Friday, 10 September 2010
Is Job Sharing MPs Idea Sexist?
I know it is being suggested by a female MP.
I know it's aim is to get more women into Parliament.
But is the idea from Caroline Lucas, the Green Party leader, to allow job sharing MPs not inherently sexist. She s suggesting that people should be allowed to stand as a pair of representatives. Her aim to lift the ability of women to represent the people in the commons.
While her aims are noble, does not the suggestion that women are not able to work in Westminster because of the hours of commitment to do so full time a sexist position? Yes there are needs to allow female members to have the same rights as workers elsewhere. For example how would constituents react to a female member taking her full maternity entitlement? Also if that were to happen what arrangements could be made to cover the duties of that MP.
There are issues of childcare, schooling, the two-centred living for out of London MPs and hours of working which need to be addressed to make the job more attractive and doable for women, or maybe especially younger women with or hoping to start families. Too many of the Blair Babes from 1997 have already voluntarily stepped down from the House because of the pressures they faced.
For years part-time work was all that married women were able to take on. They had to juggle housework, childcare and job, so could only be employed elsewhere for limited hours. It was a glass ceiling on their achievement. How could a job-sharing MP hope to progress beyond the back benches? Is it really possible that a sensitive issue could be handed on to another minister and back again depending on the day of the week. The same would also apply to case work, if you are sharing a job on certain days of the week, how is a job sharing going to make the constituent feel about a sensitive issue if they have to talk to two separate individuals about it. There is a certain member/constituent trust, would that be broken by a job share.
There are issues to be addressed in Parliament of that I have no doubt, but I also think that the proposal from Ms. Lucas appears to have been poorly thought out and indeed is degrading to female politicians. Bear in mind that the Green Party breakthrough has come after the party in England and Wales did away with co-convenorship of the party for gender balance purposes and selected a single leader, a woman.
Yes encouraging women into the chamber is to be encouraged. But to do so by offering them part-time jobs there is surely not progress but a retrograde step.
Read also: Never one to shirk away from starting a debate here is what Kate Joester, the Green party candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith in 2010 (aka Rebel Rising) has blogged in response. Also found this article from Lib Dem Voice back in March which covers the issue.