Hubbard on women in politics

September 18th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Anthony Hubbard in the SST writes:

Many people think have taken their full place in our national politics. In fact, the number of MPs has plateaued at a bit over 33%. Every second Kiwi is female, but only every third MP. This is the persistent pattern, despite the blip that brought four to the top for a short while last decade. It won’t do.

MMP has helped. In 1993, the last election under the old first-past-the-post system, one in five MPs were women. The figure shot up to 29% at the first MMP election, but in the four since then it has sort of stuck. Is this as good as it gets?

Hubbard looks at the National party list and includes some comments from me.

Some say the problem runs deeper: that women are more reluctant to stand for office. National Party presidents have grizzled for decades that the party wants more women candidates but that women won’t put themselves forward.

There are plenty of possible reasons. One is that women candidates still get a lot of flak that men candidates don’t. People want to know how women MPs will care for their children, but not male MPs. Women MPs have their looks, dress sense and sexuality discussed more commonly than men.

I think this is sadly, true. It is very tough for female candidates.

It’s possible that women are less likely to want to be MPs, and not just because of the sexism they face. Perhaps the whole lunatic life of the politician is less likely to appeal to them. Perhaps fewer women have that particular kind of ambition. If this is true, why? There are a library of PhDs waiting here to be written, and a lot more hard thinking needs to be done by the parties.

Research I would like to see done, would look at the barriers in stages:

  1. How many men and women indicate their interest in being candidates to a party
  2. How many go on to contest a selection
  3. How many win a selection
  4. How many then get elected to Parliament

My gut reaction is that once women get to be candidates, they get elected in the same proportion as men. The challenges are now around the selection stage.

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26 Responses to “Hubbard on women in politics”

  1. iMP (2,248 comments) says:

    I think this is about conflict. Our system works around an adversarial system, and most of the professional women I know simply aren’t attracted to the cut and thrust of selections (which are often more acrimonious than getting elected) so they don’t stump up. men, however, seem to take this more in their stride as a general rule. It’s not a conspiracy, just natural selection based on gender preferences.

    labour women come up thru an activist system, so they are more inured than Conservatives.

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  2. queenstfarmer (748 comments) says:

    Tend to agree with iMP.

    In a very unscientific sense, there is also a strong element of “buffoonery” to being a politician, and men tend to be far greater buffoons than women.

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  3. adze (1,873 comments) says:

    Women MPs have their looks, dress sense and sexuality discussed more commonly than men.

    I’ve seen this meme repeated quite a lot, but frankly I am sceptical. How often do we see comments on Peter Dunne’s hair? Or Gerry Brownlee’s and Parekura Horomia’s weight? The lack of “masculine traits” among MPs such as Russell Norman and Chris Carter? I would be interested to see an empirical analysis of the relative number of comments made by MPs of each gender, positive and negative, because I think more often you see people challenging these sorts of comments made about female MPs – while personal remarks about male MPs often go, well, unremarked.

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  4. backster (2,082 comments) says:

    Well there natural place is the kitchen, and they can’t be in two places at once can they?

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  5. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    There are a library of PhDs waiting here to be written, and a lot more hard thinking needs to be done by the parties

    Nah, fucking useless topic for anyone considering doing a PhD on. If it’s someone who’s being funded privately to do a PhD on useless topic such as that, then that’s fine. However, if it is taxpayer funded, then it is fucking stupid because there are more worthy topics for a PhD candidate to do research on where taxpayer $ is going to be well spend. Look no further than parliamentarians with PhDs in useless fields, trying to tell us how to run our lives as if they know better.

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  6. Other_Andy (2,327 comments) says:

    In 2001 94% of Registered Nurses and 84% of Primary School Teachers were women.
    97% of Heavy Truck or Tanker Drivers, 99% of Builders and 99% of Carpenter or Joiners were men.

    Could it be that men and women have different priorities and favour different types of jobs because men and women are (Socially, physically and emotionally)……different?

    Nah…must be institutionalised discrimination.

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  7. Pete George (22,868 comments) says:

    The challenges are now around the selection stage.

    I think it comes before that, getting people interested in being involved in the first place.

    Buit how much of a problem is it? If women are less inclined to put themselves forward then maybe they are happy to leave it up to men more. We don’t have to have a 50% split.

    It’s even possible women generally prefer male candidates.

