Skip to content

Inspiring women to stand for the States

 

On Thursday 1 April, members of Women in Public Life and Guernsey’s two Commonwealth Women Parliamentarian representatives met with the States Assembly and Constitution Committee to discuss ways to inspire more women to stand for the States.

SACC meetings are the only States committee meetings that are open to the media and the discussion made front page news and the Editor’s Comment column.

The meeting was prompted by recommendations of the team of independent election observers commissioned by the States to analyse Guernsey’s first island-wide election.

In their report, the election observers expressed disappointment at the reduction in the number of female deputies in the Assembly from 12 in 2016 to 8 in 2020. They highlighted the “absence of any special measures to increase the participation of women in political life.”

 

Cover page of election observers report - St Andrew's polling station

 

In our presentation we made the following points:

 

1. Deputy is just one of the roles in public office that Women in Public Life inspires and supports women to consider. Seeing more women stand for Jurat, the Douzaine and Guernsey’s many tribunals and commissions is just as important.

 

2. Although women are the most-under-represented group in Island politics, we are acutely conscious that we aren’t the only under-represented group, as evidenced by our International Women’s Day campaign to build links with women from the 70+ different nationalities living in Guernsey.

 

3. Since launching in January 2020, what’s been working for us is: telling women they are wanted; giving them accessible, timely and detailed information; and introducing them to people already doing the role.

 

4. The information we provide is of considerable interest to the public in general, not just women considering public office, as evidenced by the peak of 400 people a day using our Jurat Election Information Hub.

 

5. The key message from the election observers was that representation matters and it is a government responsibility. As Deputy Meerveld told BBC Radio Guernsey “You need that balance of skills, you need that balance of perspectives. Because any government needs to be representative of the community”.

 

 

6. Guernsey is supportive of women in leadership. Women have an equal chance of being elected and of leading States committees. But not enough women stand. In 2020, only 24% of the candidates who stood in the general election were women and 21% of the people who were elected were women. If more women had stood, more would likely have been elected.

 

7. Most people – men and women – don’t want to stand for the States. There are a myriad of reasons: “I’m too busy”; “I don’t have the patience”; “I’ll be criticised”; “The States doesn’t achieve anything” etc. But something stops women more.

 

Why women don't run for office - traditional family roles, not asked to run, under-estimate their skills
Source: “It Still Takes A Candidate – why women don’t run for office” by Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox 2010.

 

8. The best “like for like” study of men and women’s attitudes towards political office that we have found is a US study of over 2000 lawyers, business leaders, educationalists and political activists. The research concluded that women with equal credentials to men were less likely to stand because of (a) traditional family roles (b) not be asked to run (c) underestimating their skills and overestimating the requirements of the role.

 

9. SACC is not in a position to influence traditional family roles, but it could help overcome (b) and (c) by telling women they are wanted, explaining the role of a States member and offering training to all.

 

10. In terms of telling women they are wanted, the States clearly has an excellent Comms Team who could devise and run a compelling campaign to encourage more women – and other under-represented groups – to stand.

 

11. In terms of training, we recommended that an information and training programme, available to everyone, begin as soon as possible rather than waiting until just before the election. It should make use of online modules to capitalise on the general public interest in public office (see point 4). It should be specific about the requirements of the role.

 

12. SACC has limited resources but could call on the IoD and Chamber of Commerce for support as businesses are well-versed in tackling boardroom diversity. The election observers also recommended that Guernsey create a permanent election resource, rather than starting from scratch with a completely new team at each election. This permanent election resource could assist with project managing communications and training.

 

13. SACC can also learn from Jersey. Their election is in mid-2022 and the States of Jersey Diversity Forum has just started running a marketing campaign to encourage candidates from diverse backgrounds to stand.

 

Members of SACC - Meerveld, Queripel, Gollop, Fairclough, McKenna

 

After general discussion, the President of SACC, Deputy Carl Meerveld, was pleased with the degree of alignment between Women in Public Life’s recommendations and SACC’s current thinking and said that SACC would engage again when the committee’s response to the election observers report and recommendations for the next election had been drafted.

As the Press said in a further article in Saturday’s paper “it looked and sounded like they [Women in Public Life] were pushing at an open door”.

miriam-makeba-SA

Miriam Makeba - South Africa

Nominated by: Christine James

Zenzile Miriam Makeba (1932 to 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa. In 2020 she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 women of the century. 

South Africa is ranked 12th in the world for percentage of women in national parliament: 45.8% (source: data.ipu.org) 

Are you from South Africa? Please email hello@womeninpubliclife.gg if there is a social or cultural group for people from South Africa in Guernsey.

Want to learn more about public office vacancies in Guernsey? 

Sign up to our newsletter 

The original image “The Hague Jazz 2008 – Miriam Makeba” by Haags Uitburo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. 

jacinda-adern-2

Jacinda Ardern - New Zealand

Nominated by: Martin Lock

Jacinda Ardern (born 1980) has served as prime minister of New Zealand and leader of the Labour Party since 2017. In 2019, she led the country through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings, rapidly introducing strict gun laws in response, and throughout 2020 she directed the country’s widely praised response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ardern was the world’s second elected head of government to give birth in office when her daughter was born in 2018. ‘An inspiring Prime Minister who brought a nation together with true leadership, empathy and compassion.’

New Zealand is ranked 4th in the world for percentage of women in national parliament: 48.3% (source: data.ipu.org) 

Other iconic women: Dame Whina Cooper, nominated by Claire Fisher, and Kate Sheppard, nominated by Anna Cooper.

Are you from New Zealand? You may be interested in joining the ANZACs in Guernsey Facebook group

Want to learn more about public office vacancies in Guernsey? 

Sign up to our newsletter