Why we need women to be in power...


…and working in journalism*, and the police, the army and the courts and more or less anywhere. And I mean In positions of power not just support.

This is an excellent article by Linda Grant on Comment is Free.

She is talking about her work in investigating claims of mass rape in Bosnia during the Balkans Conflict. She identifies it was the first time that rape was generally recognised as a weapon of war at the same time that the war was going on and that it was women being involved that made that happen: She says:

“What was different in Croatia and Bosnia was that this was the first war that had been monitored by women's organisations, which received reports and collected data.

It was also, perhaps, the first war in which women were, in increasingly large numbers, gaining high profile positions in journalism. After the piece came out, I was contacted by Veronica Waddley, then features editor of the Telegraph (now editor of the Evening Standard)”

I know that many people say that it doesn’t matter what gender or race a person is, they can still represent all humanity. And in theory, I agree. I wouldn’t like to think that I would discriminate in my compassion for others, on the basis or their gender or race.

However, I note that in practice, that it just doesn’t work like that; it has needed women getting into positions of power to start recognising that rape is used as a weapon of war. It did take the increases (however paltry) to the number women in parliament in 1997 to bring in some of the flexible working, maternity and childcare legislation and provision over the last 11 years.

So, although in theory it doesn’t matter what groups are in power and what their gender is, in practice is seems to. This is why diversity is so important. Diversity is important, to have not just a woman’s experience but both men and women’s experience when making decisions on things.

To me this is so important that I am not prepared to wait until there is equality ‘naturally’. I don’t think that will ever happen; we need to rebalance it in women’s favour.

I appreciate, some men out there may not feel particularly advantaged: there are always those who have the merit of being the right colour, the right class, having the right amount of money and having gone to school with the right people. However, as can be shown through the numbers, the biggest advantage there is in politics, in business, in anywhere where power exists, is to be male.

And I can’t see how this is going to change, given the stagnation that has happened in the numbers of women being elected into parliament without some form of quotas. In the Liberal Democrats we do in fact have gender quotas for most bodies, from the FE & FPC, to selection committees, shortlists to PR election lists; why do we refuse to bring them in for the most vital, the most likely to effect positive change for millions of women? Why do we not have them for winnable parliamentary seats? Why do we not have a good long look at how we define the various roles in the party, especially those of PPC and agent to make them fit women’s lives more easily instead of insisting that women’s lives fit them?

In the Labour party they do use All Women Shortlists (AWS) and their women’s organisations have real strength within the party, are taken seriously and listened to by both men and women.

It always makes me very sad to see how few men turn up to the usually very interesting fringes that Women Liberal Democrats put on; we’re supposed to believe that they are able to represent all our experiences but they don’t both to do the most simple things to find out what they are.

Even in the Tory Party, Cameron at least goes on Woman’s Hour and sounds like he wants women to join and take part. I listened to the Women’s House podcast when he was on a few months ago – I tell you, he was very compelling! When are our leaders going to be going on Women’s Hour asking for the listeners to get involved?

Nick Clegg has said that if we don’t sort it out within two parliaments then we are going to have to look at AWS again. Well, from the data that the Electoral Reform Society has come up with that’s not going to happen in the next parliament so that only leaves one more. Why wait for the inevitable? Why wait another parliament of nothing changing when bringing forward change would make a real difference for millions of women’s lives? Why should all that be sacrificed for the sake of the ambitions of 30 odd male approved candidates? I know that the sacrifice of the individual for the group does not fit with our liberal values but I think we are cutting off our nose to spite our face if we don’t do this. I truly believe that more diversity will lead to better lives for all.

I’m very interested to see what the newly incepted Speakers Conference comes up with; I do hope it is going to deliver real action and not just wishful thinking! I’m also looking forward to hearing a bit more about what the Bones Commission in the Lib Dems has to say about sorting this problem out. I’m kind of hoping that it will and that will explain why Nick has been so quiet on this topic over the last 7 months.

*How many lobby correspondents are women, by the way…have you counted recently? Quite a few national newspapers don’t have any women reporting from the press gallery. I went to a press gallery lunch the other week that Nick spoke at and I’m trying very hard to remember but I don’t think there were any questions by women and was told that most of the women in the room were not in fact journalists but invited as the guests of journalists (as I was). So a lot of men asking other men questions about things that interest men.


1 comments:

Devil's Advocate said...
25 Jul 2008, 22:50:00

Women in power..... u r joking right? Look what happened last time that happened

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