One hundred years since women first won the right to stand for Parliament, men still hold the reins of power. They outnumber women in the decision making on crucial political, economic and social impact issues that affect our quality of life and choices. It is time for a reckoning of gender and power in Parliament.
For that, we have to know where we stand. The UK Government is responsible for preventing equal representation in Parliament because it has failed to enact S106 of the 2010 Equality Act, which would compel political parties to publish data on their political candidates to ensure equal representation of male and female politicians. In the absence of this data, the UK government must be held accountable for its complicity in preventing equal representation.
Following 2017′s general election, women represent 32% of female MPs in the House of Commons and as of 2018, 26% of female peers in the House of Lords. Our society has not made significant progress in levelling the playing field of equal representation in politics. Women form 51% of the UK population, according to the Office for National Statistics. But while we may be the majority in population, we are the minority in decision making.
For those who say women should be grateful for the progress made thus far – I say that is nonsense. This is not about waiting our turn. It is about our rights as citizens of this country and as human beings. It is about the restriction of our choices; the imposition of perceived roles of women; and denial of our ability to lead. We can’t wait another 100 years until we reach gender parity in politics.
Lest we forget the disproportionate representation of women from BAME communities in parliament – evidence that political parties are complacent when it comes to BAME representation. As of the 2017 general election, 52 ethnic minority MPs were elected – making up under 8% of the Commons, compared to 14% of the population.
There is still so much work to do so this is not the time to drown in complacency, ambivalence or become agnostic to the struggle of equal representation in parliament.
We must demand government transparency by forcing those in power to enact S106 of the Equality Act with immediate effect. As part of this, we should implement a strategic target with the aim to achieve 50% representation of women in Parliament before or by the next general election.
We also need to do more to eradicate barriers, to make Parliament a conducive working environment, irrespective of gender and race. We need to simplify the route into politics; provide financial support on childcare; end the trolling of female politicians on social media; and provide training and mentorship for women who are interested in entering into public life.
We honestly can’t claim to be a progressive society when we are still in denial over the seriousness of unequal representation in Parliament. It demonstrates a regressive leadership that lacks the political will to prioritise women as part of the strategic growth and success of the future.
To all MPs: I challenge you to do something about equal representation in Parliament today.