Why We Want a More Gender Balanced Parliament

Experts have given many reasons for the need of a more gender balanced Parliament.  Here are some that  I particularly like:

Prof Ngaire Woods

“We know that when women are in parliament…it builds more resilient, responsive, better informed institutions.”  The evidence is overwhelming.  She adds,

“These things are not about each individual woman but about the aspirations of a society.”

Prof Claire Annesley and Prof Francesca Gains

As two other experts in public affairs and politics put it, “Achieving better levels of representation in government is vital on both ‘justice’ and ‘substantive’ grounds.  It should be a given that half the population has equal representation in the corridors of power.  And on ‘substantive’ grounds it is essential to get a range of perspectives and experiences in government where decisions are made.”

Hillary Clinton

“Women are the world’s most underused resource.”

They have many varied talents and abilities.

Joni Lovenduski, Prof Politics

“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.”

Currently there is one female MP for (approx) every 218,000 women in the UK and one male MP for (approx) every 64,000 men.  This gives a ratio of 77:23 men:women in  the House of Commons.

Melissa Benn

“We know from the Fawcett society and others that women have suffered a ‘triple whammy’ as a result of austerity and recession, losing jobs at a faster rate than men, suffering stagnant wages and taking the hit from welfare cuts.”

So women need to be involved in formulating the economic policy that so affects their lives.  As long as women are a minority on the back benches equal representation on the front benches will be problematic.

On the Petition

It is also fantastic to read all  the other reasons on the petition. I really liked the one that Sarah wrote:
” Addressing this issue is the key to unlocking gender equality in the rest of society”

The Four Rs

So there are countless reasons for wanting this change and I try to summarise it with the Four Rs : Resources, Representation, Responsibility and Respect.

Resources

As Helen wrote on the petition:

“Apart from the obvious injustice, we are in no position to under-utilize so much talent”

It seems to me that if we want the best Parliament then we need to be drawing upon the whole population, not excluding the half that are women.  Women are 50% of graduates and 60% of law graduates.  They have a wealth of experience in paid and unpaid work.

Representation

Representation shapes policy.

There is still a 20% gender pay gap in the UK clearly the laws and policy concerning this have a long way to go. Lawrence Davies Director Equal Justice Solicitor points out that the UK government changed the Equal Pay Act to make pay private, whereas it is public in Europe, this makes it very difficult for women to find out what others are paid.

He has also highlighted the fact that the compensation paid after bringing a successful case for sexism at work does not cover the costs of the legal fees that might be incurred, the result is that very few cases arise.

In a more general sense the recent report from the World Economic forum ranked the UK at no 26 in terms of Gender Equality falling from 18th in 2013 and in April this year the UN special investigator Rashida Manjoo said that sexism was worse in the UK than in other countries, and warned that the Government’s austerity measures were having a “disproportionate impact” on women’s risk of violence.

Responsibility

It is a “woman’s world” too!  Women need to be fully involved in all major policy decisions of government concerning : economic, welfare, health, education, environment, defence.

They ‘suffer’ the consequences as much if not more than men. There have been seismic shifts in women’s life patterns over the last century. Women need to be involved in addressing the consequences of these changes which have major implications for society.

Motherhood is sometimes used as reason for women not being “able” to participate in Politics and Parliament. However, the average age in the House of Commons is 50, by this time the time consuming aspects of “mothering” and parenting are reducing for most people.

I would argue that they should be there precisely because they are mothers, parents need representation. Women should be involved in forging the future of a society of which they are the majority – 51%.

Respect

Parliament should be an example and leading the way in showing respect for women: their experiences and their opinions.


So, what do you think?

Please add your comments to the posts below.

Thanks!

Comments 3

  1. Because it is atrocious in this day and age that when one watches BBC Parliament, people in the UK appear to be represented mainly by a bunch of shouting, boorish, inebriated (with ego, if not also booze) men. The HOC behaviour is shocking, and I am so disappointed that Speaker John Bercow has not managed to keep his promise and deliver Commons reform. The place is a nightmare for women (& any man who believes in decent honest behaviour, for that matter) – cronyism, shouting, stuck in the dark ages of rampant sexism, ridiculous timetabling…. Why would anyone sensible want to participate in that?

  2. I am a very happy to support this campaign. Although, the main objective is for 50:50 representation; I believe the campaign additionally fights for equality, opportunities and improve the future for women, in particular eradicate the prejudices facing women in society.
    As a young woman starting out in politics, I have already faced some discrimination. A male delegate, from a known organisation to the local party, referred to the first ward meeting I attended as a ‘zumba class’ after immediately being introduced to me for the first time as the local party’s organiser. I was dressed smart which was appropriate for the meeting, and therefore could not understand his abnormal comments. I felt uncomfortable and angry, but also felt I could not say anything at the time as I was trying to make a good impression at the first ward meeting and did not think anything would be done due to his role as a particular organisation’s delegate. I was often told at the start of the job that a few (male members) might not be keen on me working there as being both young and female, but luckily enough I did not experience any other discrimination due to my gender whilst there (that I know of).
    Another example of prejudice women face in politics today is those affecting working mothers. Women who are mothers are ideal politicians as they are able to contribute their knowledge and experience into policies affecting others with children or young people. However, our patriarchal society still does not approve of this and many women today are still forced to choose between motherhood or a career and not both! If a woman chooses to do both she is criticised immediately by the patriarchal society and sadly by other women (particularly if the woman chooses a challenging career such as politics).
    All-Women-Shortlists are just one way of where women can have the opportunity to stand without having the old prejudices preventing women to break through the never-ending ‘glass ceiling’. Harriet Harman said at the recent Women’s Labour Conference;
    “If you’re against all-women shortlists, you’re supporting inequality – defending a status quo in which men in the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) still outnumber women two to one”
    After stating the party had tried other measures in encouraging women to stand and to being elected within the party. A male Labour Member of Parliament proved this point, after criticising the impact of AWSs (making 43% of the Parliamentary Labour Party) in a recent political magazine;
    “Labour women avert their eyes as I pass. A few men shake my hand and say “Well done” but ask me not to tell anyone”.
    Additionally, women have faced humiliation with AWSs as shown by a male Conservative councillor who openly tweeted this thoughts of AWSs as ‘lingerie modelling’ in regards to the selection of female candidate in the East Midlands. The male Tory MP also thought ‘those with [a] sense of humour will appreciate the post, while those people who are offended ‘need to get over themselves’.
    This is unacceptable. The 50:50 Parliament campaign aims to not only improve the representation of women in the decision-making process, but also to help eradicate the discrimination women still face in today’s patriarchal society.
    In addition to this process for reaching a full represented democracy, women must not forget to empower other women; otherwise gender equality will not succeed regardless of a 50:50 equal representation. The last thing I want to see is another Margaret Thatcher male-dominated (and all-white) cabinet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *