Women on top?

WOMEN now make up a fifth of the Government front bench with a record six women now entitled to attend Cabinet meetings.

This is great news but delighted though I am that Mr Cameron is finally fulfilling one of his Election pledges to improve equality in frontline politics, I cannot help but feel a little disappointed that this smacks of tokenism ahead of a General Election in the not too distant future.
It is disappointing, I feel, that some of these obviously talented individuals had not been promoted before the Government needed a quick draw for female voters!

I have been ambivalent towards the introduction for all-women parliamentary shortlists and quotas for women on FTSE 100 companies, but I am beginning to think that these might have a place but what we really need to change is the attitude towards women in frontline politics and business as mere window-dressing.

This view is perpetuated by the media coverage which follows any senior female appointment. This is invariably accompanied by a description of what they are wearing or an interview talking about that old cherry of whether they can have it all or not or whether they have had to sacrifice their chance of family and personal happiness on the altar of ambition rather than a description of why they are qualified for the job. This is far from the kind of coverage we see when a man is appointed to a top job.
Until this attitude changes, the raft of talented women just below the radar may still fail to reach the top jobs, however many of them there are who are qualified for the most senior positions.

I am sure this is the reason why so many senior women who have been so anti-quotas have changed their mind over recent years.
Organisations like Women 1st campaign for the promotion of women to senior roles in industry, believing that not enough has been done to meet Lord Davies’ target of 25% female representation on boards.

Lynne Franks, women’s issues advocate and patron for Women 1st, recently said: ‘I was at the original breakfast meeting chaired by Lord Davies and, when he talked about quotas, none of us thought it was necessary. Since then, there has been a huge amount of work on getting more women into leadership roles, but the reality is, they’re not there. So, my view has shifted and I am very keen on having quotas for as long as it’s necessary until we get to that point.’

By the same token, all female parliamentary shortlists, which David Cameron has talked about imposing on local constituencies where necessary, may well prove the only realistic way to improve female representation at Parliament, as much as we would all prefer a female to succeed by merit alone through the traditional system.

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