Shortlists and Short Tempers

womenandgirlsBy Mike Small

The women only shortlists debate is a good one. It’s about how do we rectify institutionalised and structural inequality.

Many of us in the Yes movement thought that it was about transforming Scotland. Not just independence for independence sake, not just changing the flag, not just mirroring Westminster but 500 miles further north, not just politics as usual, but actually facing up to and dealings with some of our chronic problems of poverty, inequality and the rest.

For me, the truly moving and inspiring part of the whole Yes movement was how it was opened up by people who had been excluded until then. ‘The audience is taking the stage’ was a recurring phrase that captured the experience. Our young people getting involved and creating their own organisations and channels, the disenfranchised and disenchanted communities surviving in poverty engaging and leading and finding a new voice. The whole movement was built on the principal of self-organisation. One of the strongest elements of Yes was the role of women in creating new forums and organisations and not just demanding equality and educating a movement but engaging in the hard political task of winning other women over to Yes. This was a task that they succeeded in.

The other day someone called George Ferguson tweeted: “So men voted yes. Their reward is to be excluded from lists. Institutional discrimination. I am deactivated.” The crashing irony of quoting “institutional discrimination” may have passed him by. But the anger on twitter about this subject is extraordinary. The barely concealed male rage is spilling out, and this is the issue it’s focused on.

I for one am getting bored by mid-spectrum male monotone bloggers who can only speak in the language of anger. The lack of self-reflection, the complete absence of solidarity or connectivity with a wider movement and the inability to see beyond the narrowest political gauge is a depressing spectacle.

Is the argument “women voted No so fair gender representation is wrong”?

People seem angry because they don’t perceive this as a problem. But it is.

Only 148 of our 650 MPs at Westminster are women. Just 45 of our 129 MSPs at Holyrood.

As Andrew Eaton-Lewis wrote recently: “The SNP, if it wants to be a more progressive political force than Labour, needs to do better than 17 female MSPs out of 64, and one female MP out of six.”

The problem is, of course that this has been an issue for a very long time.

As Southside Girl wrote: “When I joined the SNP in 1988 I was opposed to positive discrimination for women. 25 + years later, I have changed my mind. No progress.”

Nothing changes.

And, of course, shortlists on their own are only really a partial remedial measure, they do nothing to challenge the wider cultures of sexism and misogyny. They do nothing to challenge the fundamentals of male power. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be tried.

The angry rebuttal of these efforts to recalibrate our politics is predictably one-dimensional. “People should be elected on merit” goes the mantra as if trumpeting it repeatedly makes it make sense.

As the First Minister pointed out  earlier this week: “Unless you think that women are somehow less capable than if we had a merit-based system, we wouldn’t have these problems of under-representation of women.”

So opponents of all women shortlists have to be living in a world where they believe we already live in a meritocracy, and secondly have to offer some explanation of the distorted representation that exists.

Women face structural discrimination in many aspects of society. Here is one simple measure that works to correct and obvious imbalance. It could be put in place for a limited period, and would bring a big change to the voice, the tone and the conduct of our political life.

Just as women led the Yes movement and helped form and change it, so too can they help change our wider politics. This is about understanding how power and privilege work. This is a society disfigured by poverty and characterised by exclusion, hierarchy and discrimination. The tasks remain the same. How do we transform Scotland, not just change the flags? That’s the political focus we should be uniting around.

So men voted yes. Their reward? It’s to be part of a real change movement.



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90 replies

  1. Well said Mike. Although I think there is more to this male rage than meets the eye, but I won’t go there, as it just wouldn’t be helpful right now. I’m not myself in favour of women only shortlists but I am in favour of 50:50.

    Women only narrowly voted No more than men. There was only a few percentage points in it. Hardly anything to resent. Much more significant was Project Fear in terrorising people into thinking there wouldn’t be any banks or currency.

  2. Gender quotas are a good way of ensuring meritocracy – they prevent underqualified males from being chosen over better qualified women, as is currently the case.

    • but only by excluding perfectly good male candidates who could bring a lot to the party, merely for their gender… which is what has caused the problem for women in the first place. You can’t right a historical wrong against women by punishing the men of now. If this was about Mandating balanced lists, I’d be cheering every step of the way… but this? discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality, ethnicity.. these things are wrong. two wrongs do not make a right.

    • That makes no sense – you’re actually advocating the opposite. Underqualified females would be chosen over better qualified men because men would be completely excluded.

    • Annette, do you not mean under qualified women will be chosen now? As a women member of the SNP for the last 40 years I can tell you that never have I seen women being discriminated against. The best person for the job gets selected, man or women. To answer the question of why do more women not come forward the answer for me is quite simply. My hourly rate doing what I do now is better and I have a permanent contract. I don’t want to give up that security to have to stand for election every five years.
      To be be honest sometimes people, men and women, have to face up to the fact that the reason they didn’t achieve their ambition was because they weren’t good enough, not because they were discriminated against. Lots of good women get through, Margo MacDonald, Winnie Ewing and Nicola Sturgeon to name a few. As a women I can honestly say I am fed up of women claiming that they are being discriminated against when in fact they are sitting about waiting for someone to hand everything to them on a plate. I want equality not superiority, take your war against men somewhere else.

  3. Against all forms of discrimination, and that includes women only shortlists!

    • Wonderfully pithy but completely mistaken, I’d suggest.

      Yes, let’s be against all forms of discrimination but let’s not mistake that for not intervening in situations to enable equality.

      Anatole France wrote that “the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal” but such a law is irrelevant to the rich and comes down hard on the very poor.

      In the same way turning a blind eye to the need to address gender – or any other – inequality, is not a way of treating people equally, it is a way of maintaining inequality.

  4. Some years ago while I was still a member of the SNP I attended a party conference in Perth Town Hall and zip lists were being debated. I voted for them but the motion was defeated by a curious combination of the very old (for whom affirmative action was too newfangled) and the very young who seemed to think the battle had been won.

    I remember Roseanna Cunningham who was supporting the motion shaking her head in disbelief as a Young Nationalist girl spoke against. I am glad to think the idea has come back because it is certainly needed. Zipping is alive and well in the Greens.

  5. I would like to see a gender balance in politics and workplaces but I’m not sure shortlists are the best way to achieve this.

    At present there are institutions in Scotland which have a significant gender imbalance in favour of women and have had for some time (including an imbalance in senior positions of power).

    Very few people are advocating that these institutions should instigate men only shortlists to provide gender balance despite the fact that empirical studies tend to show that balanced workplaces produce healthier working environment for both sexes.

    As an example look at the gender imbalance within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service:

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/gender_breakdown_of_copfs_staff

    and then look at the media article in the Herald from the same year as the FOI request whose headline completely distorts the reality of the actual numbers of male/female employees within that organisation:

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/new-appointment-levels-the-fiscal-gender-balance-1.911335

    I’m open to persuasion on the introduction of women only shortlists as a remedy for imbalance in politics.

    It would be good to see a similar level of debate regarding gender imbalance in other areas of governance and employment whichever sex is underrepresented.

  6. I am a man and I welcome gender quotas. If you watch the SNP conference, you will see that most of the best speeches are made by women. Almost every woman SNP MSP is completely fantastic — as are all the women in the YES movement, from the likes of Jeanne Freeman, Elaine C. Smith and Lesley Riddoch to the girl who climbed Castle Mount in Edinburgh with her YES sign (Linsday) and the lasses who bravely defended our Saltire during the Battle of George Square. On this basis alone, the balance should be 60-40 in favour of women!

