This week’s French election results showed an unprecedented number of women candidates elected. Women deputies now hold 155 out of 507 seats (26.9%) This is a noticeable jump from 107 seats (18.5%) in 2007. France now moves from 84th to 37th in international league tables for female representation in parliament.
Ireland currently stands at 76th in world rankings with 15% of Dáil Deputies women.
While 26.9% is a great step forward for France, it still lags behind what many would deem acceptable representation. The French track record for electing women is very poor with parity laws virtually ignored by parties due to poor implementation of sanctions. It is perhaps the rise of the Left rather than adherence to the 2000 parity law that has lead to the increase in representation this time round.
As Professor Rainbow Murray outines on her blog (http://tinyurl.com/d2jkrtw), there was a clear partisan correlation with numbers of females elected. On the Left, The Socialists (PS) returned 36.8% women while Front de Gauche only managed to elect 20%.
Right wing party The UMP elected a mere 13.6% women, losing many female MPs in constituencies taken by the Left while the New Centre party failed to return a single female candidate. Overall, 12.5% women were elected on the right.
The poor performance on the right pulled down overall representation with the Greens being the only party to achieve 50% representation.
This week’s result in France is a great victory for gender equality but also a reminder that quotas can fail. We may have to wait until 2016 to see how closely our new 30% requirements are met but it is clear that a focus on the importance of gender parity for more than financial reasons will be necessary if we are to succeed.