THE dust has barely settled after a long Labour leadership contest, but Jeremy Corbyn is already being criticised for having a ‘woman problem’. Though Labour leads on women’s representation at Westminster – with a parliamentary party that is more than 40 per cent female – no women spoke at Saturday’s special conference announcing the winners (themselves both men).

Meanwhile, the subsequent shadow cabinet reshuffle has attracted accusations of ‘jobs for the boys’, with most of the top positions going to men.

Accusations of a ‘bro-socialist whitewash’ within the party are a bit premature, particularly given that Corbyn has delivered on his promise of a gender-balanced shadow cabinet. Indeed, he has gone one better – appointing a majority female shadow cabinet for the first time in history (consisting of 16 women and 15 men).

This far outpaces the Conservatives, where only seven of David Cameron’s 22-member cabinet are women (32 per cent). Numbers, though, are only part of the story – what also matters is which women are appointed (with what ideas), and where these women end up.

We can see these wider trends reflected in the shadow cabinet reshuffle, where women (for the most part) continue to hold less prestigious positions. In response, Corbyn has argued that assumptions about which posts are the ‘top jobs’ are out-dated, pointing to women occupying important roles at health and education, for example.

Yet, the fact remains that he has not appointed any women to the ‘big three’ positions that shadow the Great Offices of State – shadow chancellor, foreign secretary and home secretary.

The exclusion of women from traditionally senior posts has been compounded by the chaotic way in which the reshuffle has been handled – with the male top team announced first and many of the women left to fill out the numbers at the end.

Angela Eagle, for example, had been tipped as a potential shadow chancellor, but was instead given the business, innovation and skills brief – it was later hurriedly announced that she would also be shadow first secretary of state, effectively making her Corbyn’s parliamentary deputy.

If anything, the backlash against Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet reshuffle shows how far the bar has risen in terms of our expectations of women’s representation – particularly in Scotland, where all three of the largest parties in the Scottish Parliament are led by women.

But it also shows that women’s representation cannot rest solely on political will, and that stronger measures may be needed to achieve lasting change – including the possibility of sex-balanced leadership rules, or even quotas for executive office.

For Corbyn, now, the proof will be in the pudding. He has put forward a far-reaching and comprehensive set of proposals aimed at increasing gender equality, including a commitment to work towards a 50/50 parliamentary party – now he must deliver.

Dr Meryl Kenny is Lecturer in Politics and Gender at the University of Edinburgh