Loaded questions and myths

That’s the Scotswoman from 21 years ago…still talking about how we get more women into leadership. Shall we just do it already?

Talat Yaqoob, Chair and Co-Founder of Women 5050 highlights the problem with the quota public narrative:

It’s International Woman’s Day and to celebrate The Scotsman has become the Scotswoman. It’s actually a great thing to see (although a more regular occurance would be even better). The writers at the Scotsman (all women for the day) have been quick to get in touch with us for commentary and to include the campaign. For that, we thank you.

The Scotswoman has done an exclusive poll for today, which, unsurprisingly reveals that 1 in 4 people have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace and sadly that only a third of people think gender equality will be a reality in their lifetime.

They also polled a question about Women 5050’s aims for legislated candidate quotas. This found that only 23% of the polled public (1000) supported quotas.

But here is the reality of how that was asked:

Respondents had 3 options:

  1. Yes, I support quota measures for gender equality
  2. No, it should be the best person for the job regardless of gender
  3. Don’t know

The Scotsman did what many do – they fell for the myth and gave people a false choice. This question assumes that quotas would prevent the best person for the job to actually be recruited or elected. That simply is not true. On that logic, that would mean that somehow men are just more competent that’s why 75% of them are in the parliament. Seriously? We do not exist in a meritocracy, quotas will allow us to promote women with the ambitions and talent. Women will have to go through the same selection processes and training, all that will change, will be that the starting point from which men and women run for election will now be on par. It was an incredibly loaded question, if The Scotsman would like to run a poll again, we suggest they get support in ensuring that questions are not leading and are asked through robust unbiased language.

If you say a lie enough times, it becomes the truth:

That’s what has happened with quotas. This idea of merit being forgone for the sake of a headcount of more women is so deeply insulting, yet men and women seem to think it an acceptable retort to the only, I repeat, only real measure to change the status quo.

On Call Kaye this morning, I lost count of the number of contradictions. Every caller agreed; “Women should be paid fairly, there should be more women leaders, we need more women in our councils”. So should be introduce quotas and actually make it happen? “no, no, that’s a step too far in favour of women”.

So, what’s your solution?

Training for women? – been done, gets done by all political parties

Mentoring? – done by most political parties

Voluntary mechanisms like all women shortlists? – done by the majority of parties, has been used for over 20 years and usually gets us to an increase of around 35%

The solution is legislated change. Even then, we will still have work to do. There is legislation (which people at the time called patronising to women, by the way) for equal pay and yet despite it being a criminal offense, women get paid around 11% less than their male counterparts. So quotas are not even that radical, they in themselves are the starting point. Ideally, the quota mechanism is temporary, to normalise the existence of women’s leadership and overcome the institutionalised attitudes in our system which close the door on women. Are we saying a temporary, radical measure for fairness is going too far? The alternative is to sit and make women wait another 50 years, for something that should have existed from day one.

There is not an equal footing in politics for men and women. The status quo favours men. If you really want to do something about equality, saying the right words and reassuring yourself that you really care isn’t enough.

Change doesn’t come from warm words, it comes from progressive action. Quotas are the only truly progressive action.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *