Has Devolution Delivered for Women? - Discussion event
Listen to the introduction to the pamphlet and speakers
Listen to Wendy Alexander MSP
Listen to Dr. Fiona Mackay (University of Edinburgh)
Listen to Leslie Riddoch
See some photos
Audience contribution audio will follow shortly.
An event to discuss the Hansard Society & British Council's new pamphlet Has Devolution Delivered for Women? made some excellent contributions to the debate around women's involvement in politics, from both the panel speakers and members of the audience. Wendy Alexander MSP started the discussion by saying that pamphlets that take a year to produce are usually impenetrable, this is not the case with this pamphlet, she said it is a pamphlet that will be looked back upon as restarting the debate. She also discussed the invisibility of women in the general election, saying that discussions of wives outfits is not what suffragettes campaigned for and that the make-up of the new coalition cabinet leaves the UK lagging behind many other countries in the world. Wendy also asked why it matters in Scotland where there is 35% women in Parliament and 3 women in a much smaller cabinet? She went on to point out that the continuing challenges of Westminster should be a 'siren song' to Scotland about the point at where Scotland stands, because it can not be accidental that successes are maintained in women's representation. She pointed out that women's gains by Labour in the UK elections was only gained through all women shortlists. To take women's representation to the next level if you rely on party mechanisms then you are at the mercy of the vicissitudes of the performance of the political party that happens to be committed to having mechanism in place to ensure women's representation. Relying on political parties leads to a 'boom and bust' cycle in women's representation. Wendy referred to the Speaker's conference considerations about putting into law mechanisms for women's representations and said that Scotland should also look at that because if they don't they are in danger of becoming hypocrites.
Dr Fiona Mackay said that Has Devolution Delivered for Women? is a wake up call to refocus on the challenges of the next decade. She talked about the women's movement in Scotland in relation to devolution. She said that there is still a women's movement, but their groupings are preoccupied with practical feminism, providing front line services. What happened with devolution was that there was much broader ideas of women's representation, there was the descriptive representation, there was also concern with the ideas of representation as voice and access. Devolution promised sea-change in access and voice and the promise of concrete outcomes for women in their diversity. Fiona said that there was partial success, for a 'broad brush women's agenda', the Nordic levels of representation, family friendly hours, a creche still going despite efforts to close it and some policy outcomes. The differences pre and post devolution is that there are now multiple channels for the women's movement and women citizens to access to government, although access and influence are not the same. Devolution brought gender strategies that were way ahead of the rest of the UK. Fiona said that a number of problems have beset the women's movement since devolution, for example fragmentations of the sector, which she went on to explain in detail. Fiona said that there has been a slow realisation that there is the need to play a long term game, and that the multi level nature of politics had been lost sight of, and that all the elements of women's lives can not be taken at one level. Fiona asked have we paid to much attention to Holyrood and not enough to local government and Westminster?
Lesley Riddoch talked about the Alliance Party in New Zealand and how the tensions arise across the groups based on temperaments: stone throwers, institutional floggers and alternative builders. She talked about inspirational women that she knows in this context, Maggie Fife and Hauwa Ibrahim. Lesley said that temperaments can keep women apart, but each of the three groups need each other to progress. Lesley then talked about the media and said that the media doesn't like institutional plodders. In the pamphlet instant response is said to put off women and many thoughtful men from politics. Lesley asked why this is? What is needed is instant responses are useful, although reflection is important too. There are all levels of reponse that are valid and she set out the case for instant response, and called people to stop being scared of speaking out and stop trying to communicate as little as possible and to try and communicate as much as possible. Lesley said that although some media targeted at women is horrible you still have to take a risk to move forward, saying "if you haven't got anything to say then don't stand for election."
Download Has Devolution Delivered for Women?
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