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The 300 Group- women in politics- still a hidden struggle?

123 replies

EachPeachPearMum · 13/06/2009 00:20

The 300 Group- an all party campaign for women in parliament, politics and public life.
Do you think there is a place for a group like this nowadays? Should women in politics be on the agenda in electoral reform?
(Were you even aware it had folded? I wasn't... but I am hardly up-to-date on these matters)

Should we be supporting and promoting women's entry into politics? Is it necessary? Is it unfair?

Would greater numbers of female politicians lead to an increase in awareness of issues that affect women or improved legislation?

There isn't even a wiki page for the 300 group - which I find astonishing...
though I have found a few useful links on google:

Piece about the founding of the 300 group

Evidence given by Lesley Abdela to parliament on female representation- May 2009

Lesley Abdela in the Guardian last year

OP posts:
policywonk · 13/06/2009 21:48

SM, if you look at the link (I know links are annoying) you'll see that about twice as many women as men favour positive discrimination. These are women who've been through the process of candidate selection.

scottishmummy · 13/06/2009 21:48

ok,thanks didnt see link

policywonk · 13/06/2009 21:49

Yes, that would be interesting Len

SomeGuy · 13/06/2009 22:36

IME positive discrimination is used in IT, there are so many blokes that any woman applying will stand out as a novelty and has a better chance of getting the gig.

Re MPs, I can't see that there will ever be 50% women simply because the process of becoming an MP is long and tedious and one that women are significantly less likely to pursue for family reasons/whatever.

As to whether the long apprenticeship of knocking on doors, serving as councillors, etc. is a good one, is a difficult thing to answer. I think the Tories and Labour are making an effort to parachute women in, whether that is fair to the people born with Y chromosomes is hard to say.

Positive discrimination can have unwanted side effects - the police wanted more women, but they found that women were less likely to pass the fitness test, so they reduce the required level for everyone to 'fat and slow'. Also they wanted more minority officers, they tried hiring minority officers over equally qualified white ones, this was deemed illegal, so they instead put the white recruits on a waiting list so that they would have to wait 2 years while minority recruits got in straight away.

There's been some controversy about the new Supreme Court appointee, she is female Latino, and she upheld the decision that a fire service promotion test that had no minority applicants pass was 'racist' and as a result NOBODY would get promoted. The person bringing the case paid for his own tutor to help him pass the test and was understandly upset.

I guess there's perhaps a stronger case for positive discrimination in politics than some other areas, because the perspective of women as against men is more relevant than the skin colour of firefighters.

Positive discrimination can certainly be used to excuse failure. The positive discrimination that goes in Malaysia for instance is shocking. The majority Malay race need something like 3 Cs to study medicine at University, while the minority Chinese need 3 As. The result of this is the Chinese study even harder to achieve the required level. And in terms of minorities, the most successful ethnic group in American society is Asian American - their incomes are significantly higher on average then whites. Most shortfalls are not the result of racism from white men, despite what some people seem to make out.

LeninGrad · 13/06/2009 22:57

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dittany · 13/06/2009 22:57

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policywonk · 13/06/2009 23:01

SG, are you confusing positive discrimination with something else there?

Pos. dis. is a stated policy that, if candidates are equal in other ways, employers can use gender as a tie-breaker (I wrote out 'use sex as a tie-breaker' but seems an unfortunate way of putting it. Would almost certainly lead to law suits as well), or the use of explicit quotas.

What you're describing is a suspicion that women get jobs because they stand out. This might or might not be true, but it's not really pos. dis.

My DP works in IT. It's overwhelmingly male. He gets quite excited when they get women in, poor thing.

SomeGuy · 13/06/2009 23:31

IT bods don't play golf really, doubt that really figures in the hiring process much.

I guess it would depend on the office really as to recruitment processes. But I've done quite a bit of IT recruitment and I always look over the female CVs that bit more carefully. Give a different dynamic to the team.

I expect the reason agencies don't send out female CVs is because there aren't as many women in IT. I think interest/aptitude for it somewhat correlated with the autistic spectrum tendencies and various other predominantly male traits.

When I applied to university I had an interview at Imperial, which is a science college - it had this overiding geeky male aura - due to the fact that engineering type courses are predominantly taken by men. It was horrid, so I went to Cambridge instead.

SomeGuy · 13/06/2009 23:48

Re positive discrimination in IT, yes we would choose the female candidate over the equally qualified male one.

As regards what 'positive discrmination' is, the term doesn't seem clear-cut. Wikipedia has it as "the practice of favoring members of a historically disadvantaged group at the expense of members of a historically advantaged group."

adding that it has been "held to be unconstitutional in the United States", but "affirmative action" is legal.

There are some interesting statistics there

apparently being black is equivalent to an extra 230 points on your SATs (and as such actually beats the 'old school tie' alluded to by dittany, in the form of children of benefactors, who 'only' get +160) and the black acceptance rate is twice as high at MIT and 67% at Harvard as the general acceptance.

Incidentally you don't get many black people in IT either, the only one I've worked with said he owed his success to the year he spent at private school courtesy of Margaret Thatcher's assisted places scheme. His mother was a motivated single mother from Dominica, and obviously supported him. Curiously enough he said that despite having plenty of money to afford it, he wouldn't send his son private because he doesn't think private education is entirely moral. I think he prefers the 'buy expensive house near posh state school' approach.

