So much for gender parity…

In the OBA’s recent Throne Speech the OBA announced rather vague plans for a National Gender Policy.

Now, I’ve asked for clarification on what exactly this National Gender Policy is about, but so far I haven’t got any such clarification.  All I know is what the Throne Speech itself says, namely:

“The Government is committed to building a more inclusive Bermuda; removing impediments and barriers wherever they exist so that people have fair opportunity in all endeavours.”

“In keeping to this goal, the Ministry of Community, Culture and Sports, through the Department of Human Affairs, will develop a National Gender Policy.  The policy will establish a framework for including gender perspectives in all activities of Government and society, helping to bring equitable considerations to decision-making that involves the differing needs, constraints and priorities of men and women.  The Department will collaborate with similar jurisdictions in the region to produce a policy that confirms to world best practices.”

Sounds good, if not somewhat vague.

On the face of it, I’m quite supportive of it.

To be frank, I feel that this is perhaps something that the OBA have taken from my election platform, which had an explicit feminist agenda, including the policy of ‘Ensure equal gender representation for all Government boards and commissions.’

I think there’s definitely at least some similarity there…

And yet it seems that either the OBA and its ministries are not talking to each other, or they’ve failed at the first hurdle (though I’m hopeful they’ll still get their act together going forward…).

The Minister of Home Affairs, Minister Fahy, today announced a new labour laws committee.

Now, as one might imagine, this is something I’m particularly interested in – and I’m curious to know what they’re going to be focused on.

In my election platform I suggested some changes to the Employment Act to allow for greater gender equality, so I hope that’s at least one thing they’ll be looking at.

Having said that, Minister Fahy listed the members:

Alan Dunch (lawyer)

Wendell Hollis (lawyer)

Chris Furbert (BIU president)

Ed Ball (BPSU general secretary)

Carl Neblett (Bermuda Police Service)

John Harvey (Bermuda Hotel Association)

Keith Jensen (Bermuda Employers’ Council member)

Graham Redford (former president of the Bermuda Employers’ Council)

Now, apart from being too heavily weighted, in my opinion, towards managers/employers (or ‘professionals’), one odd thing that stands out is that all eight members (nine if you include the Minister) are male.

The entire committee.  Male.

Where’s the gender parity?

At the very least it should have a representative from the Woman’s Resource Center, and would it have been really all that hard to identify a female lawyer or two?

Women are labour too, but one wouldn’t know it from the committee selection…

And all too often women workers are the most at risk for exploitation, as well as there being a continued wage inequality between women and men.

Furthermore, as much as we profess to be ‘modern’, women still bear a disproportionately amount of domestic labour – ‘free’ labour that our capitalist system belittles, trivialises and exploits, with women generally pulling ‘double shifts’ of labour – at work and at home.

I trust that this is purely an oversight on the part of the Minister and his advisers (his Ministry afterall has an extremely competent female PS afterall).

Even such an oversight could be seen to reveal what one might call casual or unconscious sexism, in that it seems that no one even considered the gender issue and message that this sends on rendering gender invisible when it comes to considering labour issues.

It’s not too late to correct this – the Minister is fully within his power to appoint additional members to the committee to achieve gender equality on it, or to empower an additional committee to exclusively review legislation from an explicitly gendered perspective.

I, for one, hopes that the Ministry will recognise the error in their committee selection process here and act swiftly to rectify it.

Women's Solidarity

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One thought on “So much for gender parity…

  1. The more things change, the more things stay the same, perhaps?

    It’s not as if there aren’t any Bermudian women capable of having top roles within government boards or committees, but on the face of things it still seems like a men-dominated leadership everywhere you go.

    The easy example is by looking at the two political parties. All of the people usually front-and-centre for either side, are literally, men. Besides Venetta Symonds at BHB, I can’t think of a woman CEO of a major department or business house on-island.

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