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Yes, there are fewer cocks in Cameron's Cabinet, but it's not exactly a hen party

The comedian Andy Hamilton summed up how most of us feel about the injection of women into the new Cabinet when he said: "It's nice that Cameron has discovered women so near election time."

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The reshuffle, which means there are now five women in the Cabinet again (back to the level in 2011), seems to have struck much of the public as tokenism, with 56 per cent believing the Prime Minister brought in females for "mainly presentational reasons", according to a Sunday Mirror poll.

Does the proportion of women in the Cabinet matter? Why should anyone care as long as it’s the best people for the job? I believe in meritocracy. I also believe in diversity. It seems astonishing that, in a democracy where women have been MPs for nearly a century, such a small proportion of them have reached the Cabinet. I’m co-writing a book about women and work. One of our arguments is that the gender mix of senior management in businesses should match that of the UK population – ie. 50:50. We cannot be alone in believing this should also be true of government. Instead, we are in a position where we are remarking on and celebrating that there are five women in the Cabinet.

We are in a position where we are remarking on and celebrating that there are five women in the Cabinet

The tone of the news coverage has hardly been helped by the Daily Mail’s "Downing Street Catwalk", including the comment that Liz Truss looked "bright and sensible but a little bit too 80s air hostess". Well done to Nick Clegg for his Tweeted picture: "What I wore to the office today. Fingers crossed the Mail approves. Hope I don’t look too 80s cabin attendant."

Statistics show that while tokenism (ie. just employing one or two senior women) doesn’t work, companies’ overall performance improves when they have several women in senior management. For example, last year, the Financial Times reported Scandinavian research showing that having more female board members leads to sales growth (among other benefits), with a professor stating: "A board does itself a disservice by being too homogeneous."

Any board, and any government, will thrive on diversity. It is time that we take steps to ensure that the population’s gender balance is represented. Our book will explain these steps in detail; they include gaining an understanding of what is really going on (consciously and unconsciously) and putting strategies in place so business and government leaders can effect change.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom
@sueu

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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