All Female Shortlists

by Rachel Small

Women in politics - The exception not the rule

Positive discrimination – now there’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one. Can positive discrimination help boost gender discrimination? Certain political parties certainly think so. To boost numbers of female MP’s and MSP’s many parties have implemented all female shortlists for constituencies which are safe seats. This means candidates are virtually guaranteed to gain a seat. The parties argue that anything which boosts the number of female representatives is a good thing. But can discrimination, even positive discrimination ever be justified?

Positive discrimination is still discrimination and two wrongs don’t make a right. Surely women should be chosen based on their ability and not their gender? And it is incredibly patronising to assume that were the women to be judged against men they would surely lose. For women to succeed do men have to step aside?

It is true that there are not enough women in politics. This applies worldwide, not just in the UK. Angela Merkel, Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton are the exception not the rule. In the UK females are more fairly represented in the Scottish Parliament as opposed to Westminster. There are many reasons why this is so. MSP’s don’t have to travel so far to and from parliament – this makes family life easier. The debates in the Scottish Parliament are at times more suited to families. There is a nursery for the children of MSP’s and employees of the Scottish Parliament.

So, while it is true that more has to be done so that women are more fairly represented in politics in the UK positive discrimination is not the way to achieve this .

It is worth noting that females are not the only under-represented group in UK parliaments. Ethnic minorities and gay people are also rarely seen in the higher levels of UK politics.

In our modern, multicultural society the average politician is still a white middle class man.

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3 Responses

  1. In school, in classes such as Modern Studies, we’re taught that discrimination against women is one of the worst problems around, and that we should fight as hard as we can to eradicate this and break the ‘glass ceiling’. And fair enough, discrimination against women in the workplace is statistically still very bad. Maybe from a woman’s point of view, forcing men out of their jobs so that women can take their place could be described as ‘positive discrimination’ but surely from a man’s point of view this is just a juxtapositioned discrimination? I obviously agree that something’s got to change when it comes to the discrimination against women, but, as a woman myself, I’d rather overcome this prejudice through my own talents, rather than have the laws force women into these positions. I’d rather break the ‘glass ceiling’ myself, than smash it with laws.

  2. I definitely agree that we should base who gains seats on talent, not gender. If a man is better for the role, he should get it. Just like if a woman is better for the role she should get it! Politics has always been dominated by men, but slowly and surely this is changing. Maybe we should just wait it out!

  3. Agree with everything said here. Gender should definitely not be the marker of getting a job or not getting a job.

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