All-women shortlist

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The use of all-women shortlists (AWS) is a positive action practice intended to increase the proportion of female Members of Parliament (MPs) in the United Kingdom, allowing only women to stand in particular constituencies for a particular political party.[1] Only the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats[2] currently use this practice.[3] Political parties in other countries, such as South Korea and Latin American countries have used practices analogous to AWS, especially in relation to government sex quotas. AWS and practices similar to it have had mixed impacts in terms of the percentage of candidacies and offices women hold as a result of their use.

United Kingdom[edit]

Background[edit]

In the 1990s in the United Kingdom, women constituted less than 10% of parliamentary MPs.[4] Political parties used various strategies to increase female representation, including encouraging women to stand and constituency associations to select them, and providing special training for potential women candidates.[4] Another strategy, the creation of all-women shortlists, is a positive discrimination strategy making compulsory the selection of women candidates in some constituencies.[4][5]

The strategy has been criticised as undemocratic, as "bypassing competitive principles and hence as ignoring the merit principle," and as "a form of discrimination against men."[4][5] For the 1992 General Election the Labour Party had a policy of ensuring there was at least one statutory female candidate on each of its shortlists, however few of these women were successful in being selected in winnable seats (seats within a 6% swing).[6] Following polling that suggested women were less likely to vote Labour than men, the party introduced All-women shortlists at its 1993 annual conference.[4][7]

1997 election[edit]

Jacqui Smith, the first British female Home Secretary, was elected using an AWS.[8]

Labour used all-women shortlists to select candidates in half of all winnable seats for the 1997 general election, with the aim of reaching 100 women MPs post-election, a goal that was reached.[4] The shortlists provoked controversy, however. In 1996 Labour party branches in Croydon Central, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, Bishop Auckland and Slough all submitted hostile motions criticising the policy.[9]

Concern about such sex discrimination was especially strong in Slough where the local party refused to even cooperate in selecting a candidate after having an AWS imposed.[10] Another concern was that AWS were being used as a device to keep out certain men who might have made trouble for Tony Blair, Prime Minister at the time.[1] Labour leader Tony Blair stated that AWS were "not ideal at all" in 1995.[11]

In December 1995, Peter Jepson and Roger Dyas-Elliott, prevented from standing on Labour shortlists because of their gender, challenged the policy in court.[9] Supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission, they claimed that they had been illegally barred from applying to be considered to represent the party and that the policy contradicted Labour's policy of aiming to promote equality of opportunity. [12] In January 1996 an industrial tribunal found the Labour Party had broken the law, unanimously ruling that all-women shortlists were illegal under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 in preventing men from entering a profession.[4][13][14]

The 34 candidates who had already been selected by all-women shortlists were not required to seek re-selection, but all 14 unfinished all-women shortlist selections were suspended.[13] Dr Jepson and Mr Dyas-Elliott did not seek compensation for their loss.[13] In the 1997 general election, 35 out of 38 Labour AWS candidates were successful.[15][16]

The Conservative Party also opposed gender quotas, preferring to persuade constituencies to select female candidates in winnable seats.[17]

Prior to the 1999 European parliament elections, the Liberal Democrats used a system called "zipping" in which equal numbers of men and women were elected as MEPs.[1]

2005 election[edit]

Following the reduction in women MPs after the 2001 general election and increased lobbying by gender equality advocates, Labour introduced the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002, which allows parties to use positive discrimination in the selection of candidates.[3][16][18] They were to remain legalized until the end of 2015, due to the "Sunset Clause",[19] but that deadline was extended to 2030 as part of the Equality Act 2010.[20][21]

In contrast, in 2001 the Liberal Democrats rejected a proposal to use AWS, suggesting such shortlists were illiberal and unnecessary.[22] Prominent women MPs of the party opposed the all-women shortlists.[1] Party members argued that the main problem was not discrimination, but a lack of female candidates.[1][22] Instead the party set a target of having 40% female candidates in winnable seats.[22]

