Originally published: 16.01.17
It is interesting, that, in discussions about gender equality, “merit” only comes up when we are speaking about women taking up positions that are traditionally male. Nobody questions whether it is meritocratic that, say, prostitution is a predominantly female profession, or that a disproportionate amount of women work in underpaid caring jobs. Similarly, to imagine that competence alone accounts for male dominance in politics is a fantasy. Merit, from Latin meritare, means “to earn”, and if any group in society has earned a fair chance to shape it, it is women. This is what my latest piece for the Guardian, there titled “On parliamentary equality the UK is 48th. It could learn from No 1: Rwanda” and shared below, is about.
If a new law proposed this week were already in place, there would be about 300 women instead of the 192 currently in the House of Commons. Which is why a new report by its women and equalities committee says the government should ensure that 45% of all parliamentary candidates are female.
If it seems petty to concentrate on the numbers, consider some of the bills that parliament has debated in the past two years – on prostitution, abortion, the armed forces, ovarian cancer and sexual offences, to name a few. Such bills clearly affect women’s and men’s lives in different ways, and their outcome can only be fairly reviewed by a representative parliament. Nevertheless, the report was met with typical resistance on the basis that MPs ought to be appointed not by gender quotas, but by the “cherished concept of meritocracy”…..