Gender balance and politics


Sir, – I agree with Paul Williams (Letters, July 10th) that the best person should get the job. I also agree (I could hardly do otherwise) that it is the job of voters to elect our TDs. But of course the voters can do this job only from the slate of candidates put before them. Only the most disingenuous will contend that party leaders have no influence on candidate selection.

I am inclined to accept that talent and ability are fairly evenly distributed between men and women. But women account for less than 23 per cent of the TDs elected last February. This suggests that some of the best people are not getting the job, and I think it might benefit us if we were to find out why and to do something about it.

I don’t know Paul Williams and I don’t think he knows me. For reasons which are not clear to me, he assumes I am male. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – The view that it is important to increase female participation in government would appear to imply that there are differences in how men and women think. If men and women think exactly the same way, then increasing female participation in government presumably wouldn’t alter anything very much as regards political decisions.

In terms of this broader topic of occupational choices, however, there are quite distinct patterns in society. One that is fairly clear is that men are more frequently engaged in high-risk occupations. Bomb-disposal workers, bodyguards, deep-sea divers, test pilots and coal miners are, for example, very often male. Classically “safe” employments, which might include librarians, teachers and administrators, conversely tend to be largely female in their composition. Quite stark differences are thus evident between professions that entail “daring versus caring”, as some psychologists have phrased it.

It is worth considering where politics as a career lies on this spectrum.

The constant possibility of abruptly losing ones job, of being forced to resign in disgrace over a long-forgotten incident, or of being pilloried by any member of the public you encounter are presumably stressful in the extreme.

The reality of never being entirely off-duty, and of being considered responsible for everything from obtaining individual medical cards to the performance of the entire economy, must be wearing.

Campaigning is a high-risk occupation in itself, I suspect, financially and even at times in terms of personal safety.

Perhaps then, if we wish to see more equal representation it is we, the public, and our demands and expectations, that need to change. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.