It may well be that turn-out in today’s by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth will be the determining factor and respected leading pollster Peter Kellner has already made this point on LabourList. As they say, all we can do is wait, apart, that is, from encouraging people to vote Labour.
It may have escaped your notice that all the mainstream party candidates are men apart from Labour’s Debbie Abrahams. While entirely predictable, it’s a sure sign that party politics in the UK is still a very much a male preserve. Although I obviously want a Labour victory I would also hope to have seen more women on the ballot paper.
Yet there in one organisation in the news today which is determined to see women playing their full part. According to the Guardian the World Economic Forum has introduced a gender quota demanding that its strategic partners, including Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, must bring along at least one woman in every group of five senior executives sent to next week’s high profile meeting at Davos in Switzerland. Since these strategic partners make up about 500 of the 2500 participants at Davos, this is a significant move in getting more women involved.
About time too. The annual Davos gathering has always been far too male dominated as indeed is the whole financial sector. Less than three percent of chief executives of the top 500 companies world-wide are female and only 15 percent of government and parliamentary positions are held by women. As far as the Davos meeting is concerned, between 2001 to 2005 the percentage of female attendees ranged from 15 percent to as little as nine percent.
If the traditional and conservative world of finance is able to improve its gender balance, surely politics can do the same.