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Is David Cameron really committed to promoting more women?

City University London's Professor Jo Silvester and Dr Carolina Matos comment ahead of anticipated Cabinet re-shuffle

Andre Spicer, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Cass Business School, part of City University London says:

"Today's cabinet reshuffle only goes part of the way to addressing the Tory's woman problem. It brings more women to the top table. But it masks a deeper problem - women only make up about 20% of selection for Parliamentary seats. This means there is a shallow stream of new female talent coming into the party. This could be addressed through greater transparency about the number if women elected, quotas, stamping out direct and indirect discrimination in selection and introducing more flexible working practices in politics. These are all things the corporate sector has made great strides in addressing. Maybe it is time politicians do as well.

"The big question now is how will this create a more diverse cabinet perform. Evidence from studies of diverse groups suggest it is likely to have more conflict, take longer to come to a decision, but come up with better solutions. Also we should expect members of the cabinet being less satisfied with the group process. Research in the corporate sector suggests that more diversity at the top will result in better performance on objective measures, but performance will be seen more negatively on subjective criteria. So with more women in cabinet the quality of policy is likely to be better, but the quality of media coverage is likely to be worse.

"Life is likely to be tough for the women in cabinet. Evidence from the US Senate suggests powerful men tend to speak more, while powerful women speak less. When powerful women do speak out, they are often punished with negative audience ratings. Life is going to get tough if any new women cabinet members get angry. Angry men tend to be seen in a positive light, and their anger is blamed on the situation. In contrast, angry women are seen negative, and their anger is blamed on them."

Jo Silvester, Professor of Organisational Psychology at Cass Business School, part of City University London, says:

"My feeling is that his (Cameron's) primary rationale is to appeal to voters ahead of the 2015 election, both because the party has been very poor at promoting women internally (although they would argue that given the numbers they've done their best), but more importantly because there's so few new PCs who are women.

"Mathew Parris' opinion article in the Times (5th July) is spot on. Although he appears to be saying that women don't act in the same way as men, the more important point he makes is that stereotypes about what constitutes a good political leader both within the party and amongst the public are handicapping women. Political parties therefore need to do much more to challenge stereotypes internally among members and by telling the public what really constitutes good political leadership - something they've been very reluctant to do."

Dr Carolina Matos, Lecturer in Sociology at City University London, says:

"It is an attempt to further "modernise" the Tory party ahead of the elections next year. Whilst I would not go so far as call it tokenism, the measures should be seen within a wider framework of various pressures being placed on Westminster to become more democratic and representative of UK society.

"Cameron has previously mentioned that a third of his cabinet would be female before the end of this parliament. However, reform attempts by the Tory Party have not always been welcomed by more hard core supporters, such as the case with the approval of same sex marriage. It is likely that this will not go down well with some in the party and it remains yet to be seen how far he can actually push for wider reform, and if indeed there is more genuine interest here beyond "packaging the party better" for the 2015 elections."

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