Some fruit loop Liberal MP in Australia wants her party to lurch to the left by (gasp) doing something to get more women into Parliament. Doesn't she know that parties on the right don't do that sort of thing?

Remember back in July last year, when Labour proposed considering at its national conference adopting candidate selection rules aimed at ensuring equal gender representation? And remember the response of at least one commentator to even the idea that a political party might think of doing this?

continues lurching to the left, and stealing policies of the Greens. This time they are stealing the Greens policy for for candidate selection, but they have gone even further than the “fruit loops” and are proposing a “man ban”, where an electorate can apply to have a women only selection!

Of course, once it was pointed out that David Cameron wanted the Conservative Party to do the same thing, this criticism suddenly mellowed to it just not being necessary in New Zealand because we have MMP and the UK doesn't (or something). Oh, and it'll make drawing up the Labour Party list hard. Because please don't look at how many women there are in the National Party caucus. Please!!

For if anyone were to do so, they'd see that National only has 15 women in its 59 strong caucus - just over a quarter of the total. That's actually a little less equal than back in 2005, when it had 13 women out of 48 total MPs, or 27% of its caucus. But, amazingly, it's still doing better than other political parties of the right in countries similar to ours.

The United Kingdom's Conservative Party has a mere 48 women in its 304 MPs, or 15.8% of the total. Canada's governing Conservative Party has just 29 women in its 164 MPs, or 17.1% pf the total. In the Australian Liberal-National Party Coalition's 123-member joint party room there are only 26 women, or 21% of the total.

So it seems that the primary problem with getting a proportionate number of women as elected representatives isn't "politics" in general. It instead is that political parties on the right of the spectrum systemically refuse to have women in positions where they can get elected. This appears to be a basic flaw in their makeup that exists across different times, and across different countries.

Which is why we see across the Tasman the long serving Liberal Party MP (and former junior minister under John Howard) Dr Sharman Stone now calling for her party to look to the Labor Party - which has a quota for female MPs - for ideas about how to get more women elected.

What's that you say? She's just calling for a few "tokens" to be added to the caucus room without regard to their merit? I'll allow Dr Stone to respond;

"I don't care about that 'tokenism' label; bring it on if you must," she said.

"We'll prove that it's not about a woman being simply put there because of her gender - she'll prove her worth.

"Put her in the place and stand back and watch her grow."

But of course, silly old Dr Stone fails to realise that no self-respecting party of the right could ever countenace such a thing. It's only "left lurching ... fruitloops" who believe in taking measures to achieve gender equality. Sensible parties realise that women will just have to wait for things to magically fix themselves. Sometime. In the never-never.

Comments (11)

by Andrew Osborn on March 08, 2014
Andrew Osborn

A complex problem indeed. Whilst I don't know for sure why this is, I can offer a few suggestions:

1/ Group think. There is a tendency in all social groupings for groupthink. We want people in our group that think like us. It is a thing to guard against in all sorts of organisations where they have to relate to a market. From the boardroom to political parties.

2/ Differences in psychological profiles. Psychological tests like the Myers Briggs show gender bias in the thinking/feeling dimension. My (limited) understanding is that more men are thinkers and more women are feelers. It would be interesting to do a similar test referencing politcal views. In my experience the Right bias toward thinking and the Left toward feeling. If this were true then the political home for a majority of women might be the Left. If this is correct then no surprise the right is deficient in females

3/ IQ standard deviation. From the results of the bell curve  ( males and females have the same average IQ but women have a smaller standard deviation. Thus female IQs are more clustered around the mean. This may be why males dominate both high positions (eg science, professions and business) and low positions (eg prison occupancy). If we assume high ranking political roles require high IQ, then it may be natural that there is a shortage of women in these positions. 


by stuart munro on March 08, 2014
stuart munro

Nice to see Andrew O., that your psychology is right up there with your economics.

by Peggy Klimenko on March 08, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

@ Andrew Osborn: you're positing groupthink, Myers Briggs and "The Bell Curve" as providing plausible explanations for the lack of women in political parties? Good grief! You don't really believe that stuff, do you?

Here's the thing: left-wing parties somehow manage to have a much greater proportion of women. Which suggests that there's nothing "natural" about the status quo in right-wing politics; if you're looking for an explanation, I'd say it's good old-fashioned misogyny. Myers Briggs that.  If you can...


by Viv Kerr on March 09, 2014
Viv Kerr

Andrew Osbourn’s simple answer to this complex problem seems to be that women and the political left can’t think.

by Nick Gibbs on March 09, 2014
Nick Gibbs

I have to say I disagree. At present if people want to join a political party and put their name forward as a local candidate, they can. Then it's a straight forward open vote. That's grassroots democracy.

