Happy International Women’s Day 2015

Today is International Women’s Day. This day marks an attempt to reflect on the position of women worldwide. In common with many fora where diversity is resisted this day is an attempt to create space for and value the female voice in our world.
I was delighted to attend the Better Boards, Better Business, Better Society book launch by the National Women’s Council of Ireland last Tuesday in Dublin. There Halla Tomasdottir was the guest speaker from Iceland. She talked about her departure from traditional business values to feminine business values of independence, risk awareness, straight talking, emotional capital and profit with principles. Nora Casey chaired the session and challenged her male business colleagues to embrace diversity and allow women the opportunity to be the difference that is needed in the world.
Today’s world faces two major threats – the risk of nuclear war and rapid climate change – both of which could obliterate the world completely. We need to come up with solutions to both of these problems if our children and grandchildren are to enjoy this earth as we have done.
Religious fundamentalism threatens to silence the voice of reason whether it is Christian climate change deniers in the USA or Islamic fundamentalists in Africa and the Middle East which seek to keep women uneducated. For those of us who have been lucky enough to be born in a part of the world which sees women as equal to men let us make our voices heard.
Emma Watson the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador will answer questions in an event on Facebook watch it here at 5pm http://owl.li/JPjXG
Let us all play our part in promoting gender balance in leadership – Happy International Women’s Day 2015.

Posted in 50/50 strategy, 50:50 local groups, European politicians, Gender Politics, Irish political parties, Media, Meetings, Successful women | Leave a comment

Voices & Views from Local Elections 2014

How women fared – reflections and lessons for the general election
Claire McGing, Maynooth University/5050 Group, claire.mcging@nuim.ie

On Friday, January 30th, a fantastic seminar on women and politics was organised by the Longford Women’s Manifesto Group and the 5050 Group in Longford. With a general election due in the next year, it is important to reflect on how women candidates fared in last year’s local elections and to look towards how parties and women’s groups can ensure the election of more women TDs. Gender quota legislation enacted in 2012 means that parties must run 30% women candidates (to rise to 40% after seven years) or else lose one-half of the funding they receive annually from the State. At present, just 27 out of 166 TDs (16%) are women and this is a record high. The figure places Ireland at 94th in the global world rankings for women’s representation, sandwiched between Chile and Azerbaijan. At local level one in five councillors are now female, but this is below the EU28 average of 32 per cent for women’s representation in local politics.
On the day, Dr Adrian Kavanagh (Maynooth University) gave an in-depth analysis of female candidacy and election in the 2014 local elections; Cllr. Kathleen Shanagher (Independent), Cllr. Maura Hopkins (Fine Gael) and Nora Fahy (local Fianna Fáil candidate) openly discussed their political experiences with Longford Leader editor Sheila Reilly; Johnny Fallon (local political analyst) gave an insightful (and humorous) contribution into party politics and why he supports gender quotas; and I outlined the findings of research I have conducted on the barriers to female representation, particularly in rural areas.
Owing to various institutional and cultural factors, the main theme to come out of the event was the significant urban-rural divide in terms of women’s representation. The vast majority of women TDs elected since 1918 have come from urban-based constituencies. Of the 28 females in the current Dáil three-quarters represent constituencies in Dublin or Leinster, while the five districts with two women TDs are all in Dublin or Meath. Illustratively, Michelle Mulherin (Fine Gael) is the only female TD in the whole of Connacht and Heather Humphreys (FG) in the Republic’s Ulster counties. All this means, as my presentation showed, that 42 per cent of the Irish population (and 43 per cent of women) currently have no female TDs, the vast majority outside of Leinster. By contrast all constituents have at least one male TD and most, of course, have more than this.
Adrian Kavanagh’s talk showed that there is also a geographical dimension to female vote-winning and representation in local councils. Urban councils are relatively healthy gender-wise, while rural Ireland remains populated by male councillors. Following the 2014 local elections, women hold one-third of seats across the Dublin electoral areas. In Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown women took as many as 43 per cent of the seats. But the view was less positive in many rural areas with women winning only two seats on the Monaghan, Carlow, Longford and Offaly County Councils. Given that most TDs ‘cut their teeth’ in local government (77 per cent of new TDs in 2011 were sitting councillors), the lack of women councillors creates difficulties in terms of seeing Dáil increases. My research found that, excluding sitting TDs, around three-quarters of those who looked to run for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour in the 2011 general election were local councillors and the vast majority were male. The ‘pipeline’ to the Dáil is mostly men.
The need for political parties to address the urban-rural discrepancies in gender representation was emphasised and some recommendations were made.
Even though the quota law does not apply to local government, parties should aim to build on the female increases seen last May. Co-opting women candidates if vacancies arise is a relatively easy way for parties to give women members a local profile and could be adopted as policy.
As the quota legislation is national and does not insist on 30 per cent female candidates in every constituency, fears were expressed by speakers and audience members that parties will meet the threshold to avoid losing their funding but that they will run women in ‘unwinnable seats’ or pack them into urban centres, leaving many rural constituencies remaining male-dominated. Thus the degree to which the legislation is successful at increasing the number of women TDs right across the country depends on the extent that parties take full advantage of this historic opportunity. Women’s groups should lobby parties to ensure that all ballots are ‘feminised’, not just those in urban areas. On this point, it was suggested that parties establish their own rural development programmes aimed at encouraging more rural women members to run for party positions and elective offices. Sinn Féin to my knowledge already has an initiative along these lines.
The working hours of political life was also seen as an obstacle to women’s representation and should be addressed, especially for rural women TDs with children who have to spend at least three days a week in Dublin. The need for formalised maternity leave, or other arrangements like proxy voting and teleconferencing, for women TDs and Senators who became pregnant while in office was also raised.
Finally, why does women’s underrepresentation in rural Ireland matter? First, women account for over half the population in urban and rural areas, so it is important that any advances in gender representation are equally distributed. Second, the importance of role models for rural women was noted. Studies show how high profile local women act to ‘shake up’ the status quo and encourage other women to take a leap into politics. Third, the more diversity there is in the Dáil and local councils, the better for democracy. This is not to suggest that all female representatives will act in women’s interests by virtue of being women – just like men, party affiliations and constituency considerations will be a priority for most – but that decisions made by a diverse group of people are more-rounded and result in better outcomes in the long-term. As Johnny Fallon said to me after the seminar over coffee, if you were setting up a company you wouldn’t want the board to be comprised entirely of accountants. Why is politics any different?

