The first presentation, by Evelyn Collins from the Equality Commission, explored what kinds of ‘positive actions’ and initiatives the NI Assembly could consider. Next, Fidelma Ashe, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Ulster, posed questions in her presentation about how to strengthen policies related to women within our Political Parties. The last presentation, introduced by Margaret Rose McNaughton of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, questioned how the government can encourage more women to pursue politics.
Judith Cochrane MLA said: “Though we are seeing more woman than before elected into office, there is still a long way to go. This event gave us the opportunity to identify workable, practical models of best practice for the Assembly and political parties to deliver a more diverse, representative and balanced government.”
“Too many women are being put off entering politics due to the dominated environment, unsociable hours and also, perhaps, a fear of how they will be portrayed by the media. I am glad that the Assembly and Executive Review Committee has begun an inquiry into this issue, which my colleague Trevor Lunn MLA helped to initiate, and I hope that it will produce some useful recommendations.
“There is no question that we need more female public representatives, but actually I believe the bigger challenge is getting the right people into politics. We need to move away from career politicians and elect those who bring other skills, experience and fresh ideas to the table, people who will focus on the next generation rather than the next election. Once we do that I think the overall atmosphere will change, Stormont will become more welcoming for women and ultimately more effective.”