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A Canadian House of Commons committee has expressed concern over the “under-representation” of women in politics. They conclude that “only” having over a third of women involved indicates sexism and bias.
The committee suggests political parties should be working harder to get more women to run by eliminating sexism and biases that might be built into their recruitment efforts. They suggest doing this by introducing sexism and bias. They think that handing out even more money to female MPs — and only female MPs — is a good idea. They suggest quotas, too, to limit the opportunity for men to stand for Parliament.
Does having one third Members of Parliament as women imply sexism and bias?
The obvious point is to question how it is that as many as a third of MPs are female, if there is sexism and bias. Particularly when that proportion is generally on an upward trend, not downwards.
How many women try to stand as MP? Reliable statistics on this for Canada are elusive but it looks like it is around 25% or maybe less. If 25% stand and 35% get elected, women are being over-represented, not under-represented. It is men who are standing less chance of being elected.
According to Abacus Data, 40% of those who say they would consider running for office (itself 6% of those asked) are women.
Do quotas work?
Political quotas exist in over 100 nations. They are said to work by some idealists, and not work by others. The fact is, both are true. All you need to do is cherry-pick your examples. Norway was better managed, at least for a while, after the introduction of quotas. Other countries can point to worse outcomes; even the UK, which is doing economically well, can point to the statistical fact that women elected under political party quota are more prone to corruption and less likely to be re-elected after their first term in office.
As with quotas everywhere, there is also a damage to the standing of those who achieve their position through merit. They are in a favoured group and a suspicion starts around them that they, like others in the group, may not be the best person for the position they occupy, just the best person to fit the quota. Busy people can’t be bothered dealing with second-best: they want the best person there, even if it might be harder to convince them, since they will be better champions and more accepted in the public eye.
Are women under-represented in politics?
For every 283 Canadians, there is an extra woman. Canada is a democratic country, with women having the majority vote. That means that women have a greater representation in Parliament, regardless of who is elected to serve them. Looking at voter turnout, it seems that women out-represent men even more, possibly owing to women’s higher educational attainment.
One hopes — not always accurately, perhaps — that the demographics of the MP has nothing to do with whom the MP is willing to stand up for. An MP is meant to represent all constituents. In Canada, that means the MP represents more women than men.
Why does it matter?
A diverse range of opinions generally helps in politics, so long as there is a mechanism for determined political action to result. This diverse range of opinions is held by the electorate, who are truly representative of the citizens of a nation. How they vote,: which party, whose policies, and which personality they accept should be up to them. If the playing field is not level, it is not democracy.
The electorate generally understand this, whatever the country. Politicians who campaign on a sexist standpoint, even though for women (do any ever stand just for men?) are usually rejected. This is seen across continents and across voting systems: the people don’t want sexist bias.
Meanwhile, Parliament will continue to pass laws and crate policies that benefit women, or dis-benefit men, and do nothing to correct the systemic disadvantages faces by men. And it doesn’t matter what the sex of the MP in this regard.
How many is ‘enough’?
How many of one demographic is ever ‘enough’ to satisfy? Global feminists always want more women in positions of power (feminist women, that is). Even in Rwanda, where only a third of the parliament is male, feminists don’t think there are enough women (and no-one is calling for sexism to ensure there are more men).
The right number in a true democracy is as many as the voters chose to elect from a pool of those who want to be elected, chosen as the best person for the job regardless of where they keep their gonads.