Opinion: Gender quotas are the sensible way forward

laura-willoughby-encurages-women-to-become-council-candidates‘In every aspect of life in which women are undervalued, under-represented or exploited we are dedicated to achieving equality.’ (from the Preamble of the Constitution of Liberal Democrat Women)

John Stuart Mill would have been outraged that, in the second decade of the 21st century, women are still under-valued, exploited and under-represented, for it was he, speaking in the House of Commons in May 1867, who advocated votes for women.

Yet, here we are 150 years later, still trying to have equality in our society. Yes, we have women’s suffrage, but at the present rate of change, we will not have a gender balanced Parliament until 2050.

Rwanda has it now.

Women are invisible to the majority of those in power. Yet it is visibility that will change the way women are perceived. This lack of female role models affects younger generations too. Just look at our media. Look at how women are portrayed in mass circulation papers and television programmes. All of this has an influence on the attitudes of some men – and boys too. If women are not seen as decision makers, not as spokespeople for a community, nor as having economic or political clout, then is it any wonder that some boys and men feel they can treat girls and women the way that, what appears to be a significant minority, do?

Business may be hard, competitive and there may indeed be failures, but the government aim of 25% of boardroom members being women is not going to be achieved by 2015. Nor will the number of executive directors who are women be increased without changing the way we do business.

Nor is this approach new – certainly not to Liberals or Liberal Democrats! The 1870 Education Act provided for elementary education for the working class; the 1906 Liberal government provided pensions for the aged poor; the Welfare State was designed by Beveridge and more recently, the Pupil Premium designed to  help children from poorer homes. All of these measures were and are to change society by providing institutional mechanisms for doing so and because it was recognised that without them, our economy would do worse.

So, what would be the effect of more women in senior positions in our companies?

Research outlined by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) shows clearly that ‘the quality of corporate governance and ethical behaviour is high in companies with high shares of women on boards’.  Given some of the behaviour of some major enterprises, which has emerged since the onset of the crisis, boards need this balance more than ever.

With more than 50% of the population and 67% of university graduates, women should be able to feel that the system is treating them fairly; that an application for a senior post will not be dismissed, or given to a less able man, simply because the candidate is a woman.

I don’t want tokenism. I want a fair society and one which work effectively. In short, I want Liberal values put into action. That calls for boards with more women, but the fact is that companies are simply not heeding the calls. If we want a fair and effective economy, we need real change – now. That is why I support the European Commission’s proposals for a minimum of 40% men and 40% women on company boards.

* Flo Clucas OBE is the President of the ALDE Gender Equality Network and former President of the ALDE Group on the EU Committee of the Regions. She was a councillor in Liverpool City Council for 26 years.

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42 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jun '13 - 5:13pm

    If quotas of any kind are introduced I will probably leave the party because it would mean the party clearly doesn’t believe in freedom and treating people equally.

    Shall we introduce women quotas in every organisation at every level? What about race quotas? What about quotas to solve the London bubble? It would create a boxticking society where people progress based on their race or gender rather than merit – exactly the opposite of what a liberal and democratic party should be about.

    As I have mentioned in the past, I believe a better approach is to increase the help organisations receive for maternity pay.

  • Robert Balderson 11th Jun '13 - 5:21pm

    Surely if you don’t want tokenism then this is completely the wrong way to go about things as applicants would end up being dropped out for being the wrong gender despite having better qualifications (and this would obviously go both ways). Surely it would be more sensible to take these highly paid jobs and divide them between two successful applicants of different genders with a lower wage and tighter limits on bonuses and expenses. That way you would have a more gender diverse operation without people facing discrimination over their gender to meet a legal obligation and on top of that it would reduce wage disparity between workers without costing significantly more to employers.

  • jenny barnes 11th Jun '13 - 5:26pm

    eddie, do you realise that there is evidence that recruiters are biassed against women? Tests with identical CVs, one with a male sounding name, one with a female one, show that. So how exactly should women progress on merit without having to be considerably better than the men they are competing with? Part of levelling the playing field is creating a situation where there are women in these roles already, and the world doesn’t fall apart. Oh – and how about blue collar (generally better paid per hour than pink-collar) jobs? Why not quotas for those too? Or doesn’t anyone care about the working class?

