If you look at the world of politics currently you may consider women are well-represented. Successful women successfully voted in as MPs to represent the people. But are women truly well represented when you consider that many of the current top female politicians don't have children - Angela Merkel, Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May and Liz Kendall for example. And does it matter?
Society seems to generally hold the view that you can't be a successful career woman if you have children and you can't be a dedicated mother if you have a career. Firstly, defining each of those terms is difficult - who determines what defines success and dedication? That in itself warrants further discussion and a column of its own another time. But would those female politicians be where they are today if they were mothers?
I've written previously about how I feel women can't have it all in 2015. Society dictates that women have little choice but to try and combine it all when they have children, and I'm not entirely sure we can truly be perfect in both career and motherhood when juggling a full time high powered profession with raising children. Society should enable us to, but currently it doesn't. So, one has to ask whether politicians like Sturgeon and May would be where they are today had they had children. European research has shown that women find it increasingly difficult to continue to climb the career ladder at the same pace after a period of maternity leave, especially where there's a need to return to work on a part time basis.
Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that we have women in such government roles. I think it's crucial that we do have women in Parliament but can someone without children really represent the views of the majority of the female adult population? As a voter, and yes I did vote in the General Election, I would feel more connected to a candidate if I felt she was able to relate to my situation. I'm a married working mum of two children, but how can a female politician represent my views and shape policies in a manner which will benefit mothers if she doesn't understand what family life is like? Whether a female politician is a mother does hold relevance. How can she fully understand the issues of maternity rights, the underlying discrimination women face when they return to work, or the complexities of balancing working life with childcare for example when she's not personally experienced it. Frankly, I don't believe she can.
Perhaps I'm wrong in assuming female candidates are there only to represent the family values, but it's true that most female politicians find themselves fulfilling political roles relating to social policy. Given it's men who predominantly return to work and continue their careers full steam ahead even once they've become fathers, it seems fair to assume that women deserve someone to represent them, and to assume that the person who will most understand their position is another mother.
Ironically, it's incredibly difficult for women with children to gain the Parliamentary career success of the likes of Sturgeon, May, Kendall and Merkel and it arguably all boils down to the fact that in 2015 women should be able to have it all, but can't. And with childless female politicians in powerful roles, I can't see that changing, as much as I hope it will.
*A version of this first appeared in the Nottingham Post*