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As Parliament's Newest Female MP, I Know How Far We Have Yet To Go On Equal Representation

13/03/2017 17:29 GMT | Updated 31/03/2017 16:47 BST
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all women everywhere

I am delighted to have been elected to represent the people of Copeland in last month's by-election, and I'd like to thank everyone who supported me in achieving this.

 

Many people voted who for me have never voted for the Conservative party before and I am looking forward to being a strong voice for all the people of Copeland in Westminster.

 

This was a historic victory for the Conservative Party.

 

Copeland has been a Labour seat almost continually since 1910 and the last Conservative MP was born in 1879, but it's clear that people in Copeland don't feel Jeremy Corbyn represents them. They voted for change and chose a Party that is on the side of ordinary working people.

 

This was a historic victory for the Conservative Party and an interesting moment for women's representation in Parliament.  

 

In 2005 there were just 17 Conservative women MPs, representing only 9% of the parliamentary party. Now, after twelve years there are 70 Conservative women MPs, which is over 20%.

 

My election as Member of Parliament for Copeland also represents the first time the number of women who have ever been elected as MPs, exceeds the number of male MPs currently sitting in Parliament today.

Following International Women's Day it is important we take pride in how far we have come but also to recognise that more needs to be done.

 

Women's life experiences are not better or worse than men's, but they are different, and that needs to be represented in Parliament and across industry.

 

The Conservative Party is leading the way in this - the UK now has the lowest gender pay gap on record as a result of our changes to flexible working, shared parental leave and improving childcare.  Starting a family shouldn't be a bar from the workplace and we will continue to encourage women to rise to the top of whichever profession they choose.

 

It's been over 40 years since the first woman became leader of the Conservative Party and went on to run the country, and, we are currently represented by our second Conservative Prime Minister in Theresa May who has tirelessly supported women in Parliament.

 

Organisations such as Conservative Women's Organisation and Women2Win - which Theresa May co-founded with Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, are working hard to ensure the Conservative Party fairly represents women at all levels of politics.

 

To keep this positive trend going, we need to engage young women in the political process early, raise their aspirations and offer support to provide them with the confidence to pursue these ambitions. As a local school governor, and a parent having raised four girls of my own, I know how important inspirational teachers, community leaders and mentors are to achieve this.

 

For this reason, before I stood as a candidate in Copeland I was part of the team that saved my local school from closure, and I continue to support community organisations such as a Millom-based charity, "Unit 3" which offers training opportunities and apprenticeships.

 

Following my election, I will continue to support my local schools, champion community projects and help build young people's understanding of parliament by inviting local schools to visit Westminster to see democracy in action.

 

The theme for International Women's Day 2017 was "Be Bold For Change" which encourages each one of us to be a leader by taking bold action to accelerate gender parity.

 

With this in mind I encourage companies and organisations to join me in reaching out to schools to teach the next generation about their work.  Maybe they could even visit their offices.

 

I hope that through events such as these we will empower our young women to make their choice for their career based on what they are passionate about rather than what they feel is realistic. That's what being a Conservative means to me, a chance to aim high, and build a society in which where you end up in life doesn't depend on your gender or who your parents are, but on the talent you have and how hard you work.

 

Trudy Harrison is the Conservative MP for Copeland, elected in the recent by-election triggered by the resignation of Labour's Jamie Reed

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com