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A coalition of women’s groups has formed to back Harriet Harman’s proposal that the shadow Cabinet should be made up of women and men in equal numbers, and support women’s representation in politics.

From the press release:

Alison Clarke, Founder of Women’s Views on News said:

“Women are never going to have anything like equal representation if we just carry on the way we are. We saw that all-women shortlists had an impact and we know from other countries that quotas produce results. And we need results, not because the issue of equal representation is a numbers game but because it is a crucial reflection of the health of our democracy.”

Annette Lawson, O.B.E., Chair of the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations said:

“It is vital for democracy that there is equal representation of women and men in political decision-making: without the different life experiences and perspectives each brings to the table, policy formulation itself is biased. Essential issues are omitted and decisions made that will impact women differently – usually disadvantageously – compared with men. Sufficient numbers of each around a table also leads to different ways of handling discourse, of negotiation and of reaching consensus. These are all essential for the Shadow Cabinet and of course for the governing Cabinet too.”

Finn Mackay, Founder of The London Feminist Network said:

“Politics is part of life and affects everyone in our society and around the world. Decisions are being made in our names every day, often ones which disproportionately affect women and children, and yet our voices are not represented in positions of power. Indeed it is time for change, not more of the same, we should diversify and rejuvenate our political system and make it truly representative, this campaign is a start on that journey.”

Harman’s 50/50 split in a Labour shadow cabinet would signal a serious adoption of an effective measure to promote women’s political representation. It would be an indicator of the party’s high level of commitment to gender issues.”

Tracey Carboni of the Million Women Rise Coalition said:

“Gender quotas can be viewed as a strategy that counteracts the bias inherent in mainstream parties towards men. Men remain in power, representing their own world view and interests.

There is evidence from the Scandinavian experience that more women in positions of power will lead will lead to a greater commitment to women’s demands. This is supported by the willingness of the last Labour government, who had fewer but yet committed women in positions of power to legislate on issues impacting on women. One such area was that of prostitution, and the legislation here took account of the lived experience of exploited women. Increasing the quota of women in power will increase this potential.

However any quota must also represent the diversity of women, otherwise it risks promoting policies that represent the interests of only the more privileged groups of women and will therefore be counterproductive.

Having more women in positions of power is just one aspect of what needs to be a multi-pronged strategy for achieving equality. Those in power also need to remain committed to having links with grassroots women’s organisations”

Pat Pleasance, President of UK WILPF said:

“WILPF calls on governments internationally to give women the opportunity to gain the skills to be in the highest positions of decision-making, yet even in the United Kingdom we do not have equality in this area. It is time that more than 50% of the population has at least 50% of the influence”.