It’s time to improve the Green Party’s gender balancing rules
This summer I was one of the candidates for deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. I came fourth out of five. If a single person had been elected to leader instead of the incumbent co-leaders, I would have been elected as deputy leader alongside Amelia Womack. Given that the two candidates between Amelia and I were women, I don’t think that I should have been elected, so I have proposed an amendment to update our constitution.
The current constitution of the Green Party limits the number of women and other people of marginalised genders in leadership and deputy leadership positions. This probably surprises a lot of people who assume the party to be feminist, seeing as so many of our great spokespeople are women and we have such solid, democratically decided policies on intersectional feminism.
Just because we don’t currently have men over-represented in our leadership, deputy leadership and parliamentary party, doesn’t mean we have solved the question of representation. It’s great that we have skilled spokeswomen representing us in the corridors of power and in the media, but complacency would be a disservice to our party’s political ambitions. We won’t be able to build a sustainable society which embodies values of intersectionality if we decide we’re satisfied with three women in parliament and two in our leadership team. We don’t even have any prominent trans or non-binary people in leadership positions, despite a number of valiant attempts by members to change that.
We should be using ourselves as a party to set an example for the rest of society. If we can continue to elevate marginalised voices (and yes, that still includes women) into public life in England and Wales, we will be playing an important role in providing role models and essential alternative perspectives.
Millions watched two old white men shout at each other during the first televised US presidential debate last week, which was enough to put many off of either candidate. In the UK – of the 55 Prime Ministers we’ve had, still only two have been women, and both of them Conservative. It doesn’t have to be like this, but without structural changes and affirmative action, it will take too long to achieve the change we as Greens would like to see.
There are three options being presented to the party at conference over the next few days. One would be to vote down all the proposals and keep things as they are – limiting the number of women in leadership positions. Another would be to completely eliminate gender balancing, which would mean we would be the same as the other parties – assuming a non-existent meritocratic society would do its job. Or we can lead the way and empower more women and people of marginalised genders to change the shape of public life, for the common good.
Green Party conference is currently running its conference online. The proposals discussed here will be debated as an amendment to a motion that is being composited. The workshop on the motion is taking place at the conference on Tuesday 6 October, at 18.30-18.55.
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