Mary Macleod’s all party group on women in Parliament will launch inquiry to examine why so many are put off, after four female Tory MPs announced they were standing down
MPs are to launch an inquiry into why so many women are quitting politics as David Cameron faces calls to promote more female ministers and end “childish bullying” culture of the Commons.
A cross-party committee on women in parliament will interview the female Tory MPs who are leaving at the next election to find out why they have quit, as part of the investigation.
A final report will be produced in May setting out how Parliament be made more female friendly, and could consider proposals such as different working hours, more professional standards of behaviour, and even job-sharing.
The inquiry comes after Mr Cameron was urged to consider all-women shortlists for selecting Conservative candidates and faced fresh calls to promote more women to senior ministerial positions.
Mary Macleod, the Conservative MP for Brentford and Isleworth, said she was chairing a cross-party group of MPs and peers investigating how to get more women into parliament.
“We have got to encourage more women to participate at all levels,” she said.
But many women are put off by the “bullying and ganging up” and other “childish” behaviour that goes on in the male-dominated House of Commons, she warned.
“I have been in business for 20 years and therefore I do get frustrated at how Parliament works – it is not altogether professional or organised.
“Just take the behaviour in the chamber. You wouldn’t tolerate that in the boardroom or the classroom.”
Ms Mcleod’s arguments were backed by Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, in Devon, who said the Prime Minister should promote more women to key roles. While the lack of women in Parliament affects all major parties “it does help if leadership sets an example”, she added.
If the Conservatives fail to get more women elected in next year’s general election, the party should consider all-women shortlists when selecting candidates in future, Dr Wollaston suggested.
However, Charlotte Leslie, the MP for Bristol North West, rejected the idea of all-women shortlists. In an article for the Telegraph website, she suggested that high-flying women were quitting parliament because they are “less susceptible than men” to the “pomp and status” of being an MP.
Five women MPs elected in 2010 will not be standing as Tory candidates in next year’s election. Four are stepping down and one, Anne McIntosh, was deselected by her local party.
Mr Cameron was criticised over his record by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, who pointed out that there was not a single woman sitting on the government front bench during Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday.