Diversity in Parliament

 As I’ve pointed out before on this blog, I believe that the differences between individuals vastly outstrip the differences between men and women.  Because I don’t think that women have some innate qualities which make them different to me, you might expect me not to care that slightly less than a quarter of MPs are female.  Not so.  I see a strong argument for a more diverse Parliament based on what individuals can bring to the table.

 The gender (or race, class, or disability) of an individual has a relationship on how they are perceived by and treated by society.  Women, while all being individuals, tend to have slightly different experiences to men.  People with different experiences bring different skills to the table, different ways of working, difference points of view.  Having a mixture of experiences increases the skills held by Parliament as a whole.  The more diverse the group (the more different experiences members have had), the more likely it is that policy failings will be recognised. Better policy comes from a group with broad experience.

 The House of Commons is meant to be a representative body, and increasing the diversity experience in Parliament makes it more representative of the people.  A more diverse Parliament will serve its people better because it will know them better.

Update: I think I’d better add that although I support greater diversity, I believe that it should come about through encouragement rather than quotas.  Here’s why.


About feminismfortories

Moderate Tory, Liberal Feminist. Based in the UK.
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9 Responses to Diversity in Parliament

  1. This post could have been written by Harriet Harman, Angela Eagle… this isn’t ‘Feminism for Tories’, it’s ‘Feminism for Lefties’. It implies that the women who are attracted to politics are somehow representative of women in general, but most of them aren’t. Their philosophies (with some notable exceptions) are markedly more left-wing than those held by most women, especially the philosophies of the feminist politicians on the Labour benches who did so much damage over 1997-2010. And yet the current administration continues to pursue their agendas.

    The idea that greater diversity in Parliament will lead to better governance is a left-wing theory which will, like all left-wing theories, prove to be false. It’s all about the triumph of emotion over reason. You’ll be supporting ‘gender balance in the bopardroom’ next, regardless of the fact that the vast majority of people who are able AND WILLING to perform these roles are men, for reasons I outline in ‘The Glass Ceiling Delusion’. The only people who will benefit from ‘gender balance in the boardroom’ initiatives will be women who wouldn’t make it to the boardroom on the grounds of merit in a month of Sundays.

    I was hoping that ‘Feminism for Tories’ would at least espouse the core principle of meritocracy, for example finding inspiration from the example of Margaret Thatcher rather than Harriet Harman. For that reason I included the blog in my ‘Recommended Websites and Blogs’ on my newly-launched blog http://fightingfeminism.wordpress.com.

    Mike Buchanan

    • It’s interesting that you appear to assume I’m in favour of quotas. I believe that greater diversity will lead to better considered policy. However, I also believe that the way to create that diversity is by encouragement rather than quotas.

      As for the ability of people to get into the boardroom or into politics…well, a person of average ability who is encouraged and supported is likely to do better that someone who is very capable but constantly discouraged. Spending extra time encouraging women and recognising their abilities may help to undo some of the damage done by society. A meritocracy cannot be a meritocracy if half the population are restricted by out-dated stereotyopes.

      And thank you for your endorsement, but you may have mistaken my political views. I’m a One Nation Tory, a progressive Tory, and a liberal Tory.

      • Thanks for the clarification, much appreciated.

        I’m not clear what form the ‘encouragement’ of women is going to take, if not quotas and/or positive discrimination. Could you possibly enlighten me? Surely you’re not suggesting taxpayer money be used for the purpose? I don’t believe women are restricted by out-of-date stereotypes (although the idea that they are is a very convenient excuse), women are simply more likely to have different interests and drives to men, which will inevitably translate into different life choices, e,g, women still being disinclined to go into engineering as a profession despite millions of pounds being spent on the ‘problem’. Why isn’t the small number of men going into nursing a ‘problem’? Is ‘Feminism for Tories’ going to be like ‘Feminism for Lefties’ and always see the world through a dualistic lens, ‘women good, men bad’?

        Isn’t the idea that women need encouragement disempowering in itself? Why do they need it? In my experience the women with the drive and ability to get to the top don’t need encouragement (nor the men, come to that). It’s yet another case of double standards.If a man isn’t happy with how his carrer has progressed, it’s tough. If a women isn’t happy with her career, she’s encouraged to believe it’s down to the ‘glass ceiling’ (men to blame). Does nobody say to some of these women, ‘Maybe you’re not good enough for the roles your seeking’? Or must we always encourage women, rather than be honest with them? Isn’t this infantilising women? No wonder so many women are depressed, holding on to unrealistic expectations being a cause of depression – let me know if you want me to cite the evidence. Oh, and if a woman lands a top job despite the ‘glass ceiling’ but fails, it’s because of the ‘glass cliff’ (men to blame). Women must never fali, it seems. Because what would happen if they failed on their own merits (or lack of them)? Maybe they’d then really be the equals of men?

