Anthony Hubbard in the SST writes:
Many people think women have taken their full place in our national politics. In fact, the number of women 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 women 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:
- How many men and women indicate their interest in being candidates to a party
- How many go on to contest a selection
- How many win a selection
- 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.