Good evening – I want to talk about women in politics, and I thought it would be appropriate to do so in a parish where you have a talented and very effective female deputy. Of the 51 members in the States only 11 are women – about 22%. The European average is 24% although in the Nordic countries it reaches 42%. Everyone pays lip service to it, but is gender equality, or something approaching it, important? In principle the answer to that must be yes. Men and women are different; it is said that women are from Venus and men from Mars, although my wife sometimes tells me that I come from a much more distant planet.

Gender equality is important for 3 reasons. First, it leads to greater harmony, and a sense of inclusion. Some women feel uncomfortable being in a small minority in a male Assembly. Secondly, it leads to better decision-making. Because men and women sometimes look at things differently, a merging of approaches usually leads to a more balanced decision. Thirdly, gender equity in decision making is fair. There is no reason why one half of the human race should be excluded from playing its proper part in decision-making.

Of course we live in a changing world and there are now many more women in professions and occupations which were once the preserve of men. But that dynamic does not seem to apply to politics. The percentage of women in the States has remained stubbornly stuck at between 15% and 25% for 20 years or more. Why, and what can be done? I am not personally in favour of positive discrimination – like men, women should be elected on merit, and not just because they are women.

What we should do, however, is to try to ensure that the States provides an environment that encourages women to participate. The nastiness and personal attacks that were once a part of Jersey politics have largely, but not completely, gone. Politics should be robust, but polite. More broadly, I think that we all have a responsibility to ensure that old-fashioned stereotypical views of women’s role in society are challenged. What is really important is that young women are able to grow up confident in the knowledge that society will treat them as equal to young men in every way. Perhaps then we will get gender equality in the States.