        Not long after the last administration first came to power (1997) I recall Harriet Harman putting millions of pounds into supporting and encouraging female entrepreneurs. Hmm, I wonder what return the taxpayer got from that initiative? There are numerous reasons why fewer women than men become entrepeneurs, and they include women being more likely to be risk-averse. On the one hand fewer women become failed entrepreners (bankrupt etc.), but on the other hand fewer women become successful entrepreneurs. There are always two sides to these issues.

        Oh, and how can women equate their frequent search for ‘work/life balance’ in their lives with a wish to get to the top of business etc.? They can’t. At least not without spinning some fantasy about how businesses benefit from more balanced people. Hmm, how would this work in other felds, e.g. sport? Should we somehow handicap sportsmen and sportswomen who train harder than others? A belief that competition is good and healthy is at the heart of my own Toryism. I’m tired of the ‘everyone is equal’ rhetoric. You may as well say everyone is of the same height.

        Do let me know if you’d like me to post you a complimentary copy of my latest book, the snappily-titled, ‘The Glass Celing Delusion: the real reasons more women don’t reach senior positions’. I’d be happy to send you an excerpt for publication on this blog if you wish.

        Best wishes,

        Mike Buchanan

  2. @Mike

    I can assure you, out-dated stereotypes exist. As a white, middle-class woman, I rarely encounter racism. I rarely see the type of poverty of aspiration which leads to people unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. (In order to do that, you need to know you have boots, and if you are told from birth that you are useless then you start believing it. Please don’t say no such people exist or I’ll start suspecting you of being Jacob Rees-Mogg.)

    A good example of the effect of stereotyping is children’s toys. A very large number of toy shops and websites divide their toys into “girls” and “boys”. In Hamleys these are even on different, colour-coded floors. Girls’ toys centre around beauty, caring and crafts, while boys’ toys are about cars, the outdoors and building. Of course, any girl can play with boys’ toys and any boy with girls’ toys, but if every time a girl picks up a toy car she is offered a doll instead, or given a quizzical look, or the subject of a whispered “but she’s a girl and that’s a boys’ toy”, then how long do you think it will be before she stops playing with cars? The same is true for boys: stereotypes cut both ways and just as hard. I would say that we have to encourage men to see whether they really like cars, the outdoors and building just as much as have to encourage women to test the beauty, caring and crafts stereotype. This doesn’t need legislation or money (where on earth did that idea come from?) but recognition from people like MPs.

    • Thanks for this. I don’t know what you mean (in the context of this debate, anyway) by, ‘… if you are told from birth that you are useless…’ This just seems to me like poor parenting, regardless of the gender of the child who has been subjected to it. I have two daughters (now in their mid 20s) and I certainly never told them such things. If anything, for the past two or three decades it’s been boys who’ve been told they are useless by a very feminised and left-wing educational system, in which misandy is a central theme.

      I guess we’re essentially having the ‘nature v nurture’ debate here. As a rule of thumb, I guess it would be fair to say that people with right-of-centre convictions (such as myself) tend to believe in the primacy of nature, whils those with left-of-centre convictions tend to believe in the primacy of nurture (and especially the idea that babies are born with brains which are ‘blank slates’). Certainly if you look at popular books on gender and psychology you will see the authors’ political convictions generally aligning with their position in the debate.

      I can only say that I find books which suggest that gender-typical men and women tend to be fundamentally different resonate with my experience of the world. This is not to say that a small number of individuals cannot have gender-patterned brains inconsistent with their gender. Magaret Thatcher clearly has a male-patern brain, David Cameron a female-pattern bran, as I argue in ‘Davis and Goliatha: David Cameron – heir to Harman?’ and ‘The Glass Ceiling Delusion’.

      On the subject of books about gender and psychology, the following come immediately to mind, penned by well-known psychologists, a number of them of international repute:

      Prof Louann Brizendine, ‘The Female Brain’
      Prof Susan Pinker, ‘The Sexual Paradox’
      Dr Anne Moir, ‘Why Men Don’t Iron’
      Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, ‘The Essential Difference’
      Prof Stephen Pinker, ‘The Blank Slate’

      Your reference to chuildren’s toys reminded me of a short passage from Louann Brizendine’s book. From the chapter, ‘The Birth of the Female Brain’:

      ‘Common sense tells us that boys and girls behave differently. We see it every day at home, on the playground, and in classrooms. But what the culture hasn’t told us is that the brain dictates these divergent behaviors. The impulses of children are so innate that they kick in even if we adults try to nudge them in another direction. One of my patients gave her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter many unisex toys, including a bright red fire truck instead of a doll. She walked into her daughter’s room one afternoon to find her cuddling the truck in a baby blanket, rocking it back and forth, saying, “Don’t worry, little truckie, everything will be all right.”
      This isn’t socialization. The little girl didn’t cuddle her ‘truckie’ because her environment molded her unisex brain. There is no unisex brain. She was born with a female brain, which came complete with its own impulses. Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they’re born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values, and their very reality.’

      For me the key issue is whether you believe in equality of opportunity for the genders (equity feminism), as I do, or equality of outcome (gender / mlitant / radical feminism). I don’t think equality of outcome neccessarily flows from equality of opportunity, and I fail to see how a Tory could possibly be a militant feminist. To attribute women’s ‘under-representation’ in some areas (in itself a value judgment, anyway) to stereotyping is, I think, to dismiss women’s rights to make the life choices they wish to.

      Why should a woman who wants to be a full-time housewife, or to work part-time so she can spend more time caring for children, parents, or others, not be free to do so (familiy finances permitting)? There’s plenty of evidence that women are far more keen than men to be the ‘stay at home’ parent, women are far more likley than men to work part-time rather than full-time troughout their lives, etc. I don’t think too many women would be willing to work their socks off in paid employment to support a ‘stay at home’ husband. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, only that it’s unusual.

      Finally, I’m still unclear what you mean by ‘encouragement’, beyond you reference to ‘recognition from people like MPs’. What form might that take, exactly? I can’t imagine there are legions of potentially dynamic women awaiting ‘recognition from people like MPs’ to spring them into action. MPs are among the most uninspiring, hypocritical, self-serving, greedy, and unprincipled groups of people in the country. There are exceptions – mostly Tories, obviously – and I’m looking forward to meeting one of them next Monday.

      Mike Buchanan

      • As the rest of my blog makes clear, I disagree with this particular analysis. It’s not from lack of reading: I’ve read Stephen Pinker, for example, and was left with the overwhelming impression that he’d read too much Ayer and not enough Wittgenstein.

        I’m unlikely to reply to your next comment. While comments are appreciated, so many from one source starts to become irritating and time-consuming.

      • A final thought, if I may?

        Even after you reject the consensus among leading psychologists that the majority of male and female babies are born ‘hard wired’ in line with their biological gender, that leaves the issue of women’s preferences with respect to the world of work. The following is drawn from page 236 of Swayne O’Pie’s book (with his kind permission) and is based on the ‘preference model’ developed by Dr Catherine Hakim, a sociologist formerly with the London School of Economics and now with the Centre for Policy Studies. She’s widely regarded as one of the leading independent experts in the world with respect to the genders in the workplace. I’d be interested to know what you think. I have to say the model accords well with my own experience of women’s attitudes towards paid employment in the workplace from when I started in the world of work (1978) right up to the present day. The excerpt:

        ‘The majority of women have a different work ethic to men, they have different work preferences and attitudes. This leads them to choose different priorities and work options based upon personal and individual lifestyle values and aims.

        Recent research into the pay gap and the glass ceiling is based uon ‘preference theory’. This argues that women’s preferences, and their freedom to choose to indulge these preferences, is the central determinant of why women are paid less than men and why women are under-represented in senior positions. Preference theory uses three related work-life models that express women’s preferences, women’s choices.

        17% of women are in this category. Family life and children are the main priorities throughout their lives; they prefer NOT to work. Their family values are caring and non-competitive…

        2. ADAPTIVE
        69% of women are in this category. This is a very large majority and has direct consequences for the pay gap and the glass ceiling. This group is the most diverse and includes women who want to combine work and family. They want to work but are not committed to a working career. They seek part-time work, flexible work, or they work temporarily. Their family values are a compromise between two conflicting sets of values. They wish to enjoy the best of both worlds…

        3. WORK-CENTRED
        Only 14% of women are in this category. This very small percentage has huge implications for the feminist issues of the pay gap and the glass ceiling Childless women are concentrated in this category. Their main priority in life is their career. They ae committed to their work… Family life is fitted around their work, with many finding work in the vrious Feminist Industries, and their sympathetic subsidiaries (for example, the trade unions and the public sector). The majority of this group will be feminists. It is this small percentage of work-centred women who are the most vociferous group in demanding state intervention to help women. It is this group who demand positive discrimination and quotas to remedy the under-representation of women in senior positions. It is this group who wll fill these positions.’

        I do hope you can spare a few minutes to give us your thoughts. Thank you.

        Mike Buchanan

  3. My apologies, in my enthusiasm I appear to have lost sight of the point that the topic of this post is ‘Diversity in Parliament’, so I can now better understand your point about women seeking ‘recognition from people like MPs’. But I stand by my assessment of them, and concur with the old saying that political office should be denied to anyone seeking it. The lack of experience of the real world common to so many modern ‘professional politicians’ is a scandal. Few of them would be qualified to be the deputy manager of an Aldi store…but they’re apparently qualified to run departments spending many billions of pound annually. It’s a funny old world.

  4. Thank you for an interesting exchange. I’m sorry you disagree with the ‘particular analysis’, I take it you mean wth respect to gendered brains. It is however an analysis which has strong (and ever growing) support among psychologists, and goes a very long way to explain how men and women operate in the real world (as distinct from the rhetoric) and the outcomes we see all around us. I’ve detected little in the way of right-of-centre perspectives in your posts, more a range of nuanced ‘women need special treatment’ pleas and arguments which to my mind are left-wing. Maybe it’s an indication of how far the term ‘Tories’ can stretch these days. Harriet Harman would agree with most of what you say.

    An interesting blog, I wish it every success and look forward to future posts.

    Have a good day, and a relaxing weekend.

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