This year we will be going to the polls a few times with Local and European elections. Given recent events we might even have another election, but time will tell.

I take the right to a free vote seriously and gather information on candidates prior to voting. What I find disappointing are the low number of female candidates that are elected.

Now before you all start jumping up and down telling me I should vote for the best person rather than gender, obviously I do. There is always an assumption that if I say I voted for a woman candidate that I am doing so based on gender rather than ability. That also assumes that every man elected is the best person for the role. Can any of us say that every man elected has been the best person for the role?

Male counterparts

Just over half the population of Ireland is female yet only 23% of our TDs and 25% of local councillors are female. Is that a fair representation of our society? I’m not saying men cannot make laws etc that are good for society but wouldn’t that decision making be better if it included seeing the issue from both a man and a woman’s perspective?

Putting 18% VAT on children’s shoes brought down the Government in 1982. Is it a coincidence that there was only one female Minister and one female Minister of State in that government? Today we have a situation where baby formula can not be part of promotional deals, loyalty points etc. Why? Well the government does not want there to be any financial incentive to bottle feed rather than breastfeed. I wonder how many women were part of that decision making? Wouldn’t women have an understanding that there are many, many reasons why women decide to breastfeed or not?

Just over half the population of Ireland is female yet only 23% of our TDs and 25% of local councillors are female. Is that a fair representation of our society?

Women often bring different life experiences, viewpoints, and priorities to the table compared to their male counterparts. Discussions that shape policies and affect everyone are enriched when there are a diverse range of voices heard.

Women in government serve as role models for future generations of girls and young women. Seeing women in positions of power and leadership can inspire them to pursue careers in politics and other male-dominated fields. As in sport, employment and other walks of life if you can see it you can be it.

What stops women?

So what stops more women getting involved in politics? A big one is societal expectations and stereotypes. I have heard female candidates being asked how they will juggle childcare if they are elected. Will their children miss out? Having spent years living close to a politician’s family I can assure you his children saw very little of him but I don’t ever remember him being asked if that impacted his work as a TD.

Don’t even get me started on commentary in relation to how women look and dress. God forbid a female politician would have a few grey roots showing, put on a few pounds or not wear an ‘appropriate’ dress.

Political parties in Ireland are now required to ensure that at least 30% of their candidates are women. Note it is a gender quota on candidates not elected TDS so we all have the freedom to vote for our preferred candidate. I have voted in many local elections where the only candidates were male. I may or may not have decided a female candidate would be a good representative but I was never given that opportunity. We all have that opportunity now.

Read more

Beekeeping with Willie: more than a peep inside the beehive