So today @hannahnicklin @davecoveny and others have been discussing the lack of female representation during the coalition negotiations. My argument in short was that if the Parties in question had no strong female negotiators, why should there be Women involved?
Let me make something very clear, I am not in anyway suggesting that women cannot be good negotiators or that female negotiators do not exist, I am saying very specifically that there may have been no women suitable for the role in the parties questioned. I am talking about the benefits of a meritocracy versus tokenism here. I firmly believe that in any situation people should be hired/selected/advanced on the basis of their ability alone. That means that Men, Women and so called ethnic minorities (I fucking hate that term by the way*) should all be judged on their talent in a scenario, not just flung in to make up the numbers. It's surely not fair on those people that may have been able to do a better job.
If I remember my numbers correctly there are 7 female Lib Dem MPs and 52 female Conservative MPs. The obvious question to ask at this juncture is why the ratios are so low? There are 362 MPs between these two parties but only 16% of women. Is that not unrepresentative given that roughly 50% of the UK population is female?
That all depends. As with the world of work, a better measure of what would be representative surely needs to look at the level of applicants for a role. When the ratio between number of applicants and number of successful applicants across all groups is balanced, then you can call the successful applicants representative. It would be easy to argue that there are talented women that are put off of entering politics for various reasons. For that reason I commend documents like this, which highlight those reasons, and try to help us break down the barriers.
What I don't like to see though is any bias built into a system, that may penalise a man via so called 'positive action' as much as I dislike to see unconscious bias (or even directed bias), rule out talented 'minorities' because they come from the wrong backgrounds. My answer as always in cases like this is that equality of opportunity is vital but selection must be fair. If that were to mean that 90% of MP's were women, I for one wouldn't complain.
*and I apparently am one.