Why Gender Matters in governance, even in times of chaos.

Following David Davis’ resignation as Brexit Secretary, the Cabinet has under gone a significantly testosterone filled makeover. With all new positions being filled by men. Men dominate British politics. They occupy 68% of seats in the House of Commons and out of the 23 most senior ministers 18 are men.

Many would argue that they were simple appointed on their merit. This is a very naïve way of looking at it. The government no matter what party they are, show great nepotism to certain people within their party. If Theresa May really was concerned with who would be the best for the job she would not have appointed one of the most hated men in England who almost single handily destroyed one of Britain’s most prized institutions to be her foreign secretary.

One of the main reasons that men dominate politics and why they are seen as more capable is that politics is androcentric. Andro-centrism is used to describe the use of male norms as a metric for desired behaviour. What is normal behaviour for males is thus set as the baseline for what is normal for anyone who is not male. This androcentric bias has been ingrained in society for as long as it has been a patriarchy and it has created barriers for entry for many women because their behaviour is not typical male behaviour and thus is seen as inferior. Many facets of femininity and feminine behaviour would provide an incredible beneficial change to the way government is run but as a result of the male centric gender bias these characteristics are seen as weak this is the case even for characteristics that are often the subject of stereotypes.

A caveat that must be stated before feminine traits are examined alongside masculine is that men and women are not simply defined by their sex or gender people are far more nuanced than that. However there are some traits that are found more commonly amongst one gender and it is those traits that will be examined.

One such characteristic that could prove to be invaluable in the governing process is the feminine trait of being apologetic. Whilst this trait can be seen as a weakness and a lack of confidence a study conducted by Shulman in 2011 concluded that many women are apologetic because they hold themselves to a higher standard. This could prove to be incredibly useful in a ministerial position as it would mean that policy would be furtherly scrutinise before it even reached cabinet or committee. The policy that survives and gets passed as party policy or legislation will be thoroughly vetted and thoroughly checked. Women are also more oriented toward people and the impact decisions have on people. This is essential to good governance because if a government is not doing what is best for its people then it is failing as a government.

The need to consider people is even more essential in time of political crisis such as that of Brexit. Economics and trade take centre stage in times of uncertainty as they are the easiest measure of a nation’s strength, however in all capitalist societies people are ignored in favour of economic success. Not only is ignoring the people dangerous because of fear of civil unrest but also because of the economic impact that happy people have. Happier people are more likely to enjoy working increasing national productivity and a happy nation means that the government can continue with the difficult task at hand without being concerned about the population’s wellbeing.

Along with specific characteristics that stray from the male norm being beneficial to the operations of government, a recent study by Forbes found that gender inclusive decision making teams make better business decisions 73% of the time. These decisions were also made twice as fast.

Whenever a government position is filled there is a lot of discussion about the newly appointed minister’s credentials. It is to write their gender off as irrelevant to how well equipped they are for the job, however gender difference have shown in numerous studies to be more relevant to the decision making process than expected. With that in mind one must think about the difference we’d see in British politics if Instead of continuingly appointed men, Theresa May sought to strike a gender balance within her cabinet.


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