Tories have a good old barny about women candidates...

I picked up this discussion on Conservative Home via CiF. I have to say that much of the debate around diversity and why women are not being picked is far more sophisticated that ours. I might also add that they are having a debate. There's always a few 'best person for the job' commenters but many of the people commenting do not view it as just a coincidence or a naturally occurring phenomenon that 85% of selections in the last few months have been of men. Most refreshingly they are actually having a proper conversation about it. We always get stuck on the discussion around positive discrimination, collectively condemn it and then go off to think about something else. And so, not much changes...

There is on the ConservativeHome comments thread serial recognition that the problem is not with women or ethnic minorities being good enough but that the role of candidate (and in their case MP) does not attract good quality women and minorities. That this debate is taking place with the arguments in place, tells me that on the path to organisational cultural change they are further on than we are. Or at least they are on Conservative Home.

For example, they talk about the roles that women are not occupying needing to change in order to attract high quality women who have choices in their life and may make decisions using different criteria on what to do with their life than their quality male peers.

I know that, of all the things I do in terms of voluntary or community work, I make the most difference in being a school governor or on the Executive and chairing working groups on my borough police consultative groups. These are groups that are keen to utilise my experience and skills developed whilst running my own rather successful business and not treat me like a ingénue just because I haven't been delivering focuses for the last 15 years. Many of my friends and family think it would be a much more logical thing for me to focus on those activities.

Still, I am the PCA Rep on the Diversity Engagement Group and I'm looking forward to see how we can make real and lasting cultural changes to the way we do things in the Lib Dems.

My logic, by the way, for sticking with the Lib Dems and continuing to campaign within the party for real diversity is that I can make a far bigger impact on society and equality by helping to sort out the problems around representation in my chosen political party. Just sticking with the current system and making sure I am head and shoulders above my male peers to try and get selected for a seat, and then keeping my head down and quiet, will not make it easier for those coming up with or behind me.

I don't want us to be doing a collective shrug of the shoulders any more when we discover that women and ethnic minorities aren't putting themselves forward for roles at every and any level of the party. I want us to work out why and change ourselves, so they do.

This evening the DEG Target Setting Working Group is having its first meeting. We need to make sure we set targets not just for candidate selections but for MPs, councillors, party chairs, federal committee members, organisers, local party committee members, conference reps and party spokespeople and members. Because we have to start measuring our success by outcomes rather than being hamstrung by a process that we are sure is fair and does not overtly discriminate but does not produce the outcomes we need. Our process may be a work of liberal democratic art but it is not working.

And before you all fall off your chairs, target setting is aspirational, it is not about setting mandatory quotas.

The Speakers Conference that was agreed last Wednesday is going to be very instructive. If you read the debate and look at it's purpose it is clear that the time when we can leave the political parties to sort their own houses out in their own way has gone already. It is being taken out of our hands and parliament itself has decided to do something about it.

Any idea the outcome of the Conference is going to be a commendation of what we are already doing and just a exhortation to try harder would be a naive one.


Costigan Quist said...
18 Nov 2008, 16:14:00

Great post - I'll be interested to see what we come up with. Despite the best of intentions, we seem to be behind the Tories in both outcomes and plans.

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