    It is ridiculous that women are still being kept out of politics. It is like saying blacks or gays are inferior — there is no rational, scientific explanation for it. And it is also very stupid to keep women out. I believe the statistics show that Norway was transformed from bringing in boardroom quotas and female participation is actually more important to their economy than oil. Think what this could do for Scotland, which is less dependant on oil than Norway is…

    In the last years before the union of the crowns, let us not forget that Scotland was basically ruled by French princesses. Let us hope that it ended with a lassie and that it will begin again with a lassie (Nicola).

  7. I really don’t understand the level of smugness coming from a large number of people who support all women shortlists, you’re not winning over support with the holier than thou attitudes on show and painting anyone that disagrees as some raging lunatic.

    Personally I am against all women shortlists, discrimination is discrimination, it is better for me to look at the root causes of why women are not participating as much as men and then look to eradicate these causes through legislation. It’s good also to look at the views of Thomas Sowell who argues any affirmative action/positive discrimination is more likely to further empower the subsection of the demograph already well suited, while the rest of the demograph who need the intervention most fall behind.

  8. I fully support 50:50 representation. I am however wondering if we are in danger of the one thing that left-wing politics is often prone to and that is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We’ve already seen fractures appear in the Yes movement with some groups saying they won’t work with other groups, individuals refusing to appear on a platform with other individuals and accusations of not being socialist/left-wing/feminist/radical enough.

    It appears to me that we are getting bogged down fighting for the scraps from the big table when we should be fighting for the key to the pantry.

    • True words. Slightly OT, but one of the most saddening aspects of the referendum I experienced was learning that some people would not discuss issues with me, or debate with me, or even hand out leaflets with me because I am a Conservative.

      Some people expressed disbelief at the idea that you could be a Conservative and be in favour of an independent Scotland, as though an independent Scotland was the sole preserve of the Left.

      • How interesting.

        And I’ve been told so many times that the Yes campaign was ‘inclusive’. Turns out some animals are more equal than others?

        That’s one of the many problems of the Left. If something they consider ‘theirs’ and the preserve of their clique gains wider traction, including amongst groups they consider the other, or bad, or even the enemy, they get very upset. Parts of the ‘Green’ movement are very like this, to them, you are the antichrist, and they wouldn’t want ‘Conservatives’ sullying their movement.

        Now that the euphoria is wearing off, I can imagine the very same happening to the “Yes Movement”.

        And as the post above notes, the predictable fracturing has begun. Everyone’s seen the Judean People’s Front Monty Python sketch.

        My brother, who was a Labour supporter until 5 minutes before the referendum, voted Yes, and is now one of the SNP membership surge, would call you ‘evil’, ‘selfish’, ‘Tory scum’ even though you made the same decision re. the future of the country.

        Also a High school teacher.

      • Independence seemed to go hand-in-hand with strong left-of-centre policies. In fact the whole thing seemed almost to be an anti-Tory backlash. I don’t think you should be surprised that you were shunned as a Conservative given how reviled the Tories were amongst the pro-independence movement.

      • Have you checked out the Scottish Democratic Alliance, by any chance? They are an excellent alternative for those who want independence from a centre-to-centre-right perspective.

    • “We’ve already seen fractures appear in the Yes movement with some groups saying they won’t work with other groups, individuals refusing to appear on a platform with other individuals and accusations of not being socialist/left-wing/feminist/radical enough.”

      Splitters!!!

      • We’re going off topic again here, but I honestly thought the Yes campaign and the SNP shot itself in the foot with its message of Tory Scum, we’ll never have Tory governments again etc etc

        I’m happily do an article on this for Bella, but telling over 300,000 Scots who voted Tory at the 2010 GE, that they were scum, wasn’t the smartest idea. I freely admit that a majority would have voted No, but I do have friends who were tempted by the possibilities that an independent Scotland could have offered.

        There’s always been an assumption that an indy Scotland would be a socialist free for all, but some right wingers I knew could see the potential of getting away from the UK’s debt mountain, creating a low tax environment, rolling back the state, growing the economy, creating a Switzerland in Scotland etc etc

        Unfortunately, they didn’t take kindly to being portrayed as scum, though I admit, not everybody on the Yes side was guilty of this.

      • Totally agree with your comments in relation to the left / right issue in Scotland. My belief is that we effectively exclude a large number of potential voters by this approach.

        We can surely find ways of working towards the bigger aim of an independent Scotland with a more inclusive balanced approach.

  9. I agree with much of the sentiment in this piece Mike.

    If the heavy gender bias in many of our institutions was merely down to merit, then you could logically conclude that women were inferior to men in some way – a ridiculous conclusion.

    So, as you say, something else has to be at play. And that has to be gender bias or sexism or misogyny or entrenched patriarchy or whatever.

    While the principle of all women lists is ideologically questionable, in the short term, they’re necessary.

    In the long term I can see there being no need for such lists as something approaching gender equity will hopefully be reached our various institutions.

    In that regard, Holyrood is blazing a trail.

    Regards

    Longshanker

  10. Rather than striking a blow for equality, this is a setback for increasing the number of women in politics. I have two problems with all women shortlists:

    1. You’re telling women you’re only on the list because of your gender, not because of your ability.

    2. You’re painting women as damsels in distress, unable to get far up the ladder or fight their own corner without state intervention.

    “So opponents of all women shortlists have to be living in a world where they believe we already live in a meritocracy, and secondly have to offer some explanation of the distorted representation that exists.”

    There is a possibility that the reason why more women don’t become politicians is because they’re not interested. For example, in Fife a few years ago, the old constabulary (before Police Scotland) got it in the neck for not having more officers drawn from ethnic minorities. It was later revealed that hardly any people from ethnic minorities had applied to become police officers, and the reason why 99.9% of the police force was white, was because, shock horror, 99.9% of people who lived in Fife were white!

    “This is a society disfigured by poverty and characterised by exclusion, hierarchy and discrimination.”

    These problems are not unique to women, nor is it sensible to suggest that women from all walks of society are facing the same problems. The woman who earns a million a year is not going to face the same discrimination and access to power as the woman living on a council estate and facing poverty.

    Similarly, the shocking levels of suicide in working men (or men who were made redundant) compared to women, is a national disgrace, and even more so when you read that mental health provision is more geared up to helping women rather than helping men. That’s not to simplify the issue, but gender discrimination and associated problems are not unique to women.

    More women in politics is a good thing and a long term goal of 50/50 would be fair reflection.

    But let’s not kid ourselves that having more women in politics will automatically fix deep rooted, structural problems in Scottish society in regard to poverty, inequality, and discrimination.

  11. Why not try shortlists as a time-limited experiment, and see what happens? All the abstract arguments in the world are bested by evidence on the ground.

    • Haven’t we already had a limited daliance with all women lists? Did this short term expirement have any longer term impact?

      • If we try women on shortlists then we must have me only shortlists as well. The SNP has become really sexist. I am forced to be a member of a women’s group whether I want to be or not. I am cast a ‘poor wee wifey’ who cannot speak up for herself and needs a group to stand up for her. We criticise Islamists for segregating sexes and then we do it ourselves. What is going to happen next? Is the SNP going to demand I wear a burka for my own protection? We need to get a grip and let Nicola and her self-serving cabal of women suppressors who pretend they are ‘women sticking up for women’ when in reality they are women getting their nose in a trough and suppressing women to make sure they have a ’cause’, that they are completely out of line.

  12. “I for one am getting bored by mid-spectrum male monotone bloggers who can only speak in the language of anger. The lack of self-reflection, the complete absence of solidarity or connectivity with a wider movement and the inability to see beyond the narrowest political gauge is a depressing spectacle.”

    The problem is, that even considered and self examining discussion is being shouted down. I wrote a blog post about this, trying to avoid the 140 characters constraints of twitter; http://scottishatheist.org.uk/2015/03/all-women-shortlists/

    The author I was trying to debate with jumped from simply mocking me, to complaining that she was “bored explaining this to entitled men”.

    Fundamentally, you are either against gender discrimination and in favour of equality, or you aren’t. You can’t advance equality through more discrimination, however well intentioned.

    • Ian, I read your blog and I think I would agree with what you say – if we lived in an ideal world.

      But we don’t. Until we do, all-women shortlists are the least bad solution to the problem.

  13. This isn’t a silly question – I hope.
    Would it be realistic for all parties to put forward two nominees for every seat in which they stand – one male and one female?Tthe electorate would vote for only one of the nominees but the combined total of votes for both nominees would be counted together for the constituency vote.
    The electorate could then make their own choice both in terms of quality of candidate and gender and the parties would increase their coverage on the ground.

      • I was thinking something similar to what Archie suggests-woke up thinking it in fact. Given that we have one of the lowest representation per capita in Europe–why can’t we have dual representation, voting for a male and female candidate for each seat? That would ensure 50/50 split. Would be an interesting experiment. While I’m writing. I think there are important discussions to be had about short lists–and more consensual steps that can be taken to address inequality. Having discussed it via twitter, as best one can in that medium- with Stu of Wings over Scotland, what came across is that a) he does recognise there is inequality b) he wouldn’t be any happier with quotas to solve the inequality issue he cares most about and c) he would “absolutely” support other steps to address inequality issues for women such as childcare.
        I’m skeptical about what effects quotas may have (and have found Daryl contribution above thought provoking on that score). Social engineering doesn’t have a happy history. What I do think we need to have is more conversations in which we are willing to hear each other out and explore where we have common ground and where we can build better solutions to problems that put all of us first 🙂 not at each other’s expense.

    • Maybe.

      What happens in the event of there being literally no female nominee available / coming forward?

      What would happen then – two men?

      (I’m not being flippant or rubbishing your idea. I can just imagine what might happen though, and the arguments, and the screaming).

      • if the idea has any merit then I’d hope that brighter and more experienced political minds than mine would be able to come up with the answer to that question. However it seems to me that by opening the choice up to the electorate we would get the balance that the voting public want to see without the need for any discriminating single gender listing being involved.

      • Seriously if we were to give it a try? I guess pilot it small, see what happens, research why, refine. As it is, I think if not enough people stand to fulfill representation posts go unfilled. To make it more workable would be good to have a workplace nursery–and look at other ways to make being a representative accessible and inclusive, particularly for disabled candidates and those with caring responsibilities of any kind.

  14. I find it a bit sad that we’re having to contemplate this so far into the twenty first century,but that’s where we are.Progress is too slow.Time to crack on.If it isn’t successful we can scrap it.Hopefuly,by getting more females into parliament,we will never need to consider the introduction of shortlists for other sections of society.

    • I agree we should crack on with it – and if it isn’t successful i.e. the result is an influx of female politicians that voters consider ineffective / inappropriate / useless / destructive, then I agree we can then bin it.

      Notwithstanding anything else, we’ll never ‘have’ the argument i.e. never hear the end of it unless its actually tested.

      “Hopefuly,by getting more females into parliament,we will never need to consider the introduction of shortlists for other sections of society.”

      Eh? So if we get equality of the sexes sorted out, then its job done?

      What about ethnic minorities or, more to the point, what about disabled people, who in my opinion (can be) the most genuinely disadvantaged, marginalised people in society. (I have limited sympathy for the complaints of some ethnic minorities)

      Conversations with disabled people I’ve had reveal that the central issue is not benefits, ‘the bedroom tax’ etc. (which the self-righteous able-bodied use to bang a drum) because these are just symptoms of the fundamental problem.

      That disabled people simply want to have equal access to the same employment and life opportunities that able bodied people take for granted.

      So if we’re having all women shortlists … well, disabled people don’t account for 50% of the population so (I guess?) it wouldn’t be rational to have all disabled shortlists.

      But what about some form of ‘positive discrimination’ for disabled people to enter politics?

      Or aren’t there enough votes in that?

      • My hope is that,if we have more women in parliament,that more gender balanced parliament will bring about change that will result in better representation in parliament of disabled,gay,older,younger etc thus obviating the need for quotas.If it doesn’t I’ll be very disappointed and look at options to improve diversity in our parliament.

  15. For those speaking out against lists, I wonder if you have been as vocal about the actual gender imbalance disgrace. Yes, didn’t think so. A progressive Scotland is what I’m after, and if female only lists need to be in place to forceable redress the bias then so be it.

    It will upset some male candidates who consider themselves best for a role and they may even be correct, but they should blame the chauvinistic bias that still goes on. The solution to this problem is long overdue and the lists deserve the support of those claiming they yearn for a more progressive, equitable society.

    Once we can learn to treat people on their merits, the lists can go. Until then, come and join the trailblazers in this forward thinking movement of ours.

    • ” I wonder if you have been as vocal about the actual gender imbalance disgrace. Yes, didn’t think so”

      …and this is the other thing that’s bothering me about this discussion; the dismissal and straw man attacks on anyone who disagrees.

      You make the presumption that those who disagree with your position don’t support equality, or are armchair philosophers. How dare you!

      When I ran an IT company, my staff was gender balanced. When I interview, I ensure that we have a balanced set of candidates. I have taken part in govt. consultations, got involved in campaigns, and donate to NGOs working to improve the lot of women worldwide.

      I walk the walk, because I believe utterly in equality – and balanced lists are about equality.

      All Women lists are just another form of gender discrimination. it should have no place in our movement.

      • thanks Ian. It’s exactly this wider range of ways of changing the status quo that also need to be in our considerations I think.

      • “You make the presumption that those who disagree with your position don’t support equality, or are armchair philosophers. How dare you!”

        No, I don’t do that at all, and I would not. The situation lacks a solution. You give a great explanation of you’re individual stance which is commendable. If everyone had the same fairness of mind the problem would not exists… but it does.

        List are not “just another form of discrimination”. They are are a form of forcing something closer to fairness upon people and systems that are not providing equality and managing to achieve balance without intervention.

        I certainly do not want them as any kind of long term solution but as a temporary measure, they are overdue.

  16. The problem arises from the nature of the solution.
    Everyone (mostly) agrees that women appear to be under-represented potical parties. The problem appears to be most readily remedied at the selection part of the process.
    Assuming that everyone would be happy with the best candidate regardless of gender (assuming we could be assured of the gender neutrality of the process) – where are the discussions of how the selection process can be changed to ensure that the best candidate gets through, regardless of gender?
    Why instead, have we arrived directly at the leap from one supposed institutional discrimination to another?

    It seems to me that it has be because either we can’t be arsed trying to find/solve the problems in the selection process (it might be very difficult, time-consuming, and rock some boats), or we aren’t really bothered about getting the best candidates (good enough will do, as long as we can say we are really, really pro-women).

