Diversity is at the heart of Guernsey Chamber. It has been a major part of our engagement and reshaping during the past three years and, as many of our event attendees, Executive and members can attest, we are now truly representative. Shelaine Green, Chair of Women in Public Life, explains why diversity is so crucial to how we live and work.

Women over 30 in Guernsey were given the right to vote and to stand for election more than 100 years ago. The first female Deputy was Marie Randall and she remained in the States for over 30 years, from 1924 to 1955. 

But fast forward to today and women are only 20% of States members, 29% of Douzeniers and 31% of Jurats. Not because the island doesn’t value their skills and experience. If they stand, women are just as likely to be elected or appointed as men. It’s simply that women don’t put themselves forward in sufficient numbers. The bumper-sized candidate brochure for Guernsey first island-wide election last autumn listed three times as many men as women. 

Women in Public Life launched early last year with a mission to encourage more balanced representation in Guernsey’s because, just as in business, balanced teams make better decisions. The small but dynamic group of volunteers inspires and supports women to stand for all forms of public office: the high-profile elected roles and Guernsey’s many tribunals, commissions and panels. 

Women aren’t aware that many of the roles exist so our first job is to pick up on any vacancies and publicise them in our newsletter and on social media. Then talk to the recruiter and do our own research to provide as much detailed information as we can. 

Women have busy lives and won’t commit to something if it isn’t clear what they are being asked to do, what the time commitment is, what training is available and exactly what it will achieve for the community. The final ingredient is our support and encouragement to put their application forward. 

Those all sound like factors that would apply to men as well as women so why exactly is it that women are more reluctant? There are a myriad of reasons – greater caring responsibilities, less likely to be tapped on the shoulder – but the one that always rings true is the Hewlett Packard research finding that men apply for a job if they meet 60% of the criteria, whereas women won’t apply unless they meet 100%. That one always has women nodding in agreement. 

Women are not the only under-represented group in public office. We also need to consider age, ethnicity, disability, nationality and socio-economic background. By deliberately reaching out to a broad range of women, we can improve diversity overall. 

Our recent iconic women map for International Women’s Day celebrated the 70-plus nationalities that live in Guernsey. We ended up with 51 flags, each one highlighting an iconic woman from that country or island, nominated by a Guernsey resident who was born there. It’s helped us build connections with individual international women and local cultural and social groups like Simba Ngoma and Musabi. 

We’re particularly keen to encourage women from Latvia and Portugal to stand for public office. It can’t be acceptable that there are 2,300 Latvian and Portuguese people living in Guernsey with no direct representation in the States or in our Douzaines. But changing that is a long-term process. It starts with simply making clear to everyone who wasn’t born here that you are entitled to vote if you’ve been resident for the last two years. 

Women in Public Life’s biggest project to date was their parish election campaign in November 2020. Our Douzaines do brilliant work behind the scenes but the general public don’t really know how or why to get involved. We filmed female Douzeniers explaining what being a parish official means and what they are proud to have achieved for their community and then broadcast the videos on social media. A record number of women stood, and 12 new women were elected, shifting the proportion from 21% to 29% in one jump. 

Part way through the project we realised that, in contrast to the general election, there’s no big communication exercise to tell everyone that contested parish elections are happening and who is standing. So we asked all the candidates for their materials and put together a simple election “hub” on our website. We’ve created similar resources for the recent Jurat election and the Government Work Plan debate. We’re learning so much about how public office works in Guernsey and we’re excited to keep passing that on. 

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN A PARISH ROLE… Check that you are eligible 

To be a Douzenier or Constable you must: 

  • Live in the parish
  • Be on the electoral roll
  • Be 18 or over
  • Have lived in Guernsey for the previous two years or five years in total
  • Have not been sentenced to more than six months in prison
    Eligibility for Deputies and parish officials is the same, so for a more detailed version of these rules go to: https://election2020.gg/ standing/become-a-deputy/

Do Your Research 

  • Call or visit your Douzaine Room or Constables Office. Contact details and website addresses for all parishes are here: www.gov.gg/ parishes. 
  • Ask the parish clerk how many posts will be coming up for election and how many existing parish officials are re-standing for those posts. 
  • Ask for a nomination form. Some parishes have the forms on their website. 
  • Ask how your parish organises its elections. At the parish meeting will your name just be read out or do you need to make a short speech? Does your proposer need to say a few words about you? What happens if you are the only candidate for a position? (The details of the election process vary from parish to parish). 
  • Ask if you can have a chat with one of the existing Constables or Douzeniers about the role and the projects the Douzaine is currently engaged in. You could even ask if you could volunteer to help with a current project, just to get a feel for how things work. For a full list of all the parish officials across the Island, and the date that their terms expire, go to www.gov.gg/DouzaineLiaisonGroup. 

Find a Proposer and Seconder 

  • Find two people to propose and second you. They must live in the parish and be on the electoral roll. They don’t need to be VIPs – just ask two friends or neighbours who believe in you and will support you. 
  • The main responsibility of your proposer and seconder is to sign your nomination form. 

Check La Gazette Officielle 

  • By law, parishes must announce their elections in the Gazette Officielle and also announce the list of nominations so parishioners know who is standing. 
  • The Gazette Officielle is published in the back pages of the Guernsey Press. If you don’t take the Press you can view the Gazette online here: http://gazette.guernseypress.com 

There are two parish meetings each year, usually in April and November. These are different to the monthly meetings of the Douzaine itself because parishioners are invited. Elections take place at the November parish meeting which is held on the first Wednesday of the month. 

If you would like to know more, contact hello@womeninpubliclife.gg

If you’re considering putting yourself forward for public office at some point in the future, keep up to date with vacancies by signing up to the Women in Public Life newsletter at www.womeninpubliclife.gg 

If you would like to read the Spring/Summer edition of Contact magazine, find it here: http://ow.ly/mZ2b50FfPns