Why do we want a 50:50 Parliament?
Parliament is meant to be a representative institution. As a result, it should draw upon the widest possible pools of talent and experience reflecting our nation. There are 32 million women living in the UK, they account for 51% of the population. Women make a massive contribution to society in their paid and unpaid work. They merit fair representation and inclusion in the most important decision-making institution in our country.
All political parties and over 50,000 signatories to the 50:50 petition agree that a gender balanced Parliament would be more representative and better informed. 50:50 aims to inspire, encourage and support women in being elected to Westminster and is asking Parliament and all the political parties to work on solutions.
- We need the best of both, men and women at Westminster. Let’s build a better democracy together!
But we want the best MPs!
- Absolutely and so do we at 50:50. To be clear, we want the best of both: men and women running the country and planning the future together.
- After all, how can we have 'the best' if 51% of the UK population are not fully included? Women make up 60% of law graduates and 50% of graduates so surely we will only have the best once women are represented equally in Parliament.
It’s not just women who are underrepresented in Parliament, what about minorities?
- Women are a diverse majority. 50:50 are campaigning for ALL women and recognise that some women face multiple hurdles given the layers of their identity and might need more support and encouragement to achieve fair representation.
Does the gender of my MP matter (given UK is a representative democracy)?
- It is true that MPs represent their constituents and men can represent women and women can represent men. But as Joni Lovenduski, Professor of Politics, Birkbeck, University of London observed in a paper she presented at the Speakers Conference 2012: "Evidence from more balanced legislatures than ours shows that as membership of women increases so does the sensitivity of male MPs to the range of women's concerns. So men can act for women, but they may be more likely to do so when there are more women around."
- Representation shapes policy! Take, for example, tax on tampons. There is tax on tampons but not on razors. When President Obama was asked why there was tax on tampons he said: "I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it's because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed." He is absolutely right. But the Tax on Tampons is the tip of the iceberg. There are many policy decisions that impact women over which women have had little say or consideration.
- 50:50 believe that women should be equally involved in formulating all legislation and policy. We want men and women to run the country and plan the future together in equal numbers because it affects us all. So we are campaigning for better gender balance at Westminster, one way or another. It is not about the individual, it is about the institution.
Do we need quotas?
- In our democracy and meritocracy, we know that are plenty of able and qualified women to stand for Parliament and be elected. Of course, where the market fails there is a need for legislation or intervention.
- Around 40 countries have better gender balance in their parliament’s than the UK and many of these countries have legislative or voluntary quotas. However, quotas are not the only option available - especially when we have such a large and rich pool of female talent in our democracy.
- This is why it is important for everyone to encourage women to stand and for those in power to address some of the many barriers to women standing.
What is the best way for women to gain seats in Parliament?
- Given our current political and electoral system the key to women winning seats in the Commons is for women to be allocated 'winnable seats' (so called 'safe seats' by the dominant political parties). The more women allocated 'winnable seats' the greater the chance that they will be elected to the House of Commons.
- The other important constituencies are the 'marginal' or 'swing' constituencies where the vote could go either way. Here the more women standing the greater chance a woman will be elected. So, it is possible that women will be standing against other women because women have a wide range of political opinions and they have every right to express them.
- In general more women standing serves to increase female influence and participation in politics.
- Of course, for women to gain seats in the Lords they merely have to be appointed!