I've been thinking for a while about this idea of 'having a woman on the committee so that we get the women's point of view' - this is from the church context (I'm not sure if my thoughts would apply to government). The thing is that if there is a committee with five men and one woman, operating in a democratic climate, is that woman really a voice? Because she is in a minority on the committee, and because she is likely to be less forceful than the men, it is really unlikely that her voice is going to be heard. So I have been thinking that if you are serious about the women's voice, you need to have the committee 50/50.
But now there are other voices that need to be heard. The major voices are those that are racially described. Because gender is a 50/50 thing, we can put 50/50 on a committee without too much trauma. But race is not a 50/50 thing. Even just simplifying the issue to black and white - white people, at least in the leadership structures of the Methodist Church, are way in the minority. And the question needs to be asked - what should be done to keep hearing the white voice? (Assuming of course that one wants to do that!) At the moment, many white people still have the advantage of a superior education and they make their voice heard, but that advantage will hopefully fade away as all people are better educated (again hopefully!)
In a local church society that is predominantly white, but wants to hear the black voice, how is this done? I really don't think that having a black person on the committee is going to do the trick.
I believe that we need to come to understand that a voice will be only heard when it has equal representation to the other voices - otherwise the majority will tend to rule.
So we need to determine the voices that we want to hear. Gender, yes. Race, yes. Age (both young and old -say 50/50 under and over 40 years). But which races? And do we include ethnicity? What about liturgical preference?
This is a challenge, but I believe that we would do best to have all committees 50/50 on gender. Equal split between black/white/coloured depending on the area and equal split between over and under 40 years. I think that would be a very interesting thing to do!