The Campaign for MMP reckons Kate Sheppard would be backing MMP in November’s referendum.
They give several reasons for that including that MMP has brought more women into parliament.
There is no doubt there are more women in parliament now than there was prior to 1996 when we had a First Past the Post electoral system. But there are also more women in other positions more commonly held by men in the past so some of the change is due to changes in society rather than the electoral system.
Some of the increase is is due to parties deliberately putting women in winnable places on their lists which are a feature of MMP. Some, perhaps even most are their on merit. But there is also an element of tokenism and some are there not because of their skills and abilities but because of their gender.
However, a lack of skill hasn’t always stopped some men getting into parliament so maybe that’s another sign of closing the gender gap – that women no longer have to be better than men to get a job.
The question then is, how many of the women who are in parliament would be there under another system?
Other systems with smaller or no list would provide more opportunities for women to seek selection in electorates.
Anthony Hubbard looked at the number of women in parliament and concluded it has plateaued.
The reasons for that are no doubt complex. Kiwiblog says research into it should consider:
- How many men and women indicate their interest in being candidates to a party
- How many go on to contest a selection
- How many win a selection
- How many then get elected to Parliament
Another point to consider is women’s participation in other occupations, if there are barriers there and whether there are other barriers which are peculiar to politics.
Research would also have to look at not just how many men and women seeking to be MPs drop out at each stage but why.
Kate Sheppard was campaigning for women to get the vote not to be MPs, that hurdle came later and which electoral system she would support is a moot point.
However, one aspect of MMP which puts women off seeking selection which she might have considered if voting in the referendum is the larges size of electorates.
I know of only one man but several women who were seriously considering standing for National in large rural electorates. They decided servicing huge geographical areas would put too much strain on their families and pulled out.
One said to me, it was hard enough combining life as an MP with her role as a mother in a small electorate she wouldn’t even consider it in a bigger one.
If Kate was voting in the referendum she might be just as likely to opt for a system with smaller electorates which make it easier to combine work as an MP with family life.
At least some of the women who are in parliament on the list might also be there as electorate MPs under a system with more and smaller electorates.