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Women Making a Stand for Equal Political Power

29/04/2015 15:43 BST | Updated 29/06/2015 10:59 BST

I would pitch the wit and chutzpah of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon against any of her opposition, male or female, having seen her performance in the leadership debates running up to next week's General Election.

Hers is the most memorable stand of all - honest, no frills and humorous when appropriate. Many of my female friends agree with me and eschew gimmicks such as the Labour Party's deputy leader, Harriet Harman MP's ill-fated pink bus and her glossy 'Woman to Woman' campaign. Nothing communicates better than a bit of straight talking.

Women represent 51% of the voting population yet only one in four candidates running for the next parliament are women. So I am still hard pressed to know how you can get more women out to vote while there are still so few women to vote for. For those standing, every word counts and let us not forget that the media are apt to judge women on their wardrobe and hairstyles as much as their policies.

There has to be change in government and not just in terms of political parties. The biggest change must be a broader representation of women at all levels. This is why I particularly applaud and admire the efforts of modern day suffragette, Frances Scott, founder and leader of the 50:50 Parliament campaign and petition.

Unlike the young media savvy protagonists of modern feminism so favoured by the media, Scott is a down-to-earth, middle aged mother who has found her cause and wrapped her voice around it. She has set forth with no party political agenda other than to get an equal balance of male and female MPs into the house to match the country's demographic profile.

Scott has protested, chained herself to the railings outside the Houses of Parliament and tirelessly turned up to the opening of an envelope to ensure that we are all aware of the changes she wants to effect. Hers is an important message and proves the point that we have to look beyond and past a raft of world-weary mainly male politicians to ensure that we all have a say in how women can frame the future.

It is not that we need to make it 'easier' for women to enter politics, it is about giving us the tools to enable it to happen: better childcare, flexibility of hours and work experience for younger women to learn alongside some of our most inspiring female leaders.

Last week I was privileged to be amongst the great and good of the female arts world at an event for Inspiring Women in the Arts in partnership with BAFTA. The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern buzzed with the sound of several hundred female voices as women leaders ran speed mentoring sessions for school girls from across London. This level of accessibility is essential if we are ever going to inspire the next generation of young women.

In terms of visibility I look to my own female comedy community and a tangible outcome of my 13 years at the coalface is that we are changing the portrayal of women in the media and beyond. We have increasing numbers of women taking to the stage through our Awards and workshops in the quest to build their confidence and find a voice that is buried in the minutiae of everyday life juggling work, families and relationships. Female material is evolving too with less emphasis on the kitchen sink and relationships and more about politics and world events. Conversely male comics are finding their feminine side too.

As with comedy and politics, there is a sacrifice if you go into any kind of high octane career, and some of the most high profile women choose not have families or keep their partnerships private and separate. Women are also judged more harshly on such matters than men. So why is it is a prerequisite of our male political party leaders to trot out their wives in the quest for more votes and good photo opportunities? Surely we are beyond the 'first wives' club now in British politics?

Just to prove the point, there was even a programme on BBC Radio 4 last week reliving the moment that Cherie Blair put the milk bottles out on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street the morning after her husband Tony Blair was elected as Prime Minister. It saddens me that this event is still being replayed when we should be focusing on the achievements of a new generation of actual female MPs, rather than wives of male MPs.

The next election is a decider and one that might actually change the landscape by default. Without a political hook to hang your vote on, maybe choose the female candidate instead. If we cannot change the world with policy, then let a few more women in to broaden the thinking.

If you want to find your voice, political, comic or otherwise, please join us over the May Bank Holiday this weekend for the our Funny Women Weekend Comedy Academy at the Brighton Fringe

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd May, 9.30am to 6.00pm

£99 (concs £79) for the whole weekend, two days.

Day passes £60. Individual workshops £20.

Brighton Fringe, One Church Brighton, Gloucester Place, Brighton, BN1 4AA

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For more details email info@funnywomen.com