Monday, 28 March 2011

A Woman's Work

With the imminent arrival of "Mother's Day", and another chance to cast our ballots in a Scottish parliamentary election coming up in a little over a month's time, I thought I could link these events in an extremely tenuous manner with a look at the current political gender balance here in Scotland.

(For those expecting music-related postings on what's ostensibly a music-related blog, and beginning to feel pangs of disgruntlement, don't worry - it's an interesting topic, I promise to be brief for a change, and there's a fun interactive graphical thing to play with further down. Honest, there really is. But don't scroll straight to it, there's some good stuff coming up...possibly)

First of all, the essential numbers - women make up 52% of the population (and almost exactly the same proportion of our 3.99m electorate), but in the last parliament only held 43 of the 129 seats (33.3% - sadly down from 39.5% in 2003). Which isn't likely to improve this time around...

For one thing, there are simply far fewer women than men standing for election - e.g. counting all the Glasgow constituency & regional list candidates from each party, there are 77 men compared with 37 women. Folk may be astonished to learn that such a progressive, forward-thinking party as the BNP has a male-only line-up on offer. I couldn't possibly comment. (Anyone who has the time & willpower to repeat this exercise for the whole of Scotland is very welcome to - the full list of would-be power-hungry egomaniacs can be found here.)

Why so few women candidates? Well, Labour's abandonment of "twinning" constituencies meant that local parties have been free of any gender selection criteria, and whereas back in the 1970s heyday of Winnie Ewing & Margo MacDonald the SNP may have been tagged "a woman's party" (a typically charming insult in ultra-macho Scottish politics, naturally) by Tam Dalyell & co, the current reality is that women make up less than a third of the party membership. (They do, to be fair, at least still have some prominent senior female figures - deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon [pictured], Fiona Hyslop, and Roseanna Cunningham spring immediately to mind. Conversely the departure of Wendy Alexander from politics this year has exposed a significant dearth, arguably of women & ability both, in the Scottish Labour hierarchy).

Of course, factors such as a candidate's rank on the regional list or the "safeness" of their constituency will also affect how many women are elected, but on those criteria it doesn't look promising for greater female representation come May 5th either.

Casting around for the faintest glimmer of a brighter side to all this, we can still say "we're not as bad as Westminster". In 2010 the UK House of Commons hit an all-time record high of... 143 female MPs. Out of 650 seats. Which is a massive 22%. And if we choose to look a little further afield, say, the world's second-largest 'democracy', perhaps? Well, the "land of the free & home of a large number of people who don't believe in scientific evidence" scores a frankly pathetic 16.78%.

In fact, since you've been exceptionally patient so far, here (all praise the mighty Google & their works) is the cool bar-chart toy I mentioned earlier:

(dragging the slider across shows changes over time, clicking on "explore data" lets you select different countries to highlight...ach, it's ridiculously clever.)

Just watch Kyrgyzstan go, eh? Ireland doesn't come out looking so good, mind...

It should always be the case, obviously, that we seek to be governed by the best possible representatives available - irrespective of gender, race, age, sexual preference, superstition of choice or even daft football obsession (for "Auld Firm" fans see "superstition of choice"). But the briefest of glances at the numpties who've filled some of the Holyrood seats thus far does beg the question - could a truly representative Scottish Parliament really be any worse?

Right, that's quite enough politics for now - back to the musical nonsense next time.

p.s. For any Scots considering not exercising their (extremely hard-won) right to vote in May for whatever reason, here's one I wrote earlier that should put you straight. Cheers.

Sources: (NB. Wikimpedimentia was not consulted in the creation of this blog post. If I wanted unreliable 'facts' & unsupportable conclusions I'd take the quick route & rely on my own memory).


Neil said...

Only one country in the world has over 50% female parliamentary representation (as at 31st Jan 2011) and it's unbelievably Rwanda with 45 of it 80 lower house seats female held. 24 seats were already set aside for women but at the 2008 women took a further 21.

andy gilmour said...

Thank 'ee Mr. McEwan,that's most interesting. If Rwanda can do it, why oh why can't we even get close..?