  • paul barker 11th Jun '13 - 5:28pm

    @Eddie Sammon, I will definitely leave the Party unless it introduces quotas. There, does my comment look as silly to you as yours does to me ?
    Threatening to leave if/unless something happens is blackmail, its not the way arguments should be conducted.

  • David Allen 11th Jun '13 - 6:00pm

    Why don’t we campaign for a gender balanced parliament in which everyone has to vote for one male MP, in an election for male candidates only, and also one female MP, in an election for female candidates only?

    No quotas, no gerrymandering, yes equality.

  • Dave, I take your point that something equitable would also need to be done for the very small minority of people who cannot easily decide whether they consider themselves male or female. (NB, of course most transsexuals would have no problem at all in deciding which category they would prefer to declare that they fit into.) However, to allot 20% of seats for such people would just be seen as ridiculous, and would make it certain the nation would never accept what I (and / or Richard Balderson whose proposals are, Ithink, fairly similar) are suggesting. Indeed, I do wonder whether your posting is sincere, or whether you might just be trying to derail my suggestion by means of a form of ridicule.

    I suggest that the simplest way to deal with this minor problem would be to require all candidates to declare whether they are candidates for a male seat or a female seat. The Electoral Commision should accept that delaration in cases of genuine uncertainty, but could and should refuse to accept any frivolous declaration which they consider demonstrably false.

  • @David Allen

    You’re forgetting about the equality laws. Only female candidates (ie. those holding a female id.) can stand for a female seat. However, any one can stand for a male seat, as that is equality.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jun '13 - 11:38pm

    Jenny, I accept that women get discriminated against (but not by everyone) so I think we need to get to the route cause of this, rather than just choose to discriminate against men too.

    Paul, I accept threats are not good for party harmony, so perhaps I should have refrained; however I don’t think they are that bad if they are sincere because it is just getting more information out in the open.

    Rebecca, I think we should work at reducing discrimination rather than giving up and increasing it. I would rather live in a society that isn’t quite perfect than one that has quotas everywhere. Thanks for contributing to the debate by the way, as an MEP.

  • Simon McGrath 12th Jun '13 - 8:40am

    The Party Constitution is pretty clear about our opposition to sex discrimination ;”we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation”

  • jenny barnes 12th Jun '13 - 9:04am

    Eddie ” I think we need to get to the route cause of this, rather than just choose to discriminate against men too.”
    “root”?
    Presumably you’re talking about patriarchy, then. Does it ever occur to you that choices are made within a social structure? What do you think is the root cause of fewer women being in the top jobs, given that women outperform men in education? Could it, perhaps, be discrimination, prejudice, and a culture that pushes women away from these powerful positions? And if it were, would it perhaps be fair for there to be some overt discrimination the other way? It’s been a long time since the Equal Pay Act. Why isn’t pay equal yet?

  • *What do you think is the root cause of fewer women being in the top jobs, given that women outperform men in education? Could it, perhaps, be discrimination, prejudice, and a culture that pushes women away from these powerful positions? *

    Or could it be that women have babies, and more of them WANT to be mothers for at least a part of their life.

    No, let’s just ignore biology and call it sexism and patriarchy.

    I wonder how many studies focus on women who didn’t want children, and how their careers have progressed alongside men and women who did have children….

    Nah, best not to look at the facts to closely, you might find answers that don’t fit your prejudice.

  • Sean O'Curneen 12th Jun '13 - 9:21am

    Eddie: I too would be very pleased if we lived in a meritocratic society. But we don’t and evidence of that is the imbalance in company boardrooms. If we did live in a meritocracy, surely then the boardrooms would be fairly well balanced between men and women? Because, surely men and women are equally capable of running companies? The fact is that too many jobs are allocated not based on merit, but on other factors. After all, there are often highly qualified men who see how other men get the job, not out of merit, but because they are the son/brother/friend of someone. As a liberal I don’t like quotas, but as a liberal I am in favour of them, because this is about equal opportunities and doing away with obvious discrimination. Sometimes that requires institutional mechanisms, which our party has in past supported and would now defend if those past mechanisms were attacked, as Flo has explained clearly in her article. In time, future generations will come to see boardroom gender balance as something natural, logical, and highly beneficial to the given company and to the overall economy.

  • The author contradicts herself. “With more than 50% of the population and 67% of university graduates, women should be able to feel that the system is treating them fairly”. But the rest of the article is all about getting equal outcomes for women and men – so you should be worried that female graduates are twice as common and fighting to correct this, no celebrating it or treating it as a fact of life.

  • AlanPlatypus 12th Jun '13 - 12:37pm

    The liberal in me says that quotas are a bad thing and that people should be judged on merits. However the liberal in me also says that people should have equal opportunities and that life should be evidence based. If it is true that fewer women go into politics because they see it as a male dominated field then an temporary quota system would be a good way of investigating whether such a thing. In the mean time the lack of women in politics needs to be properly studied. By properly I mean independently with all possible reasons considered and not just those that default to confirmation of the shadowy conspiracy theory peddled by dogmatists. The other inequality mentioned in this article also needs to be examined rationally.

    We also need to rid ourselves of the idea that men represent men and women represent women (as has been implied on this very page). It is possible for someone to represent people of a different sex, race or social and economic background, it’s whether they do that’s the issue. Plus not all men speak for all men, not all women speak for all women. I see the split very much more along class than sex.

  • Certainly some form of positive discrimination may be necessary to overcome the imbalance we have.

  • jenny barnes 12th Jun '13 - 5:33pm

    fake. Well, why is it that it’s always women who look after the children, who are expected to look after the children? Perhaps there are structural reasons? Like lower pay? Like men still not doing their share of the housework? Primary carers could perfectly well be men, why is it mostly women you see outside the school gate? None of that is biology. It’s culture. Sure, biologically it’s women who actually bear the children; that’s 9 months. How does that read across to a lifetime of lower pay and structural disadvantage, unless there are cultural reasons to make it so?

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Jun '13 - 5:59pm

    Objection handling:

    Objection 1: “evidence says that men discriminate against women and that’s why we have gender inbalances.”

    Is this a scientific fact or just an opinion? We should be careful of people trying to use evidence to say that their opinions are facts – I am sure I could find evidence that says women are more likely to take a career break, more likely to only want to work part time and that most people applying for director level jobs and political candidates are men.

    Even if it is true that men sometimes discriminate against women, it doesn’t mean it would be a more just society to have a state that bans higher qualified people from applying for jobs just because of their sex, or a state that puts things in women’s favour when their are fewer looking for certain jobs. At the end of the day, women get pregnant, breastfeed, on average aren’t as physically strong (although they might be better emotionally and intelligently in other areas), so we should not be striving for absolute perfection here.

    Objection 2: “women aren’t standing for political candidates because there are too many men so a temporary quota could help”.

    Quite frankly if anyone doesn’t want to stand as a political candidate because “there are too many men” then they aren’t passionate enough about politics and aren’t suitable for running the country in a global geopolitics world. I don’t care if men don’t have the same problem – we don’t live in an ideal world and I think quotas would make life more unjust.

  • AlanPlatypus 12th Jun '13 - 8:01pm

    @ Jenny

    Just to point a critical eye across your post and please note I’m not necessarily disagreeing but I feel it needs to be brought up,

    “it’s always women who look after the children”

    Always?

    “who are expected to look after the children?”

    Expected? In every case? Are you not guilty here of denying agency to women? What about those that choose to look after the children? Do you discount them or suggest they don’t really choose to do so but are forced into it by societal pressures?

    “None of that is biology. It’s culture”

    Quite a bold statement, I presume you have a citation? I would suspect it’s a bit of both to be honest.

    “Like lower pay”

    What’s the comparison in pay between males and females prior to parenthood?

  • AlanPlatypus 12th Jun '13 - 8:06pm

    @ Eddie

    I may agree with you overall but it can’t hurt to try in the short term can it? I agree that in the long term quotas are a bad thing however If quotas work and we get more exceptional female candidates then that’s good isn’t it? Later the quota can be removed and candidates left to sink or swim on their own merit.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Jun '13 - 8:27pm

    I think narrowing the talent pool by possibly over 50% will have a worse effect than any benefits arranged by guaranteeing a woman is selected.

    Not only will you lose all the male candidates, but some exceptional women might be put off too.

    Finally, we will already have “soft” pro female discrimination going into 2015, which I am sure will be enough to undo any “soft” pro male discrimination persisting in anyone’s minds.

  • Jonathan Hunt 12th Jun '13 - 10:04pm

    I voted and spoke at conference in favour of zipping and other measures to help elect more women to public office. Certainly, those women elected to the European parliament as a result have shown the wisdom of that decision. They have been excellent.