    I don’t agree with your characterisation that the angry rebuttal is aimed at ‘these efforts to recalibrate our politics’, but rather the direct leap straight to the nuclear option for doing so. The characterisation of those against it as ‘angry’ is also a pretty cheap way to dispose of people’s concerns. Also, the naked assertion that it’ll improve the voice, tone and conduct of civil life is hopefully true, but is presently just wishing.

    Discrimination is discrimination, and if you believe it’s ok in principle because it suits you just now, then the discrimination we get in society will really just boil down to whoever is setting the agenda for what sorts of discrimination is ok at any given point in time; that doesn’t fill me with joy.

    I think it’s going to happen, but if it doesn’t work – what then?

  17. What is sexist, Mike, is to presume that it is only men who are opposed to reducing women to tokens.

    One of the great things, for me, to have come from the indy debate, was to see just how many women are engaged and involved in politics. To see all the fantastic female candidates for this GE is inspiring. Having a woman as FM, someone who proves that we can do it, and knowing that she had enough talent available to balance her cabinet, is inspiring.

    Saying that we need a leg up is not inspiring. Supporting special help for us poor wee women is not inspiring. Seeing democracy being rigged is not inspiring.

    I don’t pick my representatives based on what’s between their legs. I don’t want to be forced to vote for a woman through gender discrimination. I won’t respect anyone who stands on an all-woman short list and I won’t vote for her. She’ll be diminishing the achievements of all those women who made it without discriminating against their male colleagues.

    I’m sure it makes you feel like you’re doing something to prove that you’re not one of those vile, sexist men who value democracy above third wave feminism’s shoulder chips, but if you really thought women were just as capable as men in the field of politics, you’d promote participation in genuine democracy.

    You’ll get cookies from some grateful damsels, though.

  18. Deciding on the relative merits of candidates is inevitably a subjective process and this being so, the notion that everyone who is adopted is there by objective ‘merit’, is fundamentally flawed. We must begin from the premise that there MUST be a 50:50 gender balance. In my opinion, any system that can achieve this is a step forward. I respect the right of others to disagree with me but I hope the SNP adopts my perspective.

    No-one who genuinely supports the cause of Scottish self-government will allow this issue to undermine their commitment. There will always be moles in our midst who will try to create divisions because that is exactly why they have been planted but they can only succeed if we are daft enough to let them.

  19. The short list is not positive discrimination – it’s positve action against discrimination. If meritocracy worked, then we would have equal representation already – or do you think that men are more competent than women to do the job of politics? Equal representation has not come about since women were given the vote; the norm has not changed, so change has to be compelled. Meritocracy can still work with a shortlist but it also compells scrutiny and revision of the factors that prevent women coming into politics (or any other male dominated situation) to create an enviroment where the culture, recruitment, selection and working practices cultivate a norm of equality. It’s worked in Europe – so what are you frightened of here?

  20. What a refreshing article. Given the imbalance of the bigger picture all women lists can hardly be called discrimination. Maybe more women can change the nature of politics, thus encouraging others.

  21. I would make the more radical suggestion that we should snatch the comfort blanket of meritocracy away from raging males by arguing that, even in an ideal world, choosing candidates PURELY on merit is wrong. Today, it would make even the Thatcherite left cringe, but in 50 years, people will have to come to terms with the failure of meritocracy as just another kind of bias.

    Fundamentally, we cannot allow society to be geared up to reward clever or effortful people more than anyone else. Sure, we like and need people who get things done and get them done well, but everyone is a product of their endowments and heritage – in other words, luck – so no one is uniquely morally deserving of reward. For me, an essential aspect of the equality utopia that people don’t talk about is that there should be NO privileging of anyone for any reason, merit included.

    Of course, this is not to argue for chaos – it’s not to argue that the most important jobs in the country should be staffed by the incompetent. Instead, it’s to acknowledge first of all that ‘goodness’ is not strictly quantifiable (give a list of 20 candidates; can you REALLY rank them in order of ability for a complex position?); and also that goodness, while important, is not EVERYTHING.

    For me, the basic question is this: given a parliament made up almost entirely of men, would I prefer the next batch of MPs to be women who are good at the job rather than men who are great at the job? Personally, the answer is yes. I think politicians flatter themselves far too much by pretending that their jobs are so important and difficult that we must absolutely find the very, very, very best in the land to fill their shoes. Given some wiggle-room between good and great (still discounting bad), I think the benefits of including more female voices in an unbalanced parliament outweigh the benefits of selecting better-qualified men.

    And note that this is just hypothetical; in reality, for every man there will be a woman who is as good or better. The point of the argument is to suggest that even if there ARE mediocre women, arguments based on merit are still flawed because merit isn’t the gold standard that everyone thinks it is.

  22. Things never change unless you make them change.

    All woman short lists are the only way to go.

    The merit argument is a distraction by those fighting change. Does anyone seriously belief that significantly more men than woman are competent to be MP’s or be on the boards of major companies.

  23. I’ll have to read this again in the morning. I’m not sure how you get from optimism about grassroots participation to a need for imposing top down regulation.

  24. I don`t necessarily believe an exact 50-50 split is possible and as far as I can see every scheme has its flaws but every organization especially a legislator only benefits from having a diverse and more representative range of members.
    Whether it`s difficult or unpopular it is the responsibility of every government to help redress the imbalances in society, whether it`s be between the rich and poor or between the genders, the status quo is easy just ask Westminster.

  25. I have a basic dislike of any discrimination – positive or institutional. If selection is on merit, you would expect 10% (or whatever) of male and female applicants to be successful, with the gender balance broadly in line with the ratio of M/F applicants. Is this the case? If so, the issue is not discrimination, it is “why do fewer women put themselves forward”.
    I agree with Kenny that most of the high profile “yes” women seem to be very good, but I suspect this is because such women are more likely to engage.
    I recently heard a story which I found very thought provoking.
    Iceland was in the run-up to a presidential election. The incumbent was a female and so was her sole challenger. TV was doing a piece interviewing primary children on their views. After questioning some girls, the interviewer asked 2 boys (6 years old) if they wanted to be president when they grew up. Their response was a scornful “no – that’s a job for girls”. What does that tell you?

  26. I’m a convert. “50:50” or “All Women Shortlists” are the way to go, at least for now until we normalise women in politics. It is requirement I now believe up the day we no longer have sexist comments trying to reduce women’s abilities by demeaning them through sexist remarks.

    Why has my “awakening” happened? What prompted my reversal of attitude.?

    It was Nicola Sturgeons first FMQ’s. I got really, really. REALLY worked up, when instead of focussing on her performance and message, we concentrated on her shoes (nice as they were). No I am not talking just about the MSM, we knew they would try to demean her from the outset. I am talking about our own support. I am talking about the wider Yes movement in general. For days the feeds on Facebook and Twitter were littered with stuff about Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister shoes!

    That was my epiphany, that was the moment I thought something needs to give. That is where I moved from a position of being fervantly against positive discrimation to supporting at a minimum the 50:50 campaign and now even woman only shortlists.

  27. How about a shortlist that involves working class people getting a glimpse of the front of the queue? How many SNP or any other party candidates in this GE are traditional working class. I’d guess a big fat zero. I was in the SSP for seven years and strangely we always seemed to end up with middle class candidates too. What we seem to be looking for in our candidates is someone who can be urbane, answer questions in front of an audience or on tv with a certain panache without offending too many people while sticking to the party line. Why don’t we just grab the nearest HR flack and give them jobs as MPs and MSPs? Perhaps we need to redefine or indeed define the skills set for our elected representatives, male or female.

