This week we had International Women’s Day. It was therefore very saddening to see not one, but two articles in the National about how increasingly difficult it is to encourage women to put themselves forward for election to public life.
We have so many minorities lobbying for equal rights, yet women still have boundaries they can’t get past. It must be, that in a family unit, someone takes the responsibility for the home and the children. It is after all, a job in its own right. Many men do take on much (or all) of this role but in the majority, it falls to the mum. If both parents are in paid employment the home roles are shared. If a single parent family, it is very much more difficult.
Another reason could be the unsocial side of the job. Many friends have been councillors. In the days when we still socialised at each other’s houses, it was not uncommon for the phone to go in the evening and friend must withdraw for privacy to deal with constituent. Some Councillors do not answer their phone outside office hours, but some do let the job eat into their family time. It’s difficult to maintain an office environment when you have no ward office and no staff like MSPs and MPs.
In the olden days, before digital everything, Council candidates communicated with the voters on the street and in public meetings. They were often verbally attacked by a member of the audience but had the right of reply for the rest of the audience to hear. If you wanted to take over a meeting with untruths, you had to arrange that a sizeable amount of the audience was able to back up your stories and hassle the panel.
Nowadays we have keyboard warriors, some of which is organised, spreading nastiness. I don’t often check out the comments when targeted elected members put posts on social media. From time to time, I do. Those disagreeing with the post are bad enough. Inevitably we then get the vile personal comments that have nothing to do with the post. It is high time that this behaviour was addressed. Yes, we treasure freedom of speech, but that freedom should be curtailed when used as a weapon to attack others and eventually destroy their life.
If we want fair and equal representation in politics, we must address the hate speakers. I am aware they are among our elected members, in probably the same percentage as the rest of the population. No matter where these people are they need called out and dealt with. We also must look at how the Councils and Parliaments operate and how they can be made more gender friendly. It has been an eye opener this past week or so. Just when I thought people were more equal, I find there are still huge gaps in how equal we are.