I was really pleased to read your letter and see that there are other young people who care about ensuring that there are more women in Parliament. I actually had the pleasure of meeting some young women representing the Girls Matter campaign and was inspired by what you are all doing to fight for equal representation in Parliament.
I, like you, have been frustrated by the lack of women in Parliament and I am firmly of the belief that the only way to cause change to happen, is by being on the inside. That is the reason why I decided to stand for Parliament.
The quickest way to have more female candidates was to become one. The best way to make change, is by thinking of what it is that we want and then fighting for it - through the democratic process. If every person who believed that we need more women in Parliament were to vote, were to stand for Parliament or for the local council - or were to simply voice their views in a coherent manner, change would be a lot more likely. When people engage with politics and convey their needs and those of their community, change can occur- without active participation, people's needs are significantly less likely to be addressed.
I have worked for an organisation called Women2Win (an organisation that actively works to encourage and increase the number of women in Parliament) for almost three years now and have seen first-hand some of the brilliant female candidates that we have. We, like you, believe that Parliament is stronger when it represents the rest of the country so we need more women in Parliament. We work to help train women and to help fundraise for them so that they can compete in what has traditionally been a man's world. I feel it is important you know that there is work being done to get more women into Parliament, but there is still a long way to go.
The other problem that you touched upon is one of selection. There are not enough women applying to be candidates in the hope of standing for Parliament. If we have a limited pool of female candidates, there are only so many seats that can be fought by women and so we need to work on encouraging the many talented women in our country to put themselves forward. I will be speaking at schools in my constituency to encourage all young people, especially the girls to engage politically but we need this to occur on a National scale. I believe all schools should be teaching the basics of politics and democracy. I would also love for schools and parents to teach girls that political engagement is important and that all people will benefit from a more diverse Parliament. I do not think enough girls are told that politics is a potential career path for them.
If there are enough women in Parliament, we can change attitudes to women - both in Parliament and out of it. With enough women in Parliament, women's views would be heard and women's needs would be better represented. Women's life experiences are different to men, not better or worse just different and that needs to be reflected. We have some brilliant politicians, like the Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP who are paving the way for us, but we need to choose to follow in their footsteps, not just admire them from afar.
I agree with your concerns about the risk of losing future generations of female leaders- if we do not actively encourage more girls to see politics as a future career, we will miss out on potentially brilliant politicians. This country needs to ensure that the best candidates are chosen from as wide a range of people as possible in terms of gender, race and background.
As for the "Downing Street catwalk" - let's not forget that many of those articles are written and read by women! Clearly all of us, both men and women, need to stop perpetuating gender stereotypes. If fewer people read articles that focussed on the clothes and shoes being worn by female politicians, I believe that the media would respond by writing fewer articles on that and start writing more about what they were actually saying. If we had less focus on superficial matters and more on appreciating the work that female MPs of all parties are doing, I believe that more young women might consider politics as a future career but we do also need to take some responsibility for this misdirected attention.
You have done a fantastic job in drawing attention to the matter and I hope that in 2020 or 2025, you might also consider being a part of the change you want to see and stand for Parliament. I believe Parliament would be a better place if we had more young women like you.