News Letters

Monday 22 September 2014

Rules have to change

Emer O'Kelly

Published 16/03/2014 | 02:30

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Madam – Emer O'Kelly, (Sunday Independent, March 9, 2014), has embraced the frustrating fallacy that having female quotas in politics will lead all of us to regard any woman achieving political office as a token woman, having achieved her position because of a quota rather than because of her ability.

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Such a belief is only possible if it is the case that all of the male incumbents are in their positions because they are the best person for the job by reason of ability.

But in politics, just as in business, achieving status is not just about ability, but about ambition, connections, name-recognition and a myriad other things which have nothing to do with being the best person for the job.

How many male politicians have achieved office because they are part of a political dynasty rather than because they have done anything noteworthy?

How many businessmen have found themselves moving up the ladder because of the school they went to, or the golf club they joined?

In business, those who play football on the company team have a marked advantage over those who could not. And the same applies to men who join golf clubs that bar women.

The infamous 'marriage bar', which wasn't lifted from the public sector until the 1970s, deprived the State of the talents of the women who left – but more importantly, it left a generation without female role models and a generation after that whose route to the top was blocked by the fact that all the senior positions were occupied by men, while their female colleagues had yet to progress out of secretarial roles.

The rules of the game were devised by men for men and until the rules are changed women will continue to lag behind for reasons which have nothing to do with ability or tokenism, and everything to do with a system that was never designed to encourage them.

Sheila O'Flanagan,

Clontarf, Dublin 3

Sunday Independent

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