It'll Take a Lot More Than Gender Quotas and Equality Officers to Get Women into a Boys' Club
Byline: mary carr
THAT it had all the appearances of an afterthought to the year's political business would not have come as much of a surprise. Micheal Martin has just announced a raft of initiatives to champion women in politics and specifically in Fianna Fail.
A new gender equality officer will be appointed for the party HQ, a fast-tracked female selection procedure will be imposed at local and national levels. There will be special training and mentoring programmes for the ladies and a female delegate conference for later in the year.
What more could wimmin want, he seemed to say, in the battle for gender equality? But instead of a groundswell of female delight at the news, or a stampede of stilettos thundering down Mount Street, there was deafening silence.
Of course Micheal Martin has nothing to lose from this latest wheeze to attract a second or even, be still our beating hearts, third talented and forceful woman like Averil Power into his party. His problem -- one that he shares with every other leader -- is that not even the best-intentioned tokenism will create an appetite among women for political life.
As things stand, a woman would need to be possessed of killer levels of ambition and be drenched in naivety before she could be tempted to join the swaggering yahoos in Leinster House.
If she is prepared for a demanding career that will take her from her children for large chunks of the year and oblige her, if she is not from Dublin, to live apart from her family for three nights a week, then she would be better off choosing a profession that is new and egalitarian, rather than one that consistently treats her as if she is somehow surplus to requirements, is merely decorative or, as Senator Deirdre Clune recalled in a piece for her local paper recently, refers to her as 'the girl'.
IF she is ruthlessly ambitious and tough-minded, she'd be wiser to offer her talents to multinationals and blue-chip companies rather than squandering them in an arena that requires her to attend gatherings in dirty pubs and endure being heckled at meetings. And that's even before she has the terrific fortune of earning her selection as a party candidate.
In fact, if she is serious about changing society and is imbued with the public-service ideal then a woman would be better off steering a course through the top echelons of the public service, where women are traditionally well represented and respected, rather than aiming for the bearpit of parliament.
For all the agonising over the years about why our levels of female representation in politics trail behind countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and other great beacons of female emancipation; for all the talk about the so-called five Cs -- childcare, culture, cash, confidence and candidate selection -- that militate against women going into politics; and despite the recent introduction of targets and quotas, the world of politics remains unaltered. …