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.”
“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.
“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
” 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.
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 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.
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%.
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.