In the 2005 General election, the shortlists helped to increase the number of female MPs in Parliament to 128, with the Labour Party's 98 women constituting 77% of the total.[1][16][23] However, a Labour-controlled "safe seat" was lost when explicitly anti-AWS independent candidate Peter Law won the Blaenau Gwent constituency in Wales beating Maggie Jones who had been selected using Labour's All-women shortlist policy.[24] The loss was widely blamed on controversy over AWS,[16][24] though a scholarly analysis suggests that additional factors may have been at play, and noted that overall there was no significant anti-AWS backlash during the election.[16]

2010 election[edit]

A Speaker's conference was set up in 2008 to study the reasons why MPs were predominantly white, male and able-bodied. An interim report released in July 2009 called for women to make up at least fifty percent of new candidates at the following general election.[25] However, all-women shortlists continued to elicit criticism. Ann Widdecombe criticised the use of AWS stating that women in the past who fought for equality such as the Suffragettes "wanted equal opportunities not special privileges" and "they would have thrown themselves under the King's horse to protest against positive discrimination and all-women shortlists".[26]

Diane Abbott, one of the early supporters of all women shortlists criticised their failure to recruit ethnic minority women into politics, stating that they had in effect "been all white women shortlists" [27] As evidence of this she cited the 1997 Parliamentary intake, where none of the MPs selected using all women shortlists was black.[28] Conservative leader David Cameron tried to institute AWS in 2006. There was opposition from some female MPs, such as Nadine Dorries and Ann Widdecombe.[29]

However, in October 2009 David Cameron stated that the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities was "a real problem for parliament and for my party", and reversed his opposition to AWS.[25] In February 2010 he indicated that he would impose AWS because the pace of change towards the selection of more women MPs had been too slow.[30] In 2009, Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg stated that he would consider introducing all-women shortlists if the number of female MPs did not increase following the next election, but he did not see this as a long-term solution for the unrepresentative nature of parliament.[25]

Impact[edit]

All-women shortlists had been credited with breaking down prejudices that impeded the selection of women and discouraged women from offering their candidacy.[1] In both 1997 and 2005, fifty per cent of women MPs elected were selected from all-women shortlists.[16]

The increase in women in politics brought increased parliamentary priority to issues such as women's health, domestic violence, childcare.[16] In addition, the increased number of women MPs and greater focus on women's concerns likely resulted in increased female support for Labour at the polls.[16] AWS may also have made it easier for women to be selected non-all-women shortlist seats.[31] The shortlists also gave rise to the appointment of Britain's first female Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith in June 2007.

However, Britain has had two female Prime Ministers (Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May), both of whom were Conservative[32], the only major political party not to use all women shortlists.

In May 2018 over 300 women were claimed to be quitting the Labour Party in protest at the inclusion of transgender women on all-women shortlists. In an open letter to The Times ten members said that the policy "reeks of male authority and male supremacy".[33][34]

Other countries[edit]

Many countries today use political gender quotas.[35] Among the first to use party reservations for female candidates by political parties were Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In 1983, the Norwegian Labour Party mandated that "at all elections and nominations both sexes must be represented by at least 40 per cent", and in 1994, the Swedish Social Democratic Workers' Party mandated "every second on the list a woman", which meant that male and female candidates would be alternated between each other on the party list of preferred candidates, a format known as a "zipper quota".[36] The quota was imposed on 290 local parties by the national party organization.[36] Furthermore, the party created a handbook for women with advice about how to seek political office.[36] In 1988, the Danish Social Democrats "each sex has the right to a representation of at least 40 per cent of the Social Democratic candidates for local and regional elections. If there is not a sufficient number of candidates from each sex, this right will not fully come into effect"; however, this party law was abolished in 1996.[37]

Iraq held its first post-Saddam parliamentary elections in January 2005 under an electoral law providing for compulsory integration of women on the candidate lists, like several European countries with a proportional electoral system.[38]

Latin America[edit]

Latin American political parties’ gender policies for candidates often have a relationship to their respective countries’ legalized gender quotas for governing bodies. Fourteen Latin American countries have such a quota for their legislatures; these countries consist of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.[39] Political parties in Latin American countries utilize a variety of systems to pick their candidates for office, with Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay having “fairly informal selection rules” for their candidates, in which party elites have large amounts of influence, while those in Paraguay and Costa Rica use more stringent methods of selection described by formal and written rules within the political parties.[40] Political parties with more bureaucratized, stricter candidate selection processes in Latin American countries with legislative-body quotas run women as, on average, 37.8% of their candidates for legislative bodies, while in those parties with less formalized selection processes, on average, women constitute 31.5% of candidates.[40]

