Friday, 22 March 2013

Be counted?

Democracy is a wonderful thing, we (women) can cast our vote pretty much anywhere today. Be it electing a new MEP to send to Brussels, voting for the party to run our national affairs, choosing representatives for local government, or even picking directors for our building societies.

My building society, YBS, has just sent me an invitation to use my vote at its next annual general meeting, and as I am a keen voter, I am excited to make my choices to say the least. Only, there doesn’t actually seem that much of a choice to begin with – in fact, looking at their letter in more detail, I am not quite sure there is any.

Firstly, I am told, the vote is not to elect but re-elect directors. And secondly, the four choices given do not compete for one post but to remain in the post they hold already. However, if they are not competing with anyone else, what exactly makes this an election? In short, if there is no choice but to vote for the status quo is this still democracy?

The exclaimer underneath the directorial ‘options’ does not fill me with much confidence: “Your board recommends that you vote in favour of all the resolutions” (YBS 2013). In fact, it rather reminds me of ‘democratic’ practices supposedly foreign to our society – and my building society I assume also, which seems so keen for me to “Be part of [it] by voting”.

But far from YBS’ catchy slogan “For you. Owned by you”, its voting practices reveal that when it comes to the board, little if anything is actually owned by me – which is even truer for me as a woman in particular. In case you haven’t guessed already, the four directors to be re-elected are certainly not women...

However, I might of course have gotten it all wrong and YBS might not actually intend to be ‘for me’, but ‘For men. Owned by men’ only – and further, owned by men in a state of autocracy. In that case I’ll better look for another building society. It’s a free country after all.

Or is it?

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Yorkshire Building Society. “Our Annual General Meeting” letter. March 2013

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