By Debbie Worden 50:50 Parliament Campaigner
There are days when good intentions aren’t enough, and Thursday 7th December was definitely one of them. At 1.30 in Westminster, Maria Miller (MP, Cons) outlined 6 main recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee from the report, ‘Women in the House of Commons’. The government had rejected all six, which seems a little odd considering its commitment to equal opportunities in Parliament, but then turkeys don’t vote for Christmas do they?
Ms Miller spoke with passion and clarity… and perhaps a hint of exasperation. Were the recommendations really so strange? They included:
1) 45% representation in local and national government by 2030 outlined in a government plan.
2) Minimum numbers of female parliamentary candidates per party.
3) Published information on how each party is trying to comply including data on diversity.
4) Sanctions for those parties that don’t comply.
5) Extended time for current all women shortlists by way of updating provision within the Sex Discrimination Act up to 2030.
6) All women shortlists for certain posts in local government, again, up to 2030.
Hardly controversial stuff, though quotas remain an entangling issue. Is it patronising to need quotas of women? Is there a danger that in order to meet a quota, substandard candidates might get through? One objection focused on quotas as a short term solution. Eddie Hughes (MP, Cons) argued that in order to bring about long lasting equality, the battle lies in attitude change, something that can only happen through the way we approach early conditioning, and the expectations we place on girls and boys. While there’s sense in this, it doesn’t take into account the odds currently stacked against women, and it inadvertently creates a new kind of inequality; a society in which brilliant/ hardworking/ lucky women can demonstrate to girls that if they develop these qualities, they too may be able to aspire to jobs often filled by men of average ability. That is not equality. Helping girls aspire is necessary but it is not enough, neither is it enough to just show willing. The UK Parliament is geared to the expectations of 19th/20th century men; what will it change to welcome 21st century women?
The meeting was far too nuanced and varied for a single blog, and I hope to come back to some of the issues raised. But you can watch it here.
Or to read the recommendations in full follow this link
50:50 Parliament Campaigner
About 50:50 Parliament
50:50 Parliament is a cross party campaign taking action and calling for solutions to get better gender balance in Parliament. With their #AskHerToStand campaign 50:50 aims to inspire, encourage and support political engagement. Their petition to Party Leaders is gathering momentum, it calls upon Party Leaders and Parliament for solutions. Join us and let’s build a better democracy together!
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