  28. Mike, it seems to me that yourself, and the proponents of the ‘all female’ shortlist have become so blinkered that they have overlooked or even forgotten the principle of equality. Equality for all is exactly that. Women have a right to be treated equally. But so do men. And it is that fact that seems to be being casually brushed aside.

    It could be that there may be a male candidate who would be the best person for one of those short lists. We’ll never know. The best person may be prevented from getting the post (or even from applying for it). Simply because he is a man.

    Whatever that is, it’s not equality.

  29. More utter drivel yet again.

  30. I see a similarity between the meritocracy argument and the argument against independence – too wee, too stupid. and I find the whole meritocracy argument insulting.

    Women and men are equally capable.

    The meritocracy brigade do not offer any realistic fix in terms of achieving gender equality or time-scale.

    We know there is a problem, so lets fix it.

  31. Just to throw another wee stick into the fire, regardless of gender, the problem with short lists and the selection system (and now I think about it, democracy itself) is that what you are doing, is selecting the person you feel most likely to be elected rather that best suited to doing the job if they get there.

    One has to hope that will be the same person but I have the nagging feeling that the skills that help you persuade people to vote for you are different from the ones required to be effective in government.

  32. “Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man”

    The argument against quotas always seems to be that quotas mean you end up lowering the quality of the group by excluding qualified men in place of less qualified women. The evidence from studies actually show the opposite!

    A study in Sweden (title quoted above) showed that the least qualiffied men were being replaced by more highly-qualiffied women, increasing the quality of the group overall – even the overall competency of the group of men increased as the less-qualiffied men were no longer present.

    Curt Rice, professor at the University of Tromsø covered this particular study and more on his Blog:

    http://curt-rice.com/2014/07/03/2-ways-quotas-for-women-raise-quality/

  33. I’m very wary of ‘positive discrimination’ but prepared to acquiesce. I’ve no idea who George Ferguson or whether he speaks the language of anger but at least I can understand what was quoted of him in the piece:

    “The other day someone called George Ferguson tweeted: “So men voted yes. Their reward is to be excluded from lists. Institutional discrimination. I am deactivated.” The crashing irony of quoting “institutional discrimination” may have passed him by. But the anger on twitter about this subject is extraordinary. The barely concealed male rage is spilling out, and this is the issue it’s focused on.”

    However, when it comes to:

    “I for one am getting bored by mid-spectrum male monotone bloggers who can only speak in the language of anger. The lack of self-reflection, the complete absence of solidarity or connectivity with a wider movement and the inability to see beyond the narrowest political gauge is a depressing spectacle.”

    I am at a complete loss.

    If accepting the input of the new, wider movement is to include talking to each other in jargonistic bolleaux like that, then gender balance is the least of our worries. The SNP is succeeding by speaking to people in their language, not the gobbledegook of trendy political anoraks.

  34. And, of course, shortlists on their own are only really a partial remedial measure, they do nothing to challenge the wider cultures of sexism and misogyny. They do nothing to challenge the fundamental of male power.’

    This for me is the nub of it and why I’m not convinced shortlists are the way to go. Discrimination against female candidates isn’t caused by some mysterious force over which we have no control. It’s the direct result of individuals discriminating against women. Why are these individuals not being dealt with? Why are they allowed to remain party members and in positions where they can exclude female candidates? Why aren’t more female candidates speaking out about the sexism they’ve encountered during selection.

    Imposing an all female shortlist does nothing to prevent them discriminating against women. OK it forces them to accept a female candidate but does nothing to stop them making life for that candidate unpleasant post selection.

    In my trade union we require at least 50% of committees to be female and we’re all expected to be fucking delighted at how progressive we all are, totally ignoring the fact that so many of the vacant seats are unfilled because women aren’t coming forward or those that do are immediately directed towards the womens committee for which competition for seats is so high they might as well tell women not to bother. Still it’s easier to impose quotas than gently suggest to men that their attitudes might need a bit of work and that the hilarious let’s ask the bird to make the tea patter ceased to be funny about thirty years ago.

    Now if a quota of 0% sexists were to be imposed I’d happily support that but this just feels like putting a sticking plaster over a festering wound because you want to be seen to be doing something. We wouldn’t accept racists being allowed to stay in the party, so why are people so willing to accept sexists remaining members.

  35. “Unless you think that women are somehow less capable than if we had a merit-based system, we wouldn’t have these problems of under-representation of women.”

    I don’t believe anybody who is serious about the issue thinks this, but what may be true is that women tend to be less ambitious or pushy in putting themselves forward than we testosterone fuelled men. Of course, that is exactly why we should be seeking gender equality in our representative bodies. The pushiest and most ambitious are not always necessarily the best. Sensible debate, but preferably one that doesn’t charcetrise every voice of doubt or concern as neanderthal or sexist is long overdue.

    What encouraged me in terms of Nicola Sturgeon’s remarks in the speech that Mike qoutes from is that she recognised there was a democratic price to pay for all-women shortlists (in the sense that the choice of some constituency members is limited in order to achieve a progressive outcome) and that in an ideal world merit would and should be the only criteria.

    We don’t live in that ideal world, however, and clearly some short to medium term steps may be necessary to improve the representation of women in our Scottish Parliament. I would argue however, that a longer term, constitutional solution must and should be championed by the progressive left. One potential solution to this question, developed by myself and my partner, Liz Walker, we have called Constitutional Electoral Pairing, and it was first outlined in our article ‘Achieving gender balance in an independent Scottish Parliament’ here:

    http://www.thepointhowever.org/index.php/issues/235-achieving-gender-balance-in-an-indepedent-scottish-parliament

    The arguments made are in the context of the run up to the independence referendum, but the fundamental arguments remain sound and the principles could be applied across the board in civil society, from councillors, to company and third sector boards and trade unions. I’d urge anyone with an interest in promoting gender balance in representation to have a read and acquaint themselves with the concept.

  36. Great article Mike, and having read all the comments, I think you have hit the nail right on the head! Ha!

  37. Despite what the author of this article would have you believe, opposition to AWS, and gender quotas in general is not all expressed via male rage, anger and misogyny. There is plenty of reasoned arguments, some of which have been made by/supported by women.

    A particular problem with this article, and others like it, is that the author quotes statistics, then goes on to tell us that these figures are a result of structured, institutional discrimination against women. This is presented as some sort of self-evident fact that requires no sort of evidence whatsoever to back it up. At no point do authors of such articles consider that the statistics presented are a reflection of individual free will, and an election process that takes place in an open, free, democratic and monitored environment.

    Ask yourself this, would a system of structured, institutional discrimination against women allow for three of the main political parties in Scotland to have been lead by women within the last six months? Would it allow for women who represented just 28.4% of the candidates in the 2011 MSP election to achieve 35% representation in the Scottish parliament?

    There are several glaring problems with quotas (gender quotas or otherwise) when they are applied to humans. Firstly, they are discriminatory by nature (due to exclusion), and therefore are in opposition to equal rights & equal opportunities. This leads to valid criticisms that quotas for people are undemocratic.

    Another issue often ignored by the self appointed “progressives” is that gender inequalities exist in many professions and publicly funded arenas, but are not deemed to be a problem. Think of heavy industry and manual labour professions which are overwhelmingly dominated by men (and by a higher degree than politics). Where are the campaigns for gender balance amongst refuse collectors, sewerage workers and engineers?