    But at the time, those campainging for that form of equality agreed that our next challenge should be to elect black and minority ethnic MPs and Euro MPs. That has not happened.

    It is a difficult if not impossible choice to make between two groups, under-represented because of their gender or race. But the evidence suggests that our main target for help with quotas and whatever must be electing BME MPs. In that we have the support of many excellent women Lib Dems, who feel this cause is the greater.

    As a mere man with a strong sense of fairness and hatred of discrimination, I know that in most hustings to choose candidates, there are invaraibly more women than men. None of this means we should stop fighting for more women, but we as a party are vulnerable to accusations about a lack of BME MPs, or elected BME representatives in any of the parliaments or assemplies we contest.

    It is time to set quotas to ensure we seek to be truly representative of the people we seek to represent. That must not be limited to the white middle-class of either gender.

  • The problem with Quotas is they work on a presumption that equality is a game of maths, it is not, it is about changing culture.

  • If we wish to attain equality, then what we need to overcome is the real practical issues that many groups, other than white, middle class, males face.

    Whether it is:
    the working class ‘boy’ who lacks the connections and wealth to run for public office;
    the young single mother who lacks the time to go out campaigning;
    the disabled candidate who cannot even get into Westminster due to a disgraceful lack of disabled access;
    the BME who is made to stand in the ‘less safe seat’ because ‘more of ‘his/her people’ live there;
    the ethnic majority SMB owner who never has any time away from his work;

    …etc Yes, there is an issue with bias, but by only focusing on bias, we ignore these practical issues are what stand in the way of diversity, issues which actually go to the heart of a much deeper problem in our party as well as politics in the UK as a whole, the complete isolation from the real world of central politics, We need to stop treating politicians like some alien breed and start treating them like professional employees of the state, so we can create a job role which is much more open and therefore much more accessible to groups which are not just White Middle Class Males.

  • “fake. Well, why is it that it’s always women who look after the children, who are expected to look after the children? ”

    Or perhaps, *SHOCK HORROR* not all women are obsessed with feminism, their careers, etc.

    Nearly every women I know WANTS to stay at home and look after the children, few of them like putting their child in day care, I don’t know ANY woman that would want the man to stay at home.

    Maybe this is some vast patriarchy conspiracy!

    “Sure, biologically it’s women who actually bear the children; that’s 9 months. How does that read across to a lifetime of lower pay and structural disadvantage, unless there are cultural reasons to make it so?”

    Eh, no. What leads to a lifetime of lower pay is that they take years out of their career to look after children.

    Have you looked at women who don’t have children, women who chuck them in childcare, or have their husbands look after the kids.

    How do their carrers progress?

    When you can answer that question, you can proove or disprove this “patriarchal” society line, until then you are spouting hot air.

  • David Allen 13th Jun '13 - 1:30pm

    Roland (11 June) said: “You’re forgetting about the equality laws. Only female candidates (ie. those holding a female id.) can stand for a female seat. However, any one can stand for a male seat, as that is equality.”

    Sorry, you’ve completely lost me. Are you making some sort of feeble joke, or what? Or can anyone else explain?

  • Given the opening statements in Flo’s article were about women in Parliament, I’m a little surprised to see that no one has brought up the subject of New Labour’s experiment/initative of having all women shortlists in the 1997 general election and the subsequent findings and lessons that can be learnt.

    Firstly, we need to distinguish between votes for women and women MP’s; they are different, albeit giving women the right to vote may have increased the likelihood of a women being elected to Parliament. Hence a relevant date is 1918 when the first women MP was elected – although I’ve not come across any information as to whether women had or could not stand for election prior to 1918.

    Flo like many who want quota’s, have also overlooked some rather obvious and inconvienant truths:
    1. MP’s are elected by the electorate. Hence any gender imbalance arises because of the way the electorate voted.
    2. The electorate can only vote for candidates that appear on the ballot paper. If women candidates do not appear on the ballot paper, we the electorate cannot vote for them.
    3. The majority of candidates on the ballot paper are chosen by and supported by the major political parties. So if women are not appearing as candidates then we need to look at the political parties and their candidate selection process.

    The all women shortlists that New Labour forced on to the local parties, was an attempt to initiate change in the local party organisations, directly challenging entrenched attitudes. What was proved by the 1997 election was that whilst a few voters changed their vote based on gender, the majority voted for the party. Interestingly, other parties also attempted to increase the number of women candidates and found a surprising level of resistance from the local party association, even though there were significant numbers of women members involved.

    Hence I suggest the real problem that needs to be and can be addressed now (ie. without directly involving Parliament and waiting for legislation) is improving the candidate nomination, shortlisting and selection processes within the major political parties.

    I suggest the use of quota’s for MP’s is an example of a ‘substitution’ as defined by Daniel Kahneman (see “Thinking, Fast and slow”) ie. the answering of a simpler question to the one you are actually trying to solve.

  • @David Allen

    My inferred point was that todate where something has been open ‘exclusively’ to men and this has been challenged in the courts, the ‘exclusivity’ has been deemed to be discriminatory, obviously whilst there have been some successful challenges over ‘exclusively’ to women, these have been much rarer. Hence I see no reason why elections to the House of Commons (and potentially in future the House of Lords) should be any different.

    Also should we limit the aspirations of women and society by imposing a limit on their participation? I take as a way of illustrating my point, the fact that circa 70% of medical students are women – do we limit their contribution by insisting on only allowing them to apply for 50% of the available posts or do we appoint the best and accept that at the present we can expect 2 out of 3 appointments to be of a women?

  • David Allen 13th Jun '13 - 4:12pm

    Roland,

    On your first paragraph, obviously I got it right the first time. You’re just taking the mick.

    On your second, have you tried asking a female politician whether she would be mortified to suffer under an electoral system which would not allow more than 50% of MPs to be the same sex?

  • Stuart Mitchell 13th Jun '13 - 8:12pm

    I don’t like the *idea* of quotas any more than the likes of Eddie and Liberal Al do.

    But I have always valued pragmatism, and the fact is: quotas are the only solution proposed which has been proven to work. For this reason alone, they should be given a try. We’ve had decades of complacent talk about how it’s the culture that needs to change. The end result of that is that the Lib Dems still have a pitifully tiny number of female MPs for a supposedly progressive party. Lofty talk doesn’t seem to work. Quotas do work.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Jun '13 - 8:28pm

    No but they don’t work Stuart, because asking people to step aside due to their gender is sex discrimination and I’m against it.

  • David,

    You’re missing the barb in the jest – a fundamental of the suffrage and feminist movement s has been a refusal to be defined solely by their biology – something (ie. defined by one’s biology) the quota scheme institutionalises. There are several well known and respected women MP’s (and ex MP’s) who have said words to the effect that they regard themselves as politicial equals to any male politician and would feel demeaned if they were only selected and elected because they were female and hence had to contest women only elections.

    Remember there are plenty of good all boy, all girl, and mixed schools out there, however, there were still a small number of girls and their parents who wanted their daughters to be educated at an all boy’s school and the courts agreed with them…

    However, all of this is irrelevant as I pointed out in another posting, the only real obstacle to having more women MP’s is the internal politic’s of the major political parties – pro-actively address this and there is no real reason why one or more of the major parties shouldn’t be fielding more women candidates in the 2015 general election. Remember all the evidence around electoral and constitutional reform show that these are things that do not happen quickly, whereas changing the internal workings of political parties is relatively quick and would probably be more successful, both in getting women into Parliament and in getting the electorate to change their perceptions .

    So the question is argue for quota’s or some other grand scheme that will take years to be enacted, so effectively be seen to do something but in reality do nothing, or do we face up to the challenge of transforming the internal party machines and politics and stand a very good chance of substantially increasing the number of women candidates standing in the 2015 election?

    [Aside: an addendum to my 2:22pm posting. I missed the Eligibility of Women Act (1918) that allowed women to be elected into Parliament.]

  • Roland,

    I’m not “missing the barb” in your “jest”. On the contrary, I can see that sarcasm is all you are about. It has blinded you to what others are actually saying. You talk about “the quota scheme”. I am advocating a scheme quite different from gender quotas within a single election. I am advocating two parallel elections. You don’t seem to have noticed that, so your opinion isn’t terribly well thought through.

  • David,

    It doesn’t matter how it is dressed up the scheme you advocate institutionalises a fixed quota/representation in the Commons based on gender/biology; which goes against the tide of equality and anti-discrimination which aims more for equality of access and opportunity – take a current example same-sex marriages, where effectively gender/biology is being removed from ‘marriage’.

    Yes I will be dismissive of schemes that require extensive reform backed by parliament – particularly given the recent experience with voting reform and reform of the upper house. Also given the state of the major political parties with respect to candidate selection, none can really stand up and put hand on heart and say that they are committed to getting more women into Parliament.

    Finally, I would be wary of gender based legislation, women LOST the right to vote because of the use of gender based wording in the Great Reform Act of 1832, a wrong that wasn’t corrected until 1918 and it then took a further 10 years before women got equal voting rights.

  • Stuart Mitchell 14th Jun '13 - 8:03pm

    Eddie, nobody is suggesting an able man should “step aside”. Male candidates would still have plenty of seats to apply for – and evidence suggests that their chances in those seats will continue to be far higher than female candidate’s, so they’re hardly getting a raw deal.

    The quotas clearly work – why else does Labour have so many more female MPs than anybody else?

    The critics of quotas have no better suggestions – just the same old waiting for glacier-speed changes in “culture” that women have been told to look forward to for a hundred years or more now. It’s not good enough. If those who oppose quotas can’t come up with something that genuinely works, and works fast, then the case for quotas is overwhelming.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Jun '13 - 8:46pm

    Stuart, I’m going to agree to disagree on this one for now.

  • Tony Dawson 15th Jun '13 - 3:30pm

    @Stuart Mitchell:

    ” nobody is suggesting an able man should “step aside”. Male candidates would still have plenty of seats to apply for ”

    This suggestion is everything which is wrong about a prevalent attitude to political advancement as opposed to political service. The idea that ‘candidates’ can shop around constituencies suggests that the former are part of some superior lifeform association to whom communities should be grateful for them deigning to offer themselves. I would far rather representatives largely emerged from among the communities whom they wished to serve ie had been living in or very near the constituencies concerned for a minimum of 3 years before offering themselves for selection.

    The principal obstacle to adequate female representation in Parliament within the Liberal Democrats relates primarily to the problems of being a third (fourth?) party in a first past the post system. The extent of personal sacrifice (and sacrifice of spouse and families)necessary for a Lib Dem to break through to victory in this still essentially two-party system is something which far fewer sane women are prepared to put themselves and their loved ones through. I genuinely believe that women are largely too considerate and sensible to exploit themselves and their supposed loved ones to this extent. This applies even more so to those with major childcare responsibilities, which are still disproportionately-skewed towards the female gender in present UK society. Indeed, I would suggest that the current discrimination against men who have major childcare responsibilities who wish to succeed as candidates is currently even greater than that against women . Maybe when we get proportional representation……..

    Of course, there are now a small bundle of ‘succession seats’ in the Liberal Democrats which come up for grabs where the role of the succession candidate as an individual might not be quite so crucial. But those seeking to descend upon ‘fertile’ seats like Lord or Lady Bountiful should, in my view, be given the bum’s rush whatever their gender.

  • paul barker 15th Jun '13 - 4:26pm

    On the whole “best person for the job” thing, surely we dont look at any given post in isolation ? One of the factors we should be taking into account is how a candidate would fit into the Team they will be working with & how they contribute to the work of the whole Party, that must include how they contribute to our diversity, as seen from outside.
    However good our arguments against comformity are, they wont look convincing from a team who all just happen to be middle-aged men.

  • ” nobody is suggesting an able man should “step aside”. Male candidates would still have plenty of seats to apply for ”

    I suggest Stuart you take a closer look at the effects of New Labour’s introduction of all women shortlists in 1997 – one of the contentious parts of was imposition of the all women shortlists on constituencies disregarding the PPC the constituency had previously selected. Because of the disruptive nature of the process there was little chance of a PPC without Westminster experience being selected by another constituency.

    However, if the introduction is more ground-up, so conditions that are preventing able women from coming forward are addressed then I would agree with Stuart’s observation, as what is being done is to widen (and deepen) the pool of able candidates. But in the short-term to give the whole process some impetus, I suspect that it will be necessary to exercise a degree of positive discrimination.

  • “However good our arguments against comformity are, they wont look convincing from a team who all just happen to be middle-aged men.”

    I would hope that the majority of the “middle-aged men” in the LibDem’s and in a position to influence the selection of PPC’s were a little more worldly-wise and experienced in working in mixed gender teams – with women who were either their peers, superiors or client. However, there is much in Helen Morrissey’s report that if implemented would help foster such working attitudes within the LibDem’s.

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