South Korea[edit]

South Korea has a system in which gender quotas exist for its single national legislative body, the National Assembly, with a requirement that women hold 30% of the National Assembly’s 246 single-member constituency seats and 50% of its 54 proportionally elected seats.[41] However, “neither of the two major political parties has thus far nominated women to more than 10 percent of the single-member district seats,” resulting in women constituting 15.7% of National Assembly members.[41] This situation is largely due to the candidate selection process of South Korean political parties, whose “rules governing candidate selection lack routinization,” allowing party leaders to have significant influence regarding candidates and the ability to circumvent gender quotas.[41]

Criticisms[edit]

All-women shortlists and similar policies have largely drawn the same criticisms as the gender quotas of which they represent a subset. One category of criticism asserts that gender quotas represent a positive step, but do not accomplish enough. Some criticism in this vein asserts that quotas should include penalties for groups who do not follow them.[42][43] Similarly, some critics argue that quotas in corporations in addition to those in governing bodies, should be instituted among other measures to improve public and private sector career opportunities for women.[42]

However, other critics believe that gender quota policies, like those of which all-women shortlists represent a subset, do not, no matter their requirements, provide a way for women to achieve equality in government. For instance, some critics in this arena believe that gender quotas and debate regarding them does not represent real or substantive gains for women.[44] Similarly, some criticisms of gender quotas, including all-women shortlists, argue that even with quotas in place, societal norms discouraging women from holding leadership positions still prevent significant changes.[43] More specifically, these critics assert that even when women do run for office under quota systems, they face a lack of monetary support and as a result often do not win elections.[43]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g McSmith, Andy (23 August 2006). "The Big Question: Are all-women shortlists the best way to achieve equality in Parliament?". The Independent. London. Retrieved 31 December 2008. 
  2. ^ Barratt, Samuel (13 March 2016). "Landmark diversity change will make the Liberal Democrats look like the nation we want to represent - Sal Brinton". libdems.org.uk. Liberal Democrats. 
  3. ^ a b Childs, Sarah; Lovenduski, Joni; Campbell, Rosie (November 2005). Women at the top 2005: changing numbers, changing politics. London: Hansard Society. ISBN 9780900432972. Archived from the original on 12 September 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Peake, Lucy (1997), "Women in the campaign and in the commons", in Tonge, Jonathan; Geddes, Andrew (eds.). Labour's landslide: the British general election 1997. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. pp. 165–178. ISBN 9780719051593. 
  5. ^ a b Bacchi, Carol (2006), "Arguing for and against quotas: theoretical issues", in Dahlerup, Drude (ed.). Women, quotas and politics. London New York: Routledge. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9780415375498. 
  6. ^ Wynn Davies, Patricia (30 June 1993). "Labour to set quotas for women: Executive to vote on move that could ensure 80 female MPs after next election". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  7. ^ Lovenduski, Joni (2005), "Examples: quotas and parité", in Lovenduski, Joni, ed. (2005). Feminizing politics. Oxford Malden MA: Polity Press. ISBN 9780745624631. 
  8. ^ "Jacqui Smith: the rise and fall". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2 June 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  9. ^ a b Wynn Davies, Patricia (21 August 1995). "All-women lists face new legal challenge". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  10. ^ Rentoul, John; Donald Macintyre (26 July 1995). "Blair prepares to drop all-women shortlists". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  11. ^ Rentoul, John (11 December 1995). "Labour faces test over quotas for women MPs". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  12. ^ "Red-faced Labour's short-list blow". Lancashire Evening Telegraph. 10 January 1996. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  13. ^ a b c Rentoul, John; Ward, Stephen; Macintyre, Donald (9 January 1996). "Labour blow as all-women lists outlawed". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  14. ^ Strickland, Pat; Gay, Oonagh; Lourie, Julia; Cracknell, Richard (22 October 2001), "The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill" (PDF), Research Paper 01/75, House of Commons Library, archived from the original (PDF) on 20 November 2006, retrieved 11 August 2009 
  15. ^ Richard Kelly and Isobel White (29 April 2009), All-women shortlists (PDF), House of Commons Library, SN/PC/05057, archived from the original (PDF) on 30 July 2009, retrieved 23 June 2009 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Cutts, D; Childs, Sarah; Fieldhouse, Edward (2008). "This is what happens when you don't listen? All Women Shortlists at the 2005 General Election". Party Politics. 14 (5): 575–595. doi:10.1177/1354068808093391. 
  17. ^ Lena Krook, Mona; Lovenduski, Joni; Squires, Judith (2006). Gender quotes in the context of citizenship models. Women, quotas and politics. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  18. ^ "All-women shortlists clear new hurdle". BBC News. 21 December 2001. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  19. ^ King, Oliver (15 November 2005). "All-women shortlists a must, says report". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2008. 
  20. ^ "Hansard, 6 Mar 2008 : Column 1932". Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. 
  21. ^ "Equality Act 2010 - section 105(3)". Act of Parliament. 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c "Lib Dems reject women-only lists". BBC News. 27 September 2001. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  23. ^ http://www.thisislancashire.co.uk/news/4671723.Labour__All_women_shortlists_not_sexist/
  24. ^ a b Sparrow, Andrew (7 May 2005). "Safe seat lost after row over women shortlists". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 December 2008. 
  25. ^ a b c Allegra Stratton; Andrew Sparrow (20 October 2009). "David Cameron to reverse opposition to all-women shortlists". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  26. ^ Widdecombe, Ann (7 February 2008). "EDM 895A2 - 90th Anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918". Early Day Motions. UK Parliament. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  27. ^ https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/spconf/uc167-v/uc16702.htm
  28. ^ Abbott, Diane (10 July 2008). "A race against time". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  29. ^ Jones, George (22 Aug 2006). "Tories shy away from all-women shortlists". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 December 2008. 
  30. ^ The Telegraph 18/2/10
  31. ^ McSmith, Andy (23 August 2006). "The Big Question: Are all-women shortlists the best way to achieve equality in Parliament?". The Independent. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  32. ^ "List of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom". Wikipedia. 2018-03-27. 
  33. ^ Allegretti, Aubrey (1 May 2018). "300 women 'to quit' Labour to protest all-women shortlist update". Sky News. Retrieved 2 May 2018. 
  34. ^ Zeffman, Henry (1 May 2018). "Women quit Labour over transgender row". The Times. Retrieved 2 May 2018. (Subscription required (help)). 
  35. ^ http://www.quotaproject.org/country.cfm
  36. ^ a b c O’brien, Diana Z.; Rickne, Johanna (2016-02-01). "Gender Quotas and Women's Political Leadership". American Political Science Review. 110 (1): 112–126. doi:10.1017/S0003055415000611. ISSN 0003-0554. 
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  38. ^ Demirdöğen, Ülkü (2014). "The Role of International Organizations in the Adoption of Gender Quotas: Afghanistan and Iraq as Case Studies" (PDF). International Journal of Social Inquiry. 7: 1–21 – via EBSCOhost. 
  39. ^ Torregrosa, Luisita Lopez (2012-05-01). "Latin America Opens Up to Equality". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-10. 
  40. ^ a b Bjarnegård, Elin; Zetterberg, Pär (2014-07-03). "Why Are Representational Guarantees Adopted for Women and Minorities? Comparing Constituency Formation and Electoral Quota Design Within Countries". Representation. 50 (3): 307–320. doi:10.1080/00344893.2014.951171. ISSN 0034-4893. 
  41. ^ a b c Lee, Hyunji; Shin, Ki-Young (2016-06-01). "Gender Quotas and Candidate Selection Processes in South Korean Political Parties". Pacific Affairs. 89 (2): 345–368. doi:10.5509/2016892345. 
  42. ^ a b "Only Gender Quotas Can Stop the E.U. from Being a Boys Club". Time. Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  43. ^ a b c Moura, Paula. "Do Quotas for Female Politicians Work?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  44. ^ "The German Gender Mystery". The New Yorker. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2017-04-20.