THE BLOG

Where are the Women?

07/04/2015 23:38 BST | Updated 07/06/2015 10:59 BST

You'd have to be living under a rock to not notice its election time. There are candidates knocking on doors, shaking hands in shopping centres and taking selfies with anyone who asks. The election campaigning is in full swing and you are being asked, usually politely, to sit up and pay attention. But here's what I am paying attention to; the number of women candidates fighting to be leaders.

Having defined myself as a feminist ever since I watched Cat in Ten Things I Hate About You, I tend to notice these things pretty quickly. I've been noticing it in every election that has taken place since I've been old enough to vote.

This time round there is a chance that we move a couple of percentage points up from the dismal 22.8% of women Members of Parliament we have today, but even if we do we are far away from having a political system which looks like the society it is meant to represent. When I sit back and consider the progress we have made in technology, in academia or in medicine, I'm left astonished that despite it being 2015, despite women making up almost 52% of the population, we still have so few in leadership positions. I come to a simple and evidenced conclusion; we have institutionalised inequality and nothing we have done yet is overcoming that injustice.

The story in Scotland is interesting, given how much Scotland is a focus in this general election, but let's focus not on the parties but the women for a moment (and by that I do not mean Theresa May's cleavage or shoes)- 28% of candidates in Scotland are women. That is the exact same number of women candidates in 2010; no progress, nada, zilch. Five years, no change. Given the political wave that has gone through Scotland, and crucially the number of women I saw on the stage throughout it, I was desperately hoping for this number to be higher.

But despite measure by parties such as all women shortlists and mentoring schemes, the number remains the same. In the Scottish Parliament, we have seen the dizzy heights of 40% representation of women, but we have also seen it decrease every year since. We're not going forward, we're not even staying at the same level, women's representation is going backwards. It's for this reason that the Women 50:50 campaign began, seeking legislated quotas for every party to put forward 50% women candidates in Scottish Parliament and local council elections.

The idea of putting into action a quota for women, seems to get many people's backs up. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told that our representatives must be there on merit only. What an insult to women, apparently in Scotland only 35% of the women's population is able. You see, putting structures in place that overcome inequality is a problem, having structures in place that perpetuate inequality is apparently, absolutely fine. Quotas do not open the doors to women without the ambition and ability, they simply break down the barriers to those with it.

Some parties have taken initiative and create systems to ensure they have more women running, but whilst we keep it entirely voluntary, we will still have a disparity within gender power; political will and sexist attitudes will always get in the way.

It's really not that radical to want a parliament with a fair share of women in it and the Women 5050 is fighting to make it happen - want to join me?