50:50 gender split for shadow cabinet rejected
Laura // 11 September 2010
I’m a wee bit late to this, but the Labour party has voted to ensure that 31.5% of the shadow cabinet will be made up of women, rejecting a 50% quota:
[Harriet] Harman had called for a 50:50 split in the early days of her tenure as acting leader but with time softened her position.
Instead, she proposed the initial proportion should reflect that of the parliamentary party at large — 31.5% — but rise to 50% over the course of this parliament.
In the event, MPs opted only for a quota of 31.5% with no possibility of the compulsory ratio increasing with time. MPs had disliked the proposal, saying men would be forced to contemplate vacating their shadow cabinet portfolios to make way for women over a period of time. An alternative vote system was used, and while equal numbers supported the 50:50 option and the 31.5% option, in the second round more MPs opted for the lower quota.
Nice to know that the dudes are more concerned about retaining their own potential seats of power than ensuring women are fairly represented – both female MPs and the rest of us women in this country, who are more likely to see our concerns addressed if we have more women in the top positions in parliament.
Sarah Child’s paper Hitting the Target: Are Labour Women MPs ‘acting for’ women? has some interesting insights on the positive – but complex – relationship between the presence of female representatives in parliament and parliament addressing issues that particularly affect women. She finds that female Labour MPs in the 1997 Labour parliament successfully acted on behalf of women both in parliament and their constituencies, but that female MPs require “safe space” in order to do this most effectively, and “if a woman MP desires promotion she cannot afford to be
regarded as acting for women too often or too forcefully”.