My understanding is that certain employers have tried various 'fair' ways of encouraging minority applicants, for instance recuritment days at Muslim and black festivals for the police, but it didn't produce the desired results so they do in fact choose discriminate against the majority (i.e. white male candidates).

Obviously such places (the BBC has a stated goal of achieving something like 15% ethnic minority staff, which is above the proportion in society) are the exception rather than the rule, but I do think that employers are aware of discrimination legislation - if you are a big company a 'golf buddies' recruitment process will end up with an office full of men, which would be pretty good prima facie evidence of discrimination. So I'm sure that this does figure in the recruitment process at some point.

Especially given that the gatekeepers, the HR department, are likely to be the most right-on department in the company, not to mention one of the ones with the highest proportion of female staff, for I guess the same reasons, in reverse, that IT is dominated by men.

SomeGuy · 13/06/2009 23:52

here's the most recent example dittany: l

I'm sure there are plenty of interesting comments to make about the dynamic of that situation, but at least she was rejected for a female alternative.

And here's Boris on why it's all about having posh parents: gia-Gould---you-created-her.html

foxinsocks · 14/06/2009 09:43

I'm just not sure there are as many women who want to be politicians as men. Maybe it's as simple as that.

Think the job would need to be more attractive to women first.

Read an article about how, for the first time, there are more women studying medicine than men so in the future, theoretically, there should be more female doctors than male. These historical sort of inbalances take a lot to redress but it can happen.

Being a politician isn't something you have to qualify for so it's hard to know where to start redressing the balance. Maybe we need to start advocating it as a career like we do medicine, engineering but it being an elected position means there's always a chance you'll want to do it but not be able to. Which must put off anyone but the most power crazy determined.

LeninGrad · 14/06/2009 10:02

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policywonk · 14/06/2009 10:24

There def. seems to be a problem in the candidate selection process - a process that is analagous to recruitment in any other industry (as there's no equivalent of elections in any other industry).

Every other industry in the country is governed by discrimination laws that make it illegal for employers to make recruitment decisions based on childcare arrangements, marital status, haircuts etc. Yet the EOC document I linked to below shows that this is what happens to woman selection candidates.

In this way, quotas for women in Parliament could simply be seen as doing the same job as anti-discrimination laws in other industries.

dittany · 14/06/2009 14:30

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foxinsocks · 14/06/2009 16:43

yes but in a way you've proved my point. I said I didn't know whether women weren't interested or were being put off (and whether there just weren't as many women who wanted to be politicians as men - am just musing, don't know the answers) and obviously, in your situation, you were put off.

I would be put off too tbh. I think, to redress the balance without quotas or positive discrim, you need to totally overhaul the way politics is now because it is male dominated and hideously sexist as far as I'm concerned.

Someguy, re the Georgia Gould thing, that was horrendously misjudged. They had a brilliant candidate in Teresa Pearce, someone who had had an interest in politics for a very long time and knew the local area and had tirelessly campaigned to get where she was (actually, I think she may have been a member of Emily's List which may be of interest to you lot - Emily's list exists to help female labour candidates).

dittany · 14/06/2009 16:52

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foxinsocks · 14/06/2009 16:57

lol at by virtue of his penis

it is so awfully male dominated, it makes me shudder

I also think that Labour would/have do more for women in politics than the Tories would. I know the Tories have some female MPs (very few) but I get the feeling that their old guard still feel that women belong in the kitchen and not in the House of Commons.

policywonk · 14/06/2009 19:53

Actually, WRT the Blairs, it seems to me that Cherie is so totally infatuated with the old fool (rather sweet after however many decades I suppose) that she chose to sacrifice her political career for his - or was it that he got a winnable seat before she did? (In which case we're back to the selection problem.)

She'd have been a great Labour MP in the Short/Mowlam tradition I think - if she could have kept her lust for cash under control. (Imagine what her expenses claims would have looked like...)

dittany · 14/06/2009 20:11

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policywonk · 14/06/2009 20:37

Yes, that's it, thanks. Had a vague feeling there was something like that.

So it's the selection process - which, to be fair, Labour identified in the run-up to '97 and tried to address with all-women shortlists.

abraid · 14/06/2009 20:48

As a highly-educated professional the thought of positive discrimination makes me cringe.

I am raising a daughter to be at least as highly-educated and professional as me. If I thought someone would discriminate in her favour just because she's a girl I'd feel angry.

policywonk · 14/06/2009 20:50

How do you feel about the current reality (in politics at least), which is that she would be discriminated against for being a woman? Doesn't that deserve a radical response?


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scottishmummy · 14/06/2009 21:01

why do some assume women will necessarily any better politicians?

we arent a homogenous mass.being the same gender does not inherently make one in tune and sensitive to all other women

i dont even think there are womens issues in politics per se.i think there are issues directly affecting women eg gynae/maternity provision.but hate when it is assumed women can only authoritatively speak on womens issues

i wouldnt vote or anyone on basis of gender
ability yes
gender no

Ewe · 14/06/2009 21:07

I don't think anyone is necessarily assuming they will be better, just assuming they are as good and capable as men and therefore should be equally as electable. At the moment that isn't the case.

I'm not a huge fan of positive discrimination in principle but I am not sure what other solution there is, so I would probably in this situation be in favour of it or quotas.

scottishmummy · 14/06/2009 21:13

but the implication is more women= better or else why bother manipulating selection

should be electable on own merits not by favouritism

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