Warwick researchers studying the role of women in the Welsh National Assembly have found that the increased gender parity of the institution makes for a new way of doing politics.
The Welsh National Assembly is one of very few political bodies within the UK which enjoys a relatively even split between male and female members. The Welsh Assembly is composed of 60 members 28 (47 per cent) of whom are women.
Women have been well represented in the Welsh Assembly since its inception and this, the new research argues, has contributed to a different style of debate than that found at Westminster, where only 19.5 per cent of members are female.
Assembly Members interviewed were of the impression that the presence of women lead to a more consensual style of policy making.
One Assembly Member intimated that meetings had a complete “absence of chest thumping and table thumping”.
Further Assembly Members have suggested that the presence of women has meant that issues which before would have been poorly covered by men, such as domestic violence, are very much on the table.
As mentioned above the Welsh Assembly’s gender balance is far from the norm in most political institutions in the UK.
On Welsh councils, on average only 25 per cent of councillors are women with huge regional variation from 37 per cent (Cardiff) to 3 per cent (Merthyr Tydfil).
One former councillor who has now become an Assembly Member said that, her local council was, “largely made up of older men who felt that the place for a woman was in the home”. She further stated that, “in order to fit into it women had to behave like men.”
The research suggests that the Welsh Assembly has arrived at a better style of politics than that of many other institutions in the UK, specifically Westminster.