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Many Women Simply Don't Believe Politics Is A Career Option For Them - We Need A Solution

13/09/2017 10:23 BST | Updated 13/09/2017 10:23 BST
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Politics is about people. Our Parliament should therefore reflect the people we serve. This is why encouraging women to enter the worthwhile and exciting world of politics is so important.

Sadly, many women simply do not believe that entering politics is an option for them. This can be for a variety of reasons, from the professional to the personal. We need to acknowledge these concerns and find solutions.

I am therefore very pleased that my colleague Mims Davies MP has called a debate this afternoon in Parliament to address the barriers women face in trying to enter Parliament.

This is crucial not because women's life experiences are better or worse than men's, but because they are different. A wealth of life experience and talent in Parliament helps to improve the quality of our decision-making and our policy-creation which, in turn, helps to improve lives for people in our country.

We can all think of a woman who has inspired us. I would like to see more senior women in every walk of life, including business, education, policy-creation, industry and the media. I also want to encourage them to reach out to schools and local communities. We need them to lead and inspire.

Role models are important in every walk of life and politics is no exception. I am proud of the fact that the Conservative Party has selected two women to be Prime Minister.

But let's not stop at Parliament. Women can make a real difference on their doorstep as community role models, councillors and school governors.

We must encourage young women to put themselves forward for positions of responsibility, as we will never see greater female representation in workplaces if women do not apply for the jobs in the first place.

Organisations such as Women2Win - co-founded by the Prime Minister and Baroness Jenkin of Kennington - are supporting the Conservative Party's commitment to select more women to fight winnable Parliamentary seats and elect more Conservative women to Parliament. This fantastic group brings together a broad cross-section of men and women from across the party with a clear mission: to ensure the Conservative Party fairly represents women at all levels.

We are making progress. In the last election half of those seats where a Conservative MP was standing down were filled by women - all of whom are already making their mark championing their constituents in Westminster.

But there is more to do. We are planning an outreach programme to travel around the country to bring Westminster a little closer to our neighbourhoods and encourage more women to speak up for their local area.

This is not to say that all the challenges faced can be solved by more women applying to become candidates.

Every MP, female and male, juggles the precarious balance between an all-consuming vocation and home life. I believe that this experience helps us push to do more to support working families.

We are ensuring that starting a family is not a barrier to work by introducing the right to request flexible working and shared parental leave, and investing £5million in returnships to help those returning to work after long career breaks. But there is more we can do; we must eliminate the gender pay gap, not just reduce it, and move towards a society where starting a family is never seen as a reason to give up work if you don't wish to. I don't pretend we've cracked it yet - but aren't these good causes to fight for?

My colleagues are former teachers, nurses, soldiers, doctors, miners, carers, mothers, even boat builders, we come from all backgrounds and all across the country and what brings us together is a desire to improve the lives of everyone in our country. So if that's something you'd like to be a part of please take the first step!

Victoria Atkins is the Conservative MP for Louth and Horncastle