The under-representation of women


Sir, – In their recent letters, Peter Pallas (August 20th) and Irene Allen (August 22nd) raised interesting issues in relation to the under-representation of women in the Oireachtas and especially in relation to the necessity or otherwise of quotas to help to increase the proportion of women there.

Both refer to the absence of women from public life in ancient Greece to which we look as being the origin of our present day democracy.

It is of interest to note that there seems to have been a debate back then on the representation of women in public life between the prominent thinkers of the day and ones to which we in the 21st century still pay a lot of attention when studying the origins of our democratic institutions.

Both Plato and Socrates seemed to support the equality of women in the public sphere.

Aristotle, however, thought that since women were occupied with childbirth, child rearing and household management they did not have the “leisure” that civic life required.

The evidence of history seems to say that Aristotle won that argument and it took 22 centuries until a prominent philosopher – John Stuart Mill – advocated the equality of women in public decision making.

That eventually resulted in women being given the vote a century or so ago.

While quotas will increase the number of women candidates, ultimately it will be decisions of women voters themselves on whether they see women’s interests as a vested interest more worthy of support in an election than competing vested interests. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.