Gender balance: implications for the race

The Green Party is committed to gender balance and is happy to use quotas and rules to help enforce that where appropriate. Interestingly the one national body that doesn’t have any gender rules connected to it, the National Executive (or GPEx), has had more women than men in it for at least a few years and apart from a blip about six years ago has consistently had a swathe of women elected to it.

The rules say that the leader and deputy (or co-leaders) must be one man and one woman.

Sadly this leaves the Greens as the only party in the country that actually has a rule forbidding both leader and deputy being women and embeds a concrete, black and white view of gender into its constitution, but that aside it is of a piece with increasing the representation of women in the upper rungs of politics.

While this rule has little consequence for the position of leader it actually has fundamental implications for the deputy role who are very much victim to events in the more prestigious leadership election. Let’s give an example to make it clear;


Say we have a man and woman run for leader, man and woman run for deputy and a co-leader team (of a man and woman) in the mix.

The ballot paper would look like this.


Jane  [ ]

John [ ]

Jean and James [ ]


Deputy leader:

Adam [ ]

Agnes [ ]

Now it all looks pretty simple doesn’t it? You vote for your favourite leader 1, 2, 3 and then your favourite deputy 1, 2. May the best candidate win.

But hold your free range horses.

If you want Adam elected as deputy Jane *has* to win the leadership, no other result will get the beggar in. Likewise, if you want Agnes to win deputy John *must* win the top post or it can’t happen. In fact John getting elected as leader automatically means Agnes *is* elected as deputy unless Re-Open Nominations actually beats her – which won’t happen.

If the co-leader team of Jean and James wins neither deputy leader candidate gets the post no matter how popular.

Now if there are, say, two women candidates for deputy you do at least get to choose which woman you’d like to support John – but that’s the choice you’re making. In the race for deputy it’s not boys vs girls but a competition to be top boy and top girl hoping to be picked if the leadership vote goes the right way.

I have to say that makes life a) more complicated and b) less satisfactory. I’m not entirely sure the gender balance rules were thought through properly because you potentially have a deputy elected despite getting less votes than other candidate(s) for the job. However, I thought it was worth pointing out that, because of the way the rules work, the gender of the candidates for leader also ensures who ends up as deputy, even if they aren’t that popular.


Leave a comment


  1. weggis

     /  20/05/2012

    “must be one man and one woman.”

    Aren’t the GP objecting to this very same rule in Marriage?

    And given the nature of the GP membership how would we know who is male or female when presented with say:

    Dr Chris Smith
    Dr Pat Jones

    on the ballot paper?

  2. Well, I’m not a massive fan of the current gender balance rules, although as people know I’m very keen on ensuring strong female representation in the party. I’d be interested in us changing the rules so that we could have two women in the top posts for example, but that discussion is for another time I guess.

  3. Chris Jarvis

     /  21/05/2012

    I’m curious as to what would happen if, say, a woman were to win the leadership, and there were only female candidates for the deputy leadership. Would RON automatically win?

  4. Chris: yes. I guess they’d be a by-election but if a man won leader and there were only male candidates for deputy (or vice versa) then no one would be elected deputy.

  5. timturner59

     /  21/05/2012

    I don’t think gender balance is the ‘problem’ here…

    Firstly if you’re going to have gender balance anywhere in an organisation, then the obvious place to have it is ‘at the top’, in arguably the most visible position in the party?

    Secondly, I don’t think the election system is a mess because of gender balance or because of the coleader option, it’s because gender balance and the coleader option were combined with a traditional leader/deputy model in one election system, without thinking through the consequences. In the original party referendum we probably should have had the option of either a coleader model OR a leader/deputy model (either without gender balance OR gender-balanced leader/deputy being chosen from a single ordered list). You and Chris have spotted 2 or 3 major flaws in the election system (and explained them very well I should say). I think I spotted at least 5 flaws back in 2007, but no one was much interested on either side of the debate – there were more important issues at stake. People hate someone who says “I told you so” – but I couldn’t resist…

    To put most of it in a nutshell, when you have several candidates standing for the 3 different options, the whole thing could become very tactical – primarily for prospective candidates in trying to guess who else is likely to stand and how they will stand and how people will vote, but it could also become very tactical for voters, as you’ve neatly highlighted. Unfortunately tactical is anathema to democracy, ergo there could be a slight problem…

  1. A note on the Green Party Leadership Election « Liberal Sell Out

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: