Councils need more women appointees

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 February, 2010, 12:00am

Not that long ago the Hong Kong Federation of Women called for a new functional constituency in the Legislative Council just to represent women - so under-represented overall are they in positions of influence and decision-making. This is, perhaps, not the time to create new functional constituencies, with universal suffrage on the horizon. But if there was to be just one - which represented half the population instead of small, privileged groups - women would have a case.

A study by the Legco secretariat of the representation of women in government-appointed and elected positions suggests we have not come far in the past 25 years. In 1985, women accounted for 21, or 16 per cent, of government-appointed seats on district councils; in 2007, the government appointed 17 women - 17 per cent of the current total. The practice of appointing district councillors should be scrapped as part of democratic reforms. But while we continue to have them, women should be better represented. It should not be hard to find women willing to serve. Over the same period, the number elected to councils rose from 17, or 7 per cent, to 79, or 20 per cent, reflecting women's growing interest in community affairs. There is a need for the government to make more of an effort to appoint women to councils or to posts on various boards. The figures raise the question of who recommends these appointments and on what criteria, since women are better represented at the top levels of government and the civil service. Our political parties hardly set a good example either, with only seven women among the 30 lawmakers elected to represent geographical constituencies.

That said, women also have a part to play in pushing harder for recognition. In America, for example, pressure has led to the US Navy agreeing to let them serve as officers in submarines - one of the last all-male bastions of the US military.

We do not need a functional constituency for women. But the government and political parties should show the way by scrapping the 'boys' club' of council appointments and putting women in more winnable positions on candidate lists.