    Furthermore, how far do we take gender balancing? Consider for a moment that public funding for research and treatment of gender specific cancers is weighted heavily in favour of women. While i’m no expert in this field, I am prepared to believe that there is good reason for this to be the case. Should “progressive” gender balancing see monies transferred from woman-specific cancer research funding and moved to mens? Should this this be the new “progressive” method, where we divide resources between men and women in the name of gender balance?

    Men also represent a far greater percentage of small business owners and entrepreneurs than women, is this another gender imbalance that needs addressed via quota’s? Do we stop men opening businesses/shut existing ones down until women have caught up in the stats?

    From the author – “So opponents of all women shortlists have to be living in a world where they believe we already live in a meritocracy, and secondly have to offer some explanation of the distorted representation that exists.”

    I do believe meritocracy exists, I am comfortable with the Equality Act 2010 and the decades of legislation that it enshrines to provide equal opportunity and equal rights to citizens. I also believe in free education to University level and an open, free and democratic election process. If a demographic of individuals personal life choices create a gender imbalance in certain professions, I am comfortable with this also.

    Equality of opportunity does not guarantee to return equality of results.

    • Thanks Neils.

      There has been plenty of good arguments here, but in other forums the debate has been shut down and the tone is definitely angry and bitter. I could give you endless examples if you really havent witnessed this, but the debate has moved on.

      You say: “A particular problem with this article, and others like it, is that the author quotes statistics, then goes on to tell us that these figures are a result of structured, institutional discrimination against women.”

      If it’s not then how do you explain the imbalance described?

      • Thanks for your reply Mike.

        Yes, i’m fully prepared to believe that there has been areas where debate has been poor, this happens in pretty much in every debate or controversy on any subject in the public eye the world over. Welcome to web 2.0. However, poor debate in certain quarters is not a shield against legitimate criticism in others.

        “If it’s not then how do you explain the imbalance described?”

        I’m not sure if you skim read my reply Mike, but I did outline where I had concerns with the current narrative of “statistics show women are under-represented because of structured, institutional discrimination”, I will paste them again;

        1. “At no point do authors of such articles consider that the statistics presented are a reflection of individual free will, and an election process that takes place in an open, free, democratic and monitored environment.”

        2. “If a demographic of individuals personal life choices create a gender imbalance in certain professions, I am comfortable with this also.”

        My argument here is that the default position of many commentators seems to be that statistics relating to gender imbalance in politics, in and of themselves, are by definition, evidence of discrimination. No actual evidence of structured, institutional discrimination is put forward, nor is it required it seems, these figures have convinced them.

        As above, I am of the opinion that the statistics simply reflect personal choice and free will. In this case, that personal choice is that more men put themselves forward as candidates for election than women. ” I also feel that this happens in many other professions and areas of life, yet when statistics show gender imbalance in those, there are NO campaigns for gender quotas.”

        I think it’s rather telling that the campaigns for gender balance only target areas of power and wealth (politics and big business) and reek of special interest groups who have their own vested interests at heart rather than the greater good of society.

        • Okay, so your analysis of women’s under-representation of women in politics is that this is ‘free will’. The End.

          I don’t really know what to say to that really.

          But thanks for the ‘Welcome to web 2.0’ – it’s a subject I don’t know much about.

      • “Okay, so your analysis of women’s under-representation of women in politics is that this is ‘free will’. The End.

        I don’t really know what to say to that really.”

        You could start by putting forward actual evidence of structured, institutional discrimination against women in politics, rather than than just saying it. This is your assertion in the article, but you provide nothing to prove the veracity of the claim. You have attributed cause to statistics that simply show levels of participation.

        Who is doing the discriminating Mike? Party members, party hierarchy, the electorate? and do decades worth of legislation contained within the Equality Act 2010 offer no challenge to such perceived discrimination? If not, why not?

        Seriously, the burden of proof lies upon those claiming discrimination, until then, all we have is figures that show participation levels.

        • Clearly its very difficult to attribute cause and effect without extensive sociological research. I think you are maybe taking ‘discrimination’ at a very literal level. I am suggesting that there are multiple obstacles to participation from the way we talk to the way we structure childcare to the framing of debates and so on.

          But you don’t doubt the figures quoted in the article?

          My argument would be that a) men and women are equal in capacity and ability (aside from some marginal specific physical examples) b) it’s not just a general positive but a hugely important and empowering idea that we create an ‘architecture of participation’, and that greater participation levels would have multiple gains for us as a society.

          Your counter argument seems to be that there isn’t really a problem at all.

          Is that a fair summary?

      • “Clearly its very difficult to attribute cause and effect without extensive sociological research.”

        Okay, glad we agree, will you consider editing your article to reflect this? because as it stands it’s extremely presumptuous.

        “I think you are maybe taking ‘discrimination’ at a very literal level. I am suggesting that there are multiple obstacles to participation from the way we talk to the way we structure childcare to the framing of debates and so on”

        Well, of course I am, because that is where it actually does damage to peoples rights and opportunities, and why many have fought for legislation to be put in place to counter. The way we structure our childcare is not at the behest of the state, again this is an issue that is down to free will and does not seem to prevent the 35% of women within the Scottish parliament performing their functions. Quite frankly, if an individual cannot plan or manage their familial responsibilities, is that someone that is suitable for being front and centre and under the spotlight of a political process making decisions that influences millions of people?

        “But you don’t doubt the figures quoted in the article?”

        I’ll take you at your word that they are correct.

        “My argument would be that a) men and women are equal in capacity and ability (aside from some marginal specific physical examples)”

        I have not argued against this.

        “b) it’s not just a general positive but a hugely important and empowering idea that we create an ‘architecture of participation’, and that greater participation levels would have multiple gains for us as a society.”

        Sorry, but an “architecture of participation” is disconcertingly vague. It’s the kind of woolly soundbite that you’d get from a marketing team making a pitch to a prospective client about how they could enhance their website. While I have no issue with discussion on and facilities for wider inclusiveness in political discourse and activities (plenty of other ways to contribute than candidacy) I simply dont see how excluding one demographic with gender quotas (in this case men) is positive or empowering.

        “Your counter argument seems to be that there isn’t really a problem at all.”

        Genuinely not trying to have a go at you Mike, but on one hand you’re asking me to boil my argument down to one glib sentence, then on the other saying that we need to create an ‘architecture of participation’ which is a deeply philosophical expansion of your article. In amongst this you mention looking at the framing of debates….

      • I certainly think there is a problem with perception of what the statistics represent. They are being widely reported (including by the SNP hierarchy) in the same erroneous way that you have in your article. The default position of DISCRIMINATION!!! is fundamentally unsubstantiated, when all the figures provided are able to do is present participation levels.

        I think if there was an acute case of women being genuinely discriminated against/excluded in the political arena, we would have seen dozens of interviews with women outlining their experiences, and being rightfully angry about their treatment. This simply isn’t the case.

        Lets not forget the largest problem in this whole debacle, the abandonment of equal rights and opportunities, something many people have been told that they are now ‘sticks-in-the-mud’ for having supported and continuing to support.

        • ” if there was an acute case of women being genuinely discriminated against/excluded …we would have seen dozens of interviews with women outlining their experiences, and being rightfully angry about their treatment. This simply isn’t the case.”

          You’re not aware of women feeling excluded from the political arena?

          You’ve said you accept the figures: Only 148 of our 650 MPs at Westminster are women. Just 45 of our 129 MSPs at Holyrood.

          Setting aside the issue of cause and effect, is that a problem?

      • “You’re not aware of women feeling excluded from the political arena?”

        The crucial word here is “feeling”, and it is not one that I used when making my point. I was talking about direct experiences of women actually being denied or excluded from due process in politics illegitimately. Actual issues over perceived ones.

        “You’ve said you accept the figures: Only 148 of our 650 MPs at Westminster are women. Just 45 of our 129 MSPs at Holyrood.

        Setting aside the issue of cause and effect, is that a problem?”

        If there is no information to suggest that individuals civil liberties, rights and opportunities have been abused or denied to them, then my answer is No. If there is evidence of impropriety, then Yes, that would be a problem.

        That said, with the language you are using both in the article and in comments (particularly the word “feeling”) I think there is a danger of conflating perceived exclusion, with actual exclusion. Someone feeling excluded doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. I’m sure many a Yes/No campaigner heard people say “I dont think my vote counts”, which is obviously a case of feelings overshadowing the reality. I also think it’s fair to say this applies to both genders.

        • Well there we have it: Only 148 of our 650 MPs at Westminster are women. Just 45 of our 129 MSPs at Holyrood.

          Not a problem unless there’s a bad evil man caught on the interview panel shouting “Burn the Witch!”

          It’s just such an absurd literal view of the world. That’s not what goes on not what I’m arguing not what we’re talking about.

      • “Well there we have it: Only 148 of our 650 MPs at Westminster are women. Just 45 of our 129 MSPs at Holyrood.

        Not a problem unless there’s a bad evil man caught on the interview panel shouting “Burn the Witch!

        It’s just such an absurd literal view of the world. That’s not what goes on not what I’m arguing not what we’re talking about.”

        Quite amazing that you say “not what i’m arguing” after strawmanning my position with “Not a problem unless there’s a bad evil man caught on the interview panel shouting “Burn the Witch!”.

        I really think you need to decide what what you/we are talking about then. First it was an end to the “structured, institutional discrimination against women”, which, BY DEFINITION, if it exists would happen at a very literal level. However, when challenged, you have conceded that this has not been proven. This is a pretty big deal in the context of this discussion.

        So, is it about discrimination, or something else? If you’re reply is anything like “architecture of participation”, please explain what that is as it remains undefined.

  38. I said this elsewhere:

    had that Nattalie McGarry in my house for five minutes or so, once upon a time. Charming and interesting lady.

    When she left, she had my vote.

    I find it difficult to see the point of women only lists when we have such good women candidates.

    In the future we may well need men only lists….

    It seems to me, watching Nicola Sturgeon being completely, politically, devestating, that women do not require a ‘leg up’.

    I wouldn’t cast my vote on gender.

    Would anyone else reading this thread do so?

    Perhaps it’s just because I have kids. Some of whom are male and one of whom is female. Is it legitimate to discriminate against your female offspring?

    Well no.

    I would suggest that that would be more than stupid……………………

  39. Betsy,

    You say:

    “Still it’s easier to impose quotas than gently suggest to men that their attitudes might need a bit of work and that the hilarious let’s ask the bird to make the tea patter ceased to be funny about thirty years ago.”

    and

    “Now if a quota of 0% sexists were to be imposed I’d happily support that but this just feels like putting a sticking plaster over a festering wound because you want to be seen to be doing something. We wouldn’t accept racists being allowed to stay in the party, so why are people so willing to accept sexists remaining members.”

    How would you go about identifying the sexists? I assume they have moved on from ‘let’s get the bird to make the tea’. Utterly cringeworthy as that is. One could reasonably assume that, much like racism, it would be a hidden opinion, not out in the open.

    Assuming you did have some magic wand that allows you to identify non-sexist (males?) then the rest of your arguement does not follow. Indeed, the mere idea that there may be sexist females will bring callumny upon my wee head. Though otherwise explain Margaret Thatcher’s popularity amongst (some) women?

    —————————————————————————————

    My MSP is Nicola Sturgeon and I am proud of that. It may well be that some men are sexist, but enough of them voted here in numbers to elect her. My MP is Tom Harris, and on that account I am not a happy bunny. Clearly some men voted for him too.

    It is a ridiculous over-simplification to see politics as a he / she issue. Personally, I will support any candidate,whatever their gender, that most accurately mirrors my opinions.

    Indeed I would argue that you and I are on the same side, it is just that you have the volume turned up to eleven.

  40. For me it’s about perception and radicalism leading to a fairer society.

    From an early age, if females believe politics is a male preserve, they are less likely to become involved. If we break this cycle of perception through the temporary introduction of lists until we reach 50 : 50 or a balance that is acceptable. N.B. The perception cycle needs to be broken, however in parallel other policies will be needed to address this imbalance,,e.g. Childcare and use of technology.

    The inclusion of women in politics in represtative positions in “thinking” countries has been to the significant benefit of those countries. Look at family friendly policies of Scandinavian countries. Not only has it boosted their economy directly through greater productivity, but indirectly through less crime, children attaining higher levels of education and overall greater civic / social responsibility, etc.

    It shocks and disturbs some, it’s is regrettable, but what is the alternative (cameron, clegg, milliband & farage, etc), recruiting political represtatives in men’s own image and the cycle………..?

    On balance, it’s a temporary measure, it’s the right thing to do, so let’s do it!

    Campbell McLeay

    • Well said Campbell. We can see now that the plan has been backed.

      This from the Herald:

      SNP agree to all-female shortlists for Holyrood seats
      Sunday 29 March 2015

      Delegates at the SNP spring conference have backed a move to allow all-female shortlists in the Scottish Parliament election next year.

      An amendment to the party’s policy on the selection of candidates was put to a vote at the event in Glasgow, attended by around 3,000 activists.

      It will allow the party’s national executive committee to direct constituency branches to submit an all-female shortlist in the event of a constituency MSP standing down.

      In a situation with multiple candidates, at least one must be a woman and the committee will have the power to add people to shortlists to achieve this, the amendment states.

      The committee will also be able to balance the number of men and women submitted as candidates for regional list rankings.

      The party’s national women’s officer Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said: “Women represent 52% of the population in Scotland, yet for too long have been massively under-represented in Scottish public life.

      “And while the SNP has made some progress in our selection of candidates for the general election, it was always clear that more action needed to be taken.

      “Today’s move will enable our party to take reasonable and sensible action to ensure gender equality amongst our candidates – and to guarantee that there are no longer any barriers to women playing a full role in the political process.”

      The changes faced opposition from some within the party who argue that selection should be made on merit alone.

  41. this issue has top billing on wings over scotland just now and having read some of the posts the lab/con strategy is working divide and rule and its been swallowed hook line etc the motion passed at conference is not set in stone if it dosnt work it will fall but if it gives some woman the opportunity the nudge to have a go help them don’t bloody sit and sneer and above all don’t do the oppositions work for them

  42. Why not encourage job-share pairs? The candidate consisting of one man and one woman. 50:50 job share. Split the salary and workload. No top down imposition. No discrimination. It happens in other countries. Why not here?

  43. The problem here is that at present the SNP has less than 30% women MSPs. The imbalance is worst in constituencies where it’s 4 men to 1 woman and rather better on the lists where it’s a mere 2:1.
    If they do nothing, nothing will change.
    Say 20% step down in 2016 (which would be high) : 1 dozen incumbants would change. Say 8 of those were men and women took all the incumbant seats. The SNP would then have 2:1 representation overall. Not exactly equality and an embarrassing step back from the high water mark of the SNP women MSPs in 1999.

    Do something and the SNP might more or less stand still. Do nothing and risk it getting worse? I can see why NS is keen to do something.

  44. Betsy,

    I want, presumeably, the same thing as you. I am not however persuaded that quota’s serve either women, who are better than that, nor our cause much at all. To be clear about this, I would vote for the better candidate, whether the candidate was male or female. I would vote SNP.

    Our good host sees this as an unequivocable good,see his post at 13:49.

    I am not so convinced. It seems to me that women are as equally capable in politics as they are in other areas. It is up to women to put themselves forward. If everything else were equal, I’d certainly vote for a female candidate.

    It begs the question, why did Nicola get elected at all? Given that all males hate all females, how he heck did she get elected?

    She is not alone in that. You only have to look at Germany, India, Israel, the list goes on. Men vote for women.

    Could we put that calumny to bed, please?

  45. A report by the Equality and Human Right Commission states we’re on course to wait another 70/80 years for equality across boardrooms. We are consistently getting the same story across studies and reports: change is happening but it’s gradual. Women should be represented and our parliament should be representative. We shouldn’t sit and wait for that gradual change to occur, otherwise we’ll have to tell our daughters that it will be their granddaughters who will (maybe) live in a more equal society, one in which they are equally represented. It is not good enough.

    To those saying you’ve never experienced something so you doubt there’s an issue, well lack of direct experience is not evidence that it does not exist. I’ve never seen Rome, but apparently it exists.

    People fear unqualified women being in the job. Ach away ya big fearties – maybe there is a huge pool of talented women holding back from leaning in? Anyway, god forbid we get a few dunderheids upsetting this amazing political class of brilliantly gifted men. A study ‘Breaking the glass ceiling? The Effect of Board Quotas on Female Labor Market Outcomes in Norway’ found this not to be true. The study found that the female candidates were actually more educated than their male counterparts, with women, on average, completing an extra half year of education, while men’s education didn’t change at all during the reform period. This means boards became more equal not just based on the number of men and women sitting at the table, but also in terms of the calibre of these individuals. It’s not all rosy, as the quotas in Norway still left unfinished business (sorry for pun).

    So, no, quotas are not perfect, but neither is it acceptable to chip away for the next 70 years. Big, bold moves can shift debate and we need that. Bold moves like all women lists and quotas for boards could curb implicit cognitive bias (e.g., men are better leaders) and closed social networks. It’s about democratising a space that has traditionally been seen, and too often is still seen, as a man’s space.

  46. People fear unqualified women being in the job. Ach away ya big fearties – maybe there is a huge pool of talented women holding back from leaning in? Anyway, god forbid we get a few dunderheids upsetting this amazing political class of brilliantly gifted men.

    Huh?

    We, in my constituncy at least, voted for Nicola Sturgeon. I suspect we will continue to do so.

    I voted for her, I will continue to vote for her. Were I in his constituency, I would never, ever vote for Mr Murphy, Closer to home I have never ever voted for Tom Harris and I never will.

    This sexism stuff is nonsense and to argue that folk vote on gender is so obviously wrong I am aggrieved that Bella Caledonia gives it the time of day. It may be accurate to say that some men, unqualified as they are have made a mint out of politics, indeed that would appear to be true. However Thatcher and the Al-Yamamah arms deal,suggests that some women are no better than some men.

  47. Well, does it? The history of the SNP has been one of women achieving against the odds, Winnie Ewing and Margo McDonald won when no-one expected them to. They were both remarkable and interesting politicians. My current MSP is also a remarkable woman.

    You have constructed a story here.

    When the likes of Margaret Curran can get elected on a red rosette you have to wonder to what extent sexism rather than tribal loyalty applies.

    Yeah. Duh. Tribalism. It exists. End of. All good.

  48. I don’t know why fewer than 50% of politicians are women. Is it because there are fewer candidates applying? Or is it the case that there are consistently 50% or more applying, but people aren’t voting for them? If it’s the former, then shouldn’t we be addressing the reasons they aren’t applying, while allowing a fair vote. If it’s the latter, then that would suggest institutional bias, and perhaps then we should look at the sort of solution that has just been adopted.

    But I don’t know. Does anyone?

    I am against quotas because I believe in democracy and I don’t think it matters what sex a person is. But if the system isn’t working, then we need solution. I’m just not sure this is the right one. I’m a man and I now feel obliged to show I’m not a misogynist. Three women and two men recently stood as SNP candidates in my area. My first and second choices were both women, because I thought they were the better candidates than the men who stood. We elected a woman.

    If democracy is letting women down, and we’re going to alter it to have the desired effect of ensuring that 50% or more of the positions are taken by women, then lets be open and honest about it. Once all the positions available to men are filled, then we shouldn’t just ban men from applying.

    Let male candidates stand for these positions anyway. Let them canvass support in the SNP. Let them into hustings. Let them argue their case alongside the women on an equal footing. Let the vote proceed as normal.

    But then simply throw out any votes for candidates who are male. This is effectively what we’re doing at the moment. But at least it’s honest. It lets everyone see that we’re fixing the inequality problem by scrapping democracy. A vote for a male candidate is now worth nothing.

    I think this system is wrong. It goes against every principle I have about democracy. Positive discrimination is still discrimination. But I’ll roll with it, if that’s what women want.

    But it seems to me that positive discrimination has other flaws if you look at it from a wider perspective. If we are going to “adjust” democracy to ensure equality for women, then what about other under-represented groups? Shouldn’t we be helping them too?

    Nearly one in five of us suffer from some form of disability. And I certainly don’t see anywhere near that proportion of disabled MPs in Holyrood or Westminster.

    So lets set a 20% quota for people with disabilities. That would be as fair as a 50% female quota, wouldn’t it?

    But now there’s a problem.

    What happens if you have a slot in parliament that can only be filled by a disabled MP or MSP, and you have precisely one disabled candidate applying for that role?

    The disabled candidate gets the job, right?

    But what if this candidate is a man, and the male quota is already full? If he gets the job, then he’s taking a place that can only be taken by a woman. If he doesn’t get the job, then you are forced to give the job to an able-bodied woman.

    These are the sort of knots you tie yourself in when you start to label people. When you see them from the point of view of gender or race or any other factor which doesn’t make the slightest difference to their ability to do the job.

    If we’re going down this route of quotas, there is actually a fairer system.

    Vote weighting.

    Presently we have a hidden weighting system, which says that once the available 50% male positions have been filled, then any vote for a male candidate is multiplied by zero, making it worthless. The present system hides this vote weighting by simply excluded men from applying as a candidate. But it amounts to exactly the same thing. If you are prevented from voting for a person who you might have voted for if you’d been allowed to, then it’s the same as your vote being worth nothing.

    Less severe would be to adjust votes by gender.

    If you have 37% women in parliament and 63% men, then keep the system of voting as it is, but simply weigh votes to ensure that more women are selected. So in this case you’d make a vote for a man have precisely 0.58 the value of a vote for a woman. If 1000 people vote for the woman and 1500 vote for the man, the woman would win because, due to weighting, the male vote would be reduced to 880.

    Weighting the vote this way will lead to a 50/50 balance between genders over a short period of time. And it’s much fairer than the present system which effectively weights votes for males down to zero worth, and thus disadvantages other under-represented groups. Vote weighting would ensure that a disabled candidate still has a chance of getting the job, even though he’s male. It would even out over the long term.

    If we are prepared to sacrifice democracy in the name of equality, then let’s be open and honest about what we are doing.

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