The problem with gender quotas

Aoife McGoey thinks gender quotas should be banned from politics. Here’s why

Written by Aoife McGoey


To be perfectly honest, despite being a female, I am strongly against the use of gender quotas in politics. Whilst many argue that they end discrimination towards females entering the political world, these quotas are ironically the very thing that they claim not to be. Why should male candidates, who may have more experience and political knowledge, be pushed aside so a party can fulfil their quotas? Yes they may encourage more females to participate in government, but they are also denying the rights of the voters to decide. This can be seen to be anti-democratic.

Glorifying women’s political ideologies doesn’t serve the cause of equality – it just creates expectations that can’t be met. A person’s gender doesn’t have any influence on their opinions; it’s a matter of education and experience.

Quotas are also discriminatory to those who can benefit from them. Positive discrimination is still discrimination. British TV presenter Kat Akingbade spoke out about being selected upon such criteria. “Positive discrimination robs an individual of drive and self-motivation”, she said upon finding out that she had gotten her job due to her racial background. “It completely undermines the achievements and abilities of the hard-working and truly gifted. If employers are pressed to select candidates on the basis of race, sex or gender to diversify the workplace, they will care less about a candidate’s ability, and eventually one ‘protected characteristic’ will blur into another.”

Gender quotas treat women as if they don’t have the qualities to reach the top by themselves. They make it mandatory to select women on the basis of their gender – this does them a disservice. Women, just like men, should be chosen on the basis of their individual qualities and abilities. Gender shouldn’t play a role at all.

The women pulled into power from this quota system may be under the perception that they have been elected from the best of their gender, and not the best full stop. The system discounts the fact that these women may be successful for reasons other than being a women.

Having women in politics is a good thing, but is having more women better? For all we know the current quota of having 30% of TDs female may slowly rise over the years, as many strong feminist parties such as ‘Women for Election’ may demand even more ‘equality’. It is better to have both men and women in a situation where they may clash heads over different opinions in order to come to a compromised solution that will appease the majority.

What I'm trying to get across is that these quotas are discriminatory. They come in direct conflict with Article 16.1.3 of our constitution which states: “Every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of twenty-one years, and who is not placed under disability or incapacity by this Constitution or by law, shall be eligible for membership of Dáil Éireann.”

Women shouldn’t be forced into politics or wrongly promoted. Women have a chance to catch up on their own, as they make up the majority of university graduates today and have closed any imbalances between males and females. What we need is better support for women who wish to combine family and careers, such as better childcare services and more reliable and respectful part time jobs, not quotas that force us to feel as though we need government help to succeed in the political world.

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