Cyprus Mail
OpinionOur View

Our View: Change in attitudes needed on female representation

Justice Minister at the public forum on the participation of women in the public sphere

There is no doubt that women are under-represented in public and political life. It has become fashionable for ministers to express concern about this phenomenon and pay lip service to the need for change.

Justice minister Ionas Nicolaou, who held a public forum on the participation of women in the public sphere, on Tuesday, said: “It is inconceivable that in 2013, highly educated women in Europe and Cyprus are limited to stereotypical roles, while society fails to utilise their knowledge, talents and experiences.”

This is not a problem specific to Cyprus. Only one third of the members of the European Commission are women while representation in the European Parliament is a little over a third. Cyprus has lower participation levels than the average, because it was a late starter, gender equality becoming a major issue only after it joined the EU. Then again the ECB governing council has no female members.

Nicolaou felt that Cyprus needed to do something about this as it was getting worse instead of better. But why is it getting worse? Could it be because politics is a discredited profession that has become much less attractive to all people, not just women? The young are also under-represented in politics but is this because they are denied access or because they do not want to have a part in it?

Some could argue that politics and public life, everywhere, has always been the preserve of middle-aged and old men and although access is not barred to women or the young their chances of making it in such an environment are so small they do not bother. There is no obvious way of getting round this problem.

Positive discrimination, which was very much in vogue in many European countries until a few years ago, has not really worked. It was not the best practice, because it promoted women because of their gender – to up female representation – not because they had the best credentials. This was not because males were better but there were usually more to choose from. If there is a pool of 50 men and 10 women to choose three for public office from, the probability is that the top candidates would be men.

This may also explain why women are under-represented in the European Commission and the European Parliament. Fewer women are among the candidates for these jobs. In Cyprus we have the added handicap that until a couple of decades ago this was a very traditional and conservative patriarchal society.

Whether we like it or not, there are some things that need a long time to change, but Nicolaou is right to raise the issue, because this helps the very gradual change in attitudes.

Related Posts

Why it’s such a big deal that Alla Pugacheva, ‘the tsarina of Russian pop,’ came out against the war

The Conversation

When teen angst turns fatal

Colette NiReamonn Ioannidou

Our View: Auditor-general’s charges over Hermes deal simplistic at best

CM: Our View

Our View: There is plenty to criticize the Anastasiades government for – but not the economy

CM: Our View

It’s Britannia unhinged not Britannia Unchained

Gwynne Dyer

Europe is heading towards a challenging winter

CM Guest Columnist

2 comments

Comments are closed.