Gender equality in politics: Changing culture is most important – Professor Laura McAllister
Professor Laura McAllister says “changing the culture” is the most important consideration when it comes to achieving gender equality in politics.
It has been 20 years since the then Welsh Assembly became the first legislative body in the world to have equal numbers of men and women, following the election on May 1st 2003.
Speaking on S4C’s Y Byd yn ei Le, Professor McAllister said “We all know it’s harder than just having equal representation.
“When the situation was that half the Senedd were women, that was very important. But on the other hand, we all know that it’s much more than just having equal representation.
“The most important thing, in my opinion, is to try and change the culture and the way people behave in politics – and unfortunately this isn’t happening in the way we want it to.”
Since 2003, the number of women elected to the Senedd has dropped by 7%, from 30 women to 26.
Currently, the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru are working on plans to reform the Senedd by the 2026 election.
As part of the reform, gender quotas are being proposed so female politicians are better represented, although there have been questions about the Senedd’s legal powers to implement this change.
Professor McAllister says she is supportive of gender quotas to ensure women are represented fairly in the Senedd.
But the Welsh Conservatives disagree with introducing a gender quota.
When asked about it on Y Byd yn ei Le, the Conservative Senedd Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Sam Kurtz, said:
“We do oppose quotas, because we’ve seen historically we can achieve a 50:50 split in the Senedd (without quotas).
“I took over from Angela Burns so I know that the Conservative Party is a meritocracy. I don’t think we need these quotas in this situation, we need to get the best politicians to do the job, but we need to make the job as open as possible to people from all backgrounds, including women.
When Professor McAllister was asked about how to achieve gender equality in Welsh politics, she said: “Labour and Plaid Cymru have used direct action – positive action – like twinning and zipping to make sure more women are winning seats in the Senedd.
“They’ve turned their backs on this tactic. Of course, when women stand down from the Senedd in an election, usually the person who replaces them is a male.”
Ministers along with Plaid Cymru say a proposed Senedd reform law will be published by autumn 2023.
Y Byd yn ei Le is broadcast on S4C at 9pm on Thursday and can be watched on BBC iPlayer and S4C Clic.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.