Forget quotas for women MPs – time to limit the number of men

Forget quotas for women MPs – time to limit the number of men
C'mon fellers – the 21st century is this way… Credit: Rebacca Naden/PA Wire

When we talk about "gender quotas", what we really mean is quotas for women. We see the under-representation of women as the problem that needs fixing. So we try to explain why there aren't more women in politics, then look at measures to boost women's representation.

The result is that are subjected to intense scrutiny and suspicion. Is it appropriate to select candidates based on sex rather than merit – and do we risk replacing competent with incompetent women?

Conventional arguments are misguided because they assume that the current system is a meritocracy, which in fact is not the case. We overlook the problems caused specifically by having too many men and do not subject men to the same scrutiny as women. Yet we know that women face many barriers to entering politics, including discriminatory attitudes and sexist media coverage. If the playing field isn't really level then men enjoy an unfair advantage.

There is no evidence to support the notion that men are naturally superior in their ability to represent others. But if men are not naturally better at politics, then the political talent pool should be fairly evenly divided between the sexes. If men make up 50% of the talent pool, but 80% of those elected, clearly meritocracy is not working.

So instead of gender quotas giving an unfair "leg-up" to mediocre women, they might actually allow in the talent that is currently being blocked out by the mediocre men, who benefited from preferential treatment based on their sex. Hence, they might enable us for the first time to select candidates based on merit rather than sex – the exact opposite of what their detractors fear. Instead of restricting political opportunities to a small sub-section of society – mostly rich white men – we would be making more efficient use of the whole of the nation's talent pool.

Jobs for the boys

It is time to reframe gender quotas as quotas for men. We should introduce quotas to limit the number of men in power, ensuring that only the best and brightest of both sexes prevail. This would mean placing much more scrutiny on the credentials of men, rather than taking their competence for granted. To achieve a true we also need more effective and meaningful criteria for judging merit.

The current criteria are woefully inadequate and deeply subjective which means they are frequently manipulated to favour male insiders. How about starting with a proper job description and person specification for MPs so we can measure candidates against more transparent and objective criteria?

This would make it easier for outsiders – such as women and ethnic minorities – to demonstrate their worth. It would also ensure the reduction of men's share of seats down to proportionate levels would be done as fairly as possible.

One additional advantage of quotas for men is that they would prompt us to think more about how men are represented in politics. There is a lot of research on "women's issues" and women's interests, but it is taken for granted that men's needs are met because there are so many men in politics. But as with merit, we may be too complacent in our belief that the current system is working.

The aggressive masculinity that dominates political environments is off-putting to a lot of men as well as women, and it can keep important issues off the agenda if they are seen as too sensitive or embarrassing. Having a better gender balance would benefit both sexes if it makes more inclusive for men too. And having a political class based on talent rather than privilege, representing all rather than just some, would raise the quality of representation for everybody.

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Aug 19, 2014
Not a bad idea. It seems a bit too simplistic to work in the real world however.

Also, while this is the definition of an ad hominem attack, it's hard for me to take an article about this seriously from somebody named Rainbow. I tried though.

Aug 19, 2014
The imposition of a gender quota is a declaration of inferiority of the gender that is unable to gain the position by their own merit and abilities.

For instance intellectually disabled people could not get a managerial job or be elected to parliament unless laws mandated it (which they don't).

If women wanted to be treated as equal then they must actually be equal. Given equal status through legislation is admission of defeat. It is saying that women can not compete on a level playing field.

What would we think of Barack Obama's achievement if he was given the position by an act of law rather than by his own abilities? What would we think if Hillary Clinton was made president not by being voted in but by being allowed to win by law? How much was Bush's first election win tarnished when legal arguments and judges seem to be deciding on the winner?

If people don't vote for a person for any reason then it is up to the budding politician to convince them otherwise.

Aug 19, 2014
Speaking as a statistician this article abuses statistics to the screaming point. If the pools of competent men and women to be MPs are similar it means nothing. The point of elections is to select the best of the candidates, leaving the grading criteria aside for the moment. What happens when you select the few best candidates from a large population? The selected population is almost entirely from the extremes of the distribution. If, on average, men and women have equal ability to be MPs, but the male population has a slightly larger variance, the selected sample will be almost all male.

Every few years we have a woman trying to "prove" that they are the equal of men at some sport. Irrelevant. What matters is not how the average man or woman does shooting hoops in the back yard, but who are the best players out of a sample of a million or so. Any statistics which look at the bulk are irrelevant.

Aug 20, 2014
What about a MP quota upon psychopaths, congenital liers and the morally blind?

Aug 20, 2014
Every time there are attempts to increase women it is at the downfall of men...with another discrimination.

"Time to limit the number of men" simply means gender is a factor. Isn't the point of equality to never consider gender ?

Should we also there for include hermaphrodites and asexuals ? Because women never mention them - only themselves because they don't want equality for -everyone- they just want to be on par with men whilst forgetting the rest.

Which is probably why there so many men AND women who are now going against the feminism movement. Heck even the name "feminism" doesn't really suggest "equality".

Why has political correctness changed it to "equalitism" ?

Aug 20, 2014
IQ variance also bears this out. Whilst there are more low IQ males there are also more high IQ males. Females tend to score closer to the average where they are higher than males.

In societal adaptation you will find a similar pattern ~ many more men at the low end, and in prison for it, and many more at the high end, and are in leadership roles and wealth generation.

What society must remember is that is that there is a big difference between 'more' at the top and 'exclusive' at the top. There are more male chess champs and math whizzes, but there are brilliant females in there as well.

We must find them and give them every opportunity to excel. But should reserving places is like mandating that females should be allowed to win a certain number of games as a chess tournament ~ it doesn't make sense and it discriminates more against those females who really are brilliant and deserving than against males.

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