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  8. David in Chch (508 comments) says:

    I noticed some years ago that our brightest women were not interested in getting PhD’s. The job market for PhD’s is tough, and the women were practically minded. They got really good jobs instead. I suggest there is some of that here – that the women, quite simply, are more intelligent and practical in their choices.

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  9. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    I tend to agree with adze. As stupid as comments about women’s clothing etc are, men are subjected to similar bullshit. I say get hard, as politics is like that. Shallow.

    Also, I find it rich for the liberal MEDIA to bitch about not enough woman because of the way they’re treated by the MEDIA.

    Another also, one important point that’s always never mentioned in these debates is that simple fact that women are not men. For one thing, the carry and birth to children in a family. Men don’t. That’s not a fault or handicap, but a reality. Helen Clark was very successful as politician partly because she didn’t have a family.

    If a couple want to have a family, that’s going to affect their career trajectories. That’s reality. It’s not a fault of anyone, just reality. So of course simple statistics will show this.

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  10. ben (2,402 comments) says:

    Is there anybody in this country who is not a socialist? Now the so-called right is being infatuated with identity politics?

    Hubbard’s observations are facile. There are any number of causes of gender imbalance in outcomes, only one of which is discrimination. If observing differences in participation cannot tell you anything about discrimination, and common experience does not show superior candidates are not being selected because of gender, then there almost certainly isn’t a problem. How incredibly dull to run an arbitrary line through a population, find you get a but more one on side of the line than the other and then write an article about discrimination. Most of the economic research, although not so much out of Feminist Studies, does not find discrimination explains anything in the workplace.

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  11. tvb (4,210 comments) says:

    The main levers of power are held by men in both the Labour Party and the National party. It is the distribution of power that counts. It is no use giving women soft portfolios and then say you have x women in cabinet. It is how the power is dished out that counts. Same for Maori. Labour have NEVER (apart from Winston Peters outside Cabinet) given Maori a major portfolio. It has been film flam like maori affairs (always – yawn) Lands under Norm Kirk – which set off the Treaty of Waitangi process.

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  12. Other_Andy (2,327 comments) says:

    tbv
    “The main levers of power are held by men in both the Labour Party and the National party. It is the distribution of power that counts. It is no use giving women soft portfolios and then say you have x women in cabinet. It is how the power is dished out that counts.”

    Yep.
    Remember this?

    New Zealand 2001
    The swearing in of Dame Silvia Cartwright as New Zealand’s governor-general (the local representative of the British monarch) completed a remarkable female clean sweep of the country’s most powerful political and legal positions.
    Present at her swearing in were Prime Minister Helen Clark, Opposition leader Jenny Shipley, Chief Justice Sian Elias and Attorney-General Margaret Wilson.

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  13. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I’ve just dragged myself out of the kitchen to speak to this.
    Big ups for Kitchen Crusaders. I don’t mean that facetiously. I believe a cause is only won when the womenfolk are on board. 50% of the population is a significant voting bloc if nothing else. Also there is a lot you are exposed to as a parent that can arm you politically (man or womama) I didn’t become overtly politically aware until I had my first child.
    There is an image problem with politics. in general politicians are regarded as being a cross between Alexiei Sayle and Mel from Flight of the Conchords as the “buffoonery poster” said previously.
    I don’t know about other countries but New Zealanders don’t like to be seen getting ideas above their station. You have to be a bit bolshy or immune to this to pursue politics to any great degree. Also women tend to believe you have to get your life”sorted” (house immaculate and kids off to school) before making great leaps of faith (career or otherwise); there are plenty in your knitting circle who will cut you down if you breach this unspoken rule.
    I have a small disability (I limp), from a one-off stroke years ago. People assume I need help because I’m a bit of a cripple. I glare and mutter and try to look very independent but then they assume I’m just a grumpy cripple who needs help. :)
    I have to talk louder and be a bit more out there to overcome the tendency to be selected against in conversation with lots of people. I suspect this is a problem that confronts many women in mixed board situations and why they assume they shouldn’t go into politics.
    It’s rubbish that kids preclude a political life. I’ve got five kids and one of the first words they say is “democracy”. The first expression is “onion bhaji”. This family situation is not uncommon in politics; Bachmann, Palin and our very own Heather Roy anybody? Love ‘em or hate ‘em they are some of the stickiest biddy bids of politics.
    So given I’m the UnitedFuture candidate for wellington Central and I’m a grumpy female with bucketloads of kids (did I mention I limp) would anybody care to rate my chances :)
    I must away back to the kitchen.

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  14. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    Childless women are the strongest female politicians and they took the sovereignty of parents off their children.

    Why did we listen to these nobodies…insanity

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  15. s.russell (1,565 comments) says:

    It’s not a conspiracy, just natural selection based on gender preferences.

    This is true. And at the risk of being horribly un-PC, I’ll go further…
    Not only are women less attracted to politics, but women less frequently have the qualifications and experience needed to be selected.
    The people we want as MPS are people who have demonstrated competence in high-level policy analysis, management, public relations… etc. Because of their career (or non-career choices) fewer women have that background.
    Now, having more women in Parliament would be a good thing, but not I think if that means choosing less able or less qualilfied people.
    This is not to say that what many women choose – eg looking after kids – is not valuable or even of value in Parliament.
    But are we wrong to demand something more from a prospective MP’s CV?

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  16. Rodders (1,790 comments) says:

    On a less elevated note, in the UK they have an eccentric website that allows constituents to find out/judge what their elected representatives look like http://sexymp.co.uk/index.php

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  17. MT_Tinman (2,995 comments) says:

    Kids. Onion bhaji.

    Child abuse?

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  18. trout (904 comments) says:

    Ego, ego, ego. Just look at the number of vertically challenged men that reach the top politically. Political success requires a will to power and an ability to sacrifice all, even integrity, in the drive to the top. Perhaps women just do not buy in to egoism.

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  19. Sonny Blount (1,845 comments) says:

    Why on earth would you expect it to be the same?

    Nobody with a clue cares, just choose the best person for the job.

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  20. David in Chch (508 comments) says:

    and so, s.russell, looking at the current crop of mostly middle aged men, I would have to conclude that you are full of you-know-what. How many of them actually have any sort of qualifications like that? And if they do, it is because they have spent their lives in public office, and are denigrated for it.

    In fact, I would argue the opposite – that juggling kids and everything else makes women immensely qualified to try to deal with most messes most countries have. It is just that most of them are smarter than to wade in and have better things to do with their time.

    Go Canada! (sorry. couldn’t resist the rugby reference.)

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  21. Crusader (279 comments) says:

    If women are not standing for election in sufficient numbers to make it up to the obviously-desirable 50% mark, then they will need to be forced to.
    The only question is how we will force women? Random capture on the streets? Phone book sample?

    The other way of course is to eject enough men until there are no more of them than women in parliament. At least then we would have fewer MPs. As a selection method I recommend getting rid of the ones who order the most at Bellamy’s.

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  22. Pete George (22,868 comments) says:

    The people we want as MPS are people who have demonstrated competence in high-level policy analysis, management, public relations…

    I thought there were plenty of public servants that did all that.

    MPs should have varying degrees of life experience, communicate with constituents well, have good decision making skills, and be good at managing publoc servants.

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  23. Ross Miller (1,671 comments) says:

    Pete George 9.58 … precisely and that is why Labour is at 28% going south. Points one and four especially are not their forte.

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  24. BlairM (2,289 comments) says:

    The gender imbalance becomes a non-issue when you simply refuse to accept that male domination of politics is a problem.

    I don’t think it’s a problem, and I agree with Cactus Kate when she says that women don’t vote for other women because they are women (unless they are dopey Leftists, in which case who cares?)

    Those women who do think it is a problem, I have one thing to say to you: Stand for selection. If you get beaten by a man who is clearly your inferior, only then do you have a right to whinge. And those men who think it’s a problem: HTFU.

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  25. david (2,539 comments) says:

    Why the fascination with one sector and a need for equal representation. It makes about as much sense as bitching that there aren’t representative numbers of marine biologists, car mechanics or orthodontists. The point surely is that an MP represents the constituency effectively and has intelligent input into creating effective legislation.

    Belonging to a particular demographic contributes nothing to those objectives and there is a risk that we will start to look sideways at those women who do “make it” (although who with any brains would actually aspire to be an MP I don’t know) because of some implication that they were selected to make up the numbers much like it is really tempting to look sideways at Maori GP’s because of teh rumoured ethnic quota in medical school entry.

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  26. iMP (2,248 comments) says:

    My MP can be a woman or a man, as long as they don’t own a Bichon Frise.

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