet reshuffle saw the representation of women increase by one. There were three women at the Cabinet table before the reshuffle – Frances Fitzgerald (FG, Minister for Justice and Equality), Joan Burton (Lab, Minister for Social Protection ) and Jan O Sullivan (Lab -Super Junior Minister for Housing). The number has been increased with the appointment of Heather Humphreys (FG) to the Ministry of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Jan O Sullivan now moves to Education with Joan Burton remaining in Social Protection. It is a small increase but at least it is in the right direction. 5050 by 2020 edges closer and closer….

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Support for Women’s Networks

Our National Chair Noirin Clancy recently contacted the Minister for the Department of the Environment. She writes as follows:

On behalf of the 50:50 Group, we wish to raise our serious concerns regarding the withdrawal of funding to the Women’s Networks.

As part of our 50:50 campaign for equal representation in Irish politics, we work closely with several networks.  In the recent Local Elections, many played a significant role in supporting women candidates and in raising awareness of the importance of addressing the gender imbalance in politics.  Seminars were organised and attended by women who subsequently ran as candidates and succeeded in getting elected. Without the presence of Women’s Networks at local level, who have the capacity to mobilise and organise, such events would not have happened.

The Government has played a key leadership role in passing gender quota legislation. However, to ensure implementation additional supports are necessary to encourage women to go into politics and to challenge the structural and cultural barriers.  As illustrated above, Women’s Networks are ideally placed to provide such supports and we believe their work certainly contributed to the 5% increase in the number of female councillors elected.

In the proposed new programme (SICAP) it is of serious concern that women are not named as a target group.  Furthermore, the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks is not permitted to tender for the contract to ensure continuation of the vital services delivered by the 17 Networks.

While significant gains have been made with regard to gender equality in Ireland, we still have a long way to go to achieve de facto gender equality. The Government committed to implementing the National Women’s Strategy (2007-16) which aims to bring about ‘an Ireland where all women enjoy equality equally with men and can achieve their full potential while enjoying a safe and fulfilling life’.   Women’s Networks can continue to play a significant role in working with Government, and national organisations like our own, to realise this vision.

We urge you, Minister, to keep the current national programme in place and ring fence the €1.3m for the 17 Women’s Networks. If the Programme is discontinued it will represent a serious setback for the advancement of women’s rights in Ireland and call into question the Government’s commitments, at national and international levels, in this regard.

 

 

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First Woman Leader of the Irish Labour Party

Congratulations to Joan Burton who was elected the first woman leader of the Irish Labour Party last Friday 4th July 2014. It is the first time in its 102 year history that the Irish Labour Party has a female leader. She has now been confirmed as Tanaiste although she is not the first woman to hold that office. Mary Harney (Progressive Democrats) holds that honour. Mary Coughlan (Fianna Fail) has also held the post.

It is encouraging that these small steps are moving the country towards a more gendered balanced political system. However with the nearly all male banking enquiry we do have some way to go……..

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Chelsea Clinton Gives Good Advice

Chelsea Clinton was in Dublin yesterday and gave some good advice on how to handle criticism. She also talked about her experience of being included as a child to develop her ideas and opinions. Read it here

Chelsea Clinton’s Advice

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Irish Examiner Article

Adrian Kavanagh, Fiona Buckley, Claire McGing and Noirin Clancy keep track of how women fared in the 2014 Local Elections. Read on

http://www.irishexaminer.com/analysis/women-still-account-for-just-one-in-five-local-councillors-270376.html

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Mixed Picture for Women in Local Elections 2014

To those that have been elected – Congratulations. To those who were not elected – sincerest sympathies but very well done for having the courage to put yourself forward.

The results are all now in and the presence of women in electoral politics has worsened in Cork City with the number going from 6 down to 5.

In Cork County there are now 13 women out of a total of 55 councillors. This is an improvement to just under 24%.

Blarney-Macroom and Cork City North East have the dubious honour of not returning any women candidates. Ballincollig – Carrigaline achieved the highest percentage of women candidates returned at 30%.

The presence of women at the decision making table is crucial. As half of the population women should be half of the representation – equal to men. Within political parties it is important that women see themselves as potential candidates and it is crucial that the party leadership understand the importance of gender balance on the party ticket. The 5050 group will continue to press for the greater presence of women in electoral politics.

Dr Theresa Reidy (UCC) has summarised the outcome in the rest of the country

Women Win the Day
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Women Candidates gather at Sligo County Council Offices

Will the local elections on 23rd May result in a better gender balance on Sligo County Council?  Currently, 19 men and 6 women have been serving on the Council for the past five years so there is much room for improvement in order to reach a better gender balance.

At a national level just 17% of seats in local government are occupied by women. This election sees a total of 2040 candidates contesting council seats, 1599 (78.4%) men and 441 (21.6%) women. While men continue to dominate the political arena, there is some increase in the figures in comparison to five years ago when 314 (17.2%) of the total number of candidates were women.

In Sligo between the two electoral areas nine  women are running as candidates – seven in the Sligo electoral area and two in the Ballymote/Tubbercurry area.  Four incumbents are standing again – Marcella McGarry (Labour),  Rosaleen O’Grady (Fianna Fail) and Independents, Margaret Gormley and Veronica Cawley.  Newcomers to the field are:  Sinead Maguire (Fine Gael) and four Independents Marie Casserly, Patricia Gardiner, Martina Butler and Mary Tuffy.

“One certain way to improve the number of women in Sligo County Council is for every voter to consider all the candidates carefully and to think about the lack of equality in our political process. Just over 50% of the population are women; that figure should be echoed in our political system, said Nóirin Clancy of 5050 North West.

SONY DSC
Back row:  Patricia Gardiner (IND), Veronica Cawley (IND), Martina Butler (IND), Marcella McGarry (LAB), Sinead Maguire (FG) and Marie Casserley (IND); all from Sligo electoral area (only one missing is Rosaleen o’Grady FF)
in front:  Mary Tuffy (IND) and Margatet Gormley (IND) for Ballymote/Tubercurry electoral area
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