8 March 2018Time: 6:30 - 7:30pm
Venue: The People's Palace, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End
"Men for the Job? What it really takes to be a representative"
Why do certain men dominate politics? Is it really because they are the most talented and qualified to do the job? To answer this question we need to consider how we define and recognise merit and qualification. Part of the problem is that the definition of the job is shaped by those who do it. This reinforces and validates the status quo of privileged men from narrow, elite backgrounds. Restricting the talent pool to these men has repercussions for the overall quality of representation, and the quasi-exclusion of many social groups from the representative process has real consequences for policy outcomes and citizen satisfaction with democracy. So we need to rethink what it means to be a good representative, and recognise the need for and benefits of diversity. We also need to consider the demands made on politicians â€“ the financial costs of running for office, the negative impacts on family life, the constant scrutiny from (social) media â€“ and consider how these present particular barriers to members of certain social groups. Unless we can level the playing field by making candidate selection criteria and working conditions more inclusive, we will all continue to suffer from sub-optimal representation.
Rainbow spent a year in France before reading European Studies & French at Manchester University, where her love of French was overtaken by a passion for politics. Three years of student politics, including one as womenâ€™s officer, taught her two important lessons. First, her vocation lay in studying rather than practising politics; and second, she was fascinated by gender. Following another year in France observing the nascent parity law, she did an MRes and PhD at Birkbeck under the supervision of Joni Lovenduski, and was lucky enough to be offered a lectureship at QMUL while still writing up her thesis. Eleven years and many publications later, she is now a recognised expert on French politics, gender quotas, and representation. She has published in some of the top journals in her field and served leading roles in national and international scholarly associations. Rainbow was also the inaugural Senior Diversity Lead at Queen Mary. Her current research includes a gendered study of the French parliament; deconstruction of meritocracy and the real qualities required to represent others; studies of male overrepresentation and the representation of minority men; and the (prohibitive) costs of running for office in the UK. She also loves baking vegan cakes!