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Quotas a step in closing the gender gap.

This article by Margaret O Keeffe and Colette Finn was printed in the Evening Echo in Cork on Monday February 2nd 2015.

Political parties are gearing up for the General Election and for the first time they will have to implement gender quota legislation – 30% of party candidates must be female or they will lose half of their state funding. Currently, only one in six of our Dail politicians are female. The old rules basically entrenched a system that favoured those who were well resourced and without care commitments. It further socialised the excluded groups to see their absence as somehow their own fault.
The Oireachtas recognized gender imbalance as being problematic. They had two choices, accept the status quo that the overwhelming majority of Ireland’s elected representatives would be male or implement candidate selection gender quotes to force the political system to include the other fifty percent of the population – namely women. A majority of the mostly male politicians chose the latter.
The arguments that people should be elected on merit, what difference would it make, would that difference be better or worse, a female politician doesn’t necessarily represent ‘women’s’ views no more than a male politician represents ‘men’s’ views – these are all red herrings. In a properly functioning democracy those elected should be reflective of the population that it seeks to represent. Women are half the population and therefore should be half the representation.
The 5050 group was formed in September 2010 in the aftermath of a conference organised by fellow 5050 collaborators Dr Sandra McEvoy and Ms Fiona Buckley in UCC. At that conference Senator Ivana Bacik presented the evidence of how other countries had made significant progress in achieving parliamentary gender balance through the use of quotas. She cited Belgium and Spain.as examples. A group of us decided we were going to take action and lobby for the implementation of candidate selection gender quotas.
Fortuitously for the 5050 group a change of government occurred in March 2011. In July 2012 the Fine Gael/Labour coalition enacted The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012. This legislation will penalise all parties in receipt of public funding if they don’t field at least thirty percent of candidates of each sex in the next general election. Within seven years the quota rises to forty percent. With this form of quota all political ideologies are being encouraged/forced to pay attention to the gender balance of the candidates that they select. However this legislation does not apply to local elections.
The parties sought to implement a voluntary 30% gender quota in the local elections of 2014. However, the difficulties of implementing voluntary quotas became apparent – Fianna Fail fielded 17.1% female candidates, Fine Gael fielded 22.6%, Labour’s 28.9%, Sinn Fein 31.6% and People Before Profit did best with almost 40%. Dr Adrian Kavanagh of Maynooth University points out that Fine Gael will have the greatest difficulty in meeting the quota because they have the highest number of incumbent males. Fianna Fail will also struggle but they have fewer incumbent males. However because both parties didn’t implement the voluntary quota in the local elections they do not have the pipeline of experienced women in Local Government or the Senate from which to select suitable candidates.
Clearly, the introduction of the gender quota legislation in 2012 was very welcome. However women (and men) from less well-resourced communities may face similar obstacles in making the transition from small ‘p’ to big ‘P’ politics. The barriers to formal political involvement for women from less resourced backgrounds are complex. It also needs to be clearly said that men from these kinds of backgrounds are also substantially underrepresented in the formal political domain.
Certainly, many women (and men) both young and old make a huge contribution to community wellbeing through their voluntary engagement in schools, youth clubs, sports clubs, churches and so forth. They see and challenge inequality every day. They work hard to improve their own lives as well as those of their friends and neighbours. In this sense, they are politically active, but in the informal (small ‘p’), as opposed to the formal, (big ‘P’) political sphere.
At some stage in our lives, all of us will care or be cared for. Fundamentally, the provision of care is core to our physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, yet it is often provided on an unpaid basis. In addition, across Irish society, as elsewhere, it is still generally assumed by many people that ‘care’ is a ‘gendered’ activity, i.e. one done predominately by females. In other words, caring is women’s work.
In her article ‘Care-less Politics’ (2014), Mariz Tadros notes that the way politics is ‘done and run’ needs to factor in the ‘costs’ in every sense of unpaid care. Processes of deliberation and decision-making whether they are at the local government or at the national parliamentary level need to be highly sensitised to unpaid care responsibilities and how they impact on everyone’s capacity but particularly women’s capacity to participate in the formal political domain.
Clearly, as with gender quotas, efforts to address unpaid care are not a panacea for narrowing the gender gap in formal political representation. Addressing the issue of unpaid care, however, would help to ensure that more women stay in politics. It would also promote the idea that formal politics can be a viable and normalised career choice for anyone who also has care commitments, regardless of their socio-economic background. Furthermore, in the interests of a more balanced, happier society, ‘care’ should be a shared activity, i.e. one done equally by both men and women.
There is a need to adopt ‘an upside down’ approach to women’s political empowerment. However the academic and policy focus on getting the electoral system right so as to narrow the gender gap in the formal political sphere needs to be complemented with a ‘bottom up’ approach that critically interrogates pathways for less well-resourced women and men in political engagement.
Dr Colette Finn is Chair 5050 Group (Cork) and is a Carer/Economist with an interest in Nonprofit and Public sector businesses.
Dr Margaret O’Keeffe is a member of the 5050 Group (Cork) and is a Carer/Lecturer in Community Development in the Department of Applied Social Studies (CIT).

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Workshop in Knocknaheeny, Cork, Friday 30th January 2015

The 5050 Group, ‘Democracy and Gender; Reinventing the Dail’ Workshop to inform forthcoming General Election
Political parties are gearing up for the General Election and for the first time they will have to implement gender quota legislation – 30% of party candidates must be female candidates. While quotas did not apply in the recent local elections in May, it is timely to reflect on LE14:
• What are the challenges facing female candidates at forthcoming selection conventions?
• What advice would female candidates give to parties?
• Is it more difficult for women to get selected and elected in rural constituencies?
These are some of the questions that will be discussed at a seminar at Cork City Partnership, Knocknaheeny on Friday 30 January from 10-1. The event is being organised by the 5050 Group (Cork). Speakers include:
• Dr. Colette Finn, Chair 5050 Group (Cork) Leadership and Gender.
• Councillors Marion O Sullivan, Lil O Donnell, Mary Rose Desmond, Deirdre Forde, (SF – TBC) and former Councillor Catherine Clancy.
• Dr Margaret O Keeffe, Cork Institute of Technology, Community Development Programme From small ‘p’ to big ‘P’ Politics and Community.

Noirin Clancy, 5050 Group chairperson stated: ‘I think it’s really important to take a close look at the local elections as preparations start for the general election. While the local elections did result in a small increase in women’s representation, this was mainly in urban constituencies’
Colette Finn will discuss the ideas around leadership and the politics of presence. She will outline the various barriers to women’s representation in Irish politics and the evolving concept of leadership as women take their place at the decision making table. Politics is highly male-dominated. Only one in six of our politicians are female. Evolving ideas about women in leadership will encourage women to become more politically empowered.
Many women and men are highly active in their own communities. They see and challenge inequality every day. They work hard to improve their own lives as well as those of their friends and neightbours. They sometimes do not see this community activism for what it actually is: political activism. Margaret O Keeffe will discuss the challenges and opportunities involved in moving from community activism (i.e. small ‘p’ Politics) to electoral politics (i.e. big ‘P’ Politics). The conversation will focus particularly, though not exclusively, regarding the implications of making this transition for women.
This event is free and everyone is welcome to attend. Places are limited and early registration is advised. Email: cfinncork@gmail.com or phone 0876752697

Posted in 50/50 strategy, 50:50 local groups, European politicians, Gender Politics, International Comparisons, Irish politicians, Local Government elections, Men supporting 50:50, Quota Bill, Successful women | Leave a comment

Is a gender quota the right way to bring more women into national politics, asks Justine McCarthy

This article appeared in the Sunday Times recently in the absence of an electronic link it has been copied and reprinted here in full

‘On Friday, while Lucinda Creighton was hosting a women-only media
briefing in Dublin about her fledgling political party, the former
tanaiste Mary Coughlan was discussing election strategy in her Donegal
bailiwick. Would she be mad enough to return to the political fray,
she was asked. Coughlan laughed heartily and replied: “What was it the
great [John F] Kennedy said about what you can do for your country?”
Suddenly, petticoat power is all the rage in Irish politics. Due to
the introduction of agender quota in the next general election,
candidate selection has turned into a tightrope walk for political
strategists. Parties failing to nominate women for at least 30% of
their candidates face losing half their state funding under electoral
law.

For Fine Gael, which received €2.28m in 2013, the price of failure
would be more than €1.1m. The Labour party stands to lose over
€600,000, and Fianna Fail more than €500,000. Because of the statutory
curtailment of private donations, parties have never been more reliant
on state funding. So the threat of losing half of it is really
concentrating minds. Women are being wooed right, left and centre.

Fine Gael has a perceived female deficit after Enda Kenny, the
taoiseach, failed to promote even one woman as junior minister in last
summer’s reshuffle. The damage was compounded in September when he
passed over three women shortlisted to fill a Seanad vacancy in favour
of John McNulty, a party activist. Samantha Long, one of the three
spurned women, has left the party and now works in Leinster House as
Creighton’s parliamentary assistant. The expectation is that she will
stand as a candidate in Dublin for the new party.

Shortly before Christmas, Kenny invited all the women in Fine Gael’s
parliamentary party to dinner in the Merrion hotel in a gesture
interpreted by some who attended as part apology and part statement of
intent for the general election. Kenny has promised that, if he is
returned to power, he will ensure half the cabinet is female.

On Thursday, Fianna Fail launched the Markievicz Commission report on
gender equality. The party is undertaking to select up to 27 women as
candidates for the Dail election — quite a challenge considering it
has no female TD at present.

Micheál Martin, the party’s leader, has said Fianna Fail could run
all-woman tickets in “three to four or maybe more constituencies,
subject to variables” but that they must be “electable”.

Martin said he anticipates some aspiring male candidates will complain
their suitability and experience are being sacrificed in order to meet
the quota requirements. Signs of potential mutiny surfaced immediately
when Séamus Butler, a Fianna Fail councillor in Longford who plans to
contest next month’s selection convention, said: “We would feel that
the party is looking to meet the gender quotain the urban areas, so
there is no major pressure in this area to have female candidates.”

On Friday, at her home in Frosses, Coughlan debated a return to
national politics with the chairman of her Fianna Fail comhairle
ceantair, the party’s district organisation. Aged 21 when she was
first elected in 1987 to a seat that had been successively held by her
father and her uncle, Coughlan was widely excoriated during her tenure
as tanaiste between 2008 and 2011, being dubbed “Calamity Coughlan”.

She lost her seat at the last general election to Thomas Pringle, an
independent.

Coughlan is “seriously considering” contesting the next election and
will make her decision by Easter. With the two current Donegal
constituencies being merged into one five-seater, and part of
Coughlan’s old base in the south being absorbed by Sligo-Leitrim,
Fianna Fail must decide whether to field one or two running mates with
Charlie McConalogue, its sitting TD. Martin has promised to run a
woman candidate in every constituency where Fianna Fail already holds
a seat.

“It’s tough to be anyone in politics, but it’s very tough to be a
woman in politics,” Coughlan said. “You’re in a minority. I wouldn’t
have been an admirer of the quota system, but we have to do something.
It’s hard getting women to stand.” Fianna Fail finds itself between a
rock and a hard place. Should it rely on women with national profiles
and a prospect of being elected, such as Coughlan, or avoid
contamination from the past by opting for untried candidates? The
local election success of Mary Hanafin, the party’s former education
minister, gave the old guard a boost. Hanafin, whose father and
brother were senators, defied Fianna Fail’s refusal to back her and
won a seat in Dublin’s Blackrock electoral area. She is expected to
seek the Fianna Fail nomination in Dun Laoghaire for the Dailelection.

Though the gender quota does not apply to local elections, the parties
set their own targets in May. Of Fine Gael’s candidates, 22.6% were
women, of Fianna Fail’s 17.1%, and Labour’s 28.9%. Sinn Fein, with
31.6%, had the highest female proportion among established parties,
but People Before Profit did best with almost 40%.

Ireland lies 94th in the world for the level of female representation
in national parliaments, behind Libya and Uruguay. Britain is 60th.
Qatar and Tonga have no women. Rwanda has more than any other country
because of a quota system introduced after the 1994 genocide.

“There is no evidence that people don’t vote for women, or for that
matter that they don’t vote forquota women,” said Meryl Kenny, a
politics lecturer at the University of Leicester. “In fact, where
there are women candidates, women voters are more likely to engage and
participate in the process. It has been proposed that we should think
about no quotas for women but quotas for men. If we hadgender-neutral
requirements — a certain number for both sexes — it could produce the
very best of both. Spain has a parity law whereby party candidate
lists can’t have less than 40% or more than 60% of either sex.”

IRELAND got off to a good start with the election of Constance
Markievicz to the first Dail in 1918. The number of women rose to six
in the second Dail but dropped to one in 1927. It did not reach double
figures until 11 women were elected in 1981, and it took until 1992 to
reach 20.

In all, just 95 women have been elected to the Dail since its
foundation. There are 27 in the present Dail — a record. Of six
by-elections since 2011, three were won by women: Helen McEntee, who
took the Meath East seat of her late father, Shane McEntee; Gabrielle
McFadden, who won the Longford-Westmeath seat of her late sister,
Nicky McFadden; and Ruth Coppinger, the new Socialist party TD for
Dublin West. One of the recommendations in the Markievicz report
adopted by Fianna Fail is to “explore options” for a gender quota in
Seanad elections, one of the main pathways into the Dail. Almost one
in three senators is a woman, compared with 16.5% of TDs.

“Throughout the 20th century, the vast majority of women in the Dail
were either widows or daughters of TDs,” said Claire McGing, a
researcher at NUI Maynooth. “That has changed greatly. We tend to
deride that, but we would have had far fewer women TDs if it hadn’t
been the case. Women in politics tend to have fewer children than
their male counterparts.

They tend to be professionals, well-educated and less likely to be
married.” Creighton, who will launch her new party next month, says
that of nearly 2,500 people who have signed up to support it, 20%
arewomen. The proportion rises to 25% when emails sent directly to
Creighton are included. She is “especially calling on women, who not
only are under-represented in the Dail and the Seanad, but are missing
in the entire nexus of policy-making in this country”.

For some party strategists, the obligation to nominate female
candidates is a gift.

They have watched Sinn Fein notch up election successes with
articulate, modern women such as Lynn Boylan and Liadh Ní Riada in
last year’s European elections. Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein’s deputy
leader, is one of the most recognisable members of the Dail.

Labour got a gender-balance fillip after the party’s disastrous
performance in the local elections when Eamon Gilmore was replaced as
leader by Joan Burton, the first female leader of the country’s oldest
party.

At the launch of the Markievicz report, Martin said it could be
difficult persuading women to stand forelection. “The way politics
works is a disincentive to some women,” he said. “I’ve had personal
experience of women saying they want to rear their children with
normality, and a lot of women do not see the logic of sitting [in the
Dail] until 10pm or midnight.”

Fiona O’Loughlin, the current mayor of Kildare, intends to stand in
Kildare South. “I wasn’t in favour of the quota,” she said. “I felt
women who want to be in politics want to be there in their own right,
not necessarily as a woman. But the quota is there now and it must be
used in a fair way.

“There is a danger that good women candidates could suffer from this.
[Party] tickets can be manipulated. You could have a situation where a
woman candidate is needed, and it may be a weaker woman candidate who
is chosen to ensure the male candidate gets elected. That has happened
in the past in all political parties.”

Fiona Buckley, a lecturer in University College Cork’s department of
government, is a founding member of the 5050 campaign for
parliamentary gender equality. She warns that the quota will not
produce instant balance in Dail Eireann.”Research from the Nordic
region suggests it may take, on average, three electoral cycles before
parliaments see a significant increase in women’s parliamentary
representation following the introduction of gender quotas,” Buckley
said. “In Ireland, it’s likely that, following the next general
election, we’ll see women’s parliamentary representation rise by about
4% or 5% to bring the overall percentage of women in the Dail to about
20%.”

Buckley said the quota system adopted by Ireland was similar to one
introduced in Belgium in the early 1990s, when its level of female
representation was 10.8%. In last year’s Belgian elections,women’s
representation rose to 39.3%.

“This issue is not going to go away,” said Yvonne Galligan, a
professor at Queen’s University Belfast who chairs the Markievicz
Commission. “It’s part of how people are looking at their democracy.
People are not happy to settle for the same old status quo. Young
women and young men want representation that reflects them.’

Posted in 50/50 strategy, 50:50 local groups, Men supporting 50:50, Quota Bill, Successful women | Leave a comment

Cork 5050 Group Workshop

A date for your diary…

Gender and Democracy:

‘Reinventing’ the Dail -

Cork City Partnership,

Knocknaheeny,

Friday 30th January 2015, 9.30am to 1pm.

More details to follow…

Posted in 50/50 strategy, 50:50 local groups, Gender Politics, Local Government elections, Men supporting 50:50, Successful women | Leave a comment

A Date for your Diary and more…..

The 5050 Group and Longford Women’s Manifesto Group are pleased to announce their up coming seminar …….

 

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5050 Group and Longford Women’s Manifesto Group

Voices & Views from Local Elections 2014

How women fared – reflections and lessons for the General Election

Friday 30 January 2014, 10am – 2pm

Longford Women’s Link

Speakers

  • Dr. Adrian Kavanagh, Maynooth University Dept. of Geography
  • Claire McGing, 5050 Group/Maynooth University
  • Cllr. Kathleen Shanagher (Independent)
  • Cllr. Maura Hopkins (Fine Gael)
  • Nora Fahy (Fianna Fáil) former election candidate
  • Johnny Fallon, Political Analyst

Registration and programme details to follow in the New Year.

Attendance is free and a light lunch will be provided

In a wide ranging interview Micheal Martin has outlined his views on increasing the number of female candidates at the next general election. You can read it here

Micheal Martin’s interview in the Journal

Posted in 50/50 strategy, 50:50 local groups, Gender Politics, Irish political parties, Irish politicians, Media, Men supporting 50:50, Quota Bill, Successful women | Leave a comment

What is Fionnan Sheehan’s real agenda?

Before I became involved in the 5050 group I saw the media as neutral observers reporting in an impartial way on the ‘facts’. I have now come to understand that not only are the media not neutral but they frame how many people come to inform themselves on a subject.

The question for me is does Fionnan Sheehan think it is a good idea to have a more gender balanced political representation? This is important because how he frames his article on Fine Gael’s efforts to redress that gender imbalance can be approached in different ways.

Fionnan Sheehan’s article

The article is set in such a way as to inflame any would be male candidate with a misplaced sense of grievance. It also places the women mentioned at a disadvantage because it presents them as gaining an unfair advantage. The myth that all male candidates were there on merit  and that women don’t ‘make it’ because they are just not good enough is promoted.

Nowhere in the article is there an explanation that men have had an unfair advantage since the foundation of the state. Nowhere in the article is there a mention that no other country has managed to redress the gender imbalance without some form of quota. Nowhere in the article does it acknowledge that in a properly functioning democracy women should be half the representation.

 

 

Posted in 50/50 strategy, 50:50 local groups, Gender Politics, Irish political parties, Irish politicians, Local Government elections, Media, Men supporting 50:50, Quota Bill | Leave a comment

Caroline Fleming – Rest in Peace

We in the 5050 Group were truly shocked to hear the very sad news that Caroline has passed away.

Caroline was a gem.  She was committed and passionate about everything she set her mind to. She was an intelligent woman with a great sense of humour. Above all she was a rock of sense.  Even with her illness she remained extremely positive – she maintained that the doctors could look after the physical side of her life and she would look after her mind.

She was chair of the 5050 group in Kerry and did Trojan work to highlight the under-representation of women in Irish politics.  Even when she was ill, she still kept the ‘tweets’ flying. Caroline had so much energy and passion for life it is a cruel blow that she has been taken from us so prematurely. She was a real pleasure to work with and always managed to minimise the impact of her illness on her activities. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

Our deepest sympathies to her family, friends and colleagues.

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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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