Representation Of Women
Across the UK, women