Quotas lead towards centalisation of power in Wellington, with party HQ determining who will be the local representative. eg: If Whangarei can't find a suitable women to run, HQ will parachute one in. Soon the only route to a political career is through the party machine in Wellington, divorced from the general electorate.

If the women of NZ are unhappy with the way they are being represented then let them do something about it - campaign for and stand as local candidates. After all it was women who earnt themselves the right to vote in the first place.


by william blake on March 09, 2014
william blake

Ha ha Nick, suitable male candidates for Wongaray include Banks and Carter? I wonder what constitutes unsuitable. Which leads to the real question how many electorates have had unsuitable male candidates requiring a centralisation of power In the capital?

by Andrew Osborn on March 09, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Viv: Andrew Osborn’s simple answer to this complex problem seems to be that women and the political left can’t think.

Well there is the old adage saying: If you're 18 and not a Socialist, you have no heart. But if you're not a Capitalist by 30 you've got no brains.

So go figure...

Actually I was proposing a few ideas for discussion but you've all failed on the thinking front, having just attacked the messenger. 

by Peggy Klimenko on March 09, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

@ Andrew Osborn: "Actually I was proposing a few ideas for discussion but you've all failed on the thinking front, having just attacked the messenger."

Er, no. Some of us have debunked the message. In my view, putting forward psychobabble to explain the lack of women in politics is a have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife-yet sort of answer that is completely unhelpful.

@ Nick Gibbs: "If the women of NZ are unhappy with the way they are being represented then let them do something about it - campaign for and stand as local candidates."

Wow, really? Is that all it takes! Well, who knew....

by Viv Kerr on March 10, 2014
Viv Kerr

“Actually I was proposing a few ideas for discussion”, really?  You suggest  that women are all a bit average and there aren’t many bright ones. Well, go on, discuss.

When you are done with that, move on to women tend to feel rather than think and then feel free to expand on to people with brains must support the right.

by Andrew Osborn on March 10, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Viv: You suggest that women are all a bit average and there aren’t many bright ones.

Nope I'm not. I'm merely reporting the results of many thousands of IQ tests which formed the factual basis of the book The Bell Curve. Read it and get back to me.

The fact of the matter is that women are indeed under represented in professions which require very high IQs. Coincidentally that matches exactly with the findings of The Bell Curve.

As for  personality test developed by Isabell Myers Katherine Briggs, these are the labels they chose to apply to various styles of thinking, not I.

Your reactions are interesting - I suspect constrained by Politically Correct thought spoon fed to you at school and university. Try to open your eyes and see the world as it is rather than what some people would like it to be. The fact is that men and women differ - one is not better than the other - but they have different strong and weak suites.

by Peggy Klimenko on March 12, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

@ Andrew Osborn: "Your reactions are interesting - I suspect constrained by Politically Correct thought spoon fed to you at school and university. "

There you go again: a have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife-yet response. I wonder if you realise that's what you're doing.

Firstly, Myers Briggs: The authors themselves said that the test was designed to measure preference, not ability, and that it should not be used for employment selection. It tells us what people believe themselves to be like, not necessarily what they're actually like.

Anyone who's done the test more than once will know that it's possible to get different results. This is called low test/retest reliability, and is one of many criticisms made of it.

In addition, the system was based on Jung's theories and first published in 1962 or thereabouts. That wasn't long after Watson and Crick made their discoveries on the structure of DNA. We've come a long way since then in our understanding of how the brain works; in my view, Myers Briggs has outlived whatever usefulness it may have had and should be consigned to an archive somewhere.

Secondly, "The Bell Curve". Surely you aren't suggesting that anyone should take seriously anything in this book? The ideas in it were comprehensively debunked by academics - experts in this field - back in the 1990s. Nothing asserted by the authors about IQ can be relied on.

This book didn't go through the peer review process before publication that is usual for books of this type. It reads as a polemic; it reminded me of material written by various anti-fluoride, anti-vaccination, and anti-climate change campaigners.

" If we assume high ranking political roles require high IQ..."

High IQ is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for success in politics; anyone who's watched the political circus over the years will have seen many examples of this.

These claims about women, their psychological processes and their IQ are smug, comfy and status quo-y: nice simple answers to a pesky problem. Which, I'd have thought, would immediately alert people to the fact that they're furphies.

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