Speaking about challenges women in politics face, Nessa Childers MEP warned today: ‘In almost all aspects of public life, an intoxicating macho culture exists which means only the loudest, most brash voices are heard.
‘I have personal experience of this type of bullying, which is used to keep people in line.
‘Sadly, it is a culture that stops talented, bright and able women from immersing themselves fully in political life.
‘And as women will often refuse to tolerate these practises – they walk away instead.’
Her comments are in response to the release of the National Women’s Council Of Ireland report on Women In Politics And Decision-Making.
Ms Childers continued: ‘Overall, girls and women in this country do better in school and in university, so it’s not a question of talent.
‘The very first thing that the establishment parties need to seriously examine is the existence of this macho mentality amid their ranks.
‘If they can address that, then more female candidates will appear on polling cards.’
The website womenforelection.ie highlights that 86 of the 566 candidates in the General Election 2011 were women – and just 25, which amounts to 15 per cent, of those were eventually voted into Leinster House.
‘Having an established, thriving democracy also means having a parliament which represents accurately the people,’ the independent politician added.
‘Amazingly, we currently have the highest ever female representation in our chamber – but I imagine most will agree that a paltry 15 per cent is simply not acceptable.’
In Brussels, the figures are slightly more encouraging: a five of Ireland’s 12 MEPs are female, and this year, more women than men are running for election in Ireland’s three European constituencies.
‘There is no doubt,’ Ms Childers said, ‘that the European Parliament set-up is far more conducive to family and personal commitments outside of the office. It shows that political and private lives are compatible.’
Today’s NWCI report recommends six ways in which the Oireachtas can be more female-friendly.
International Women’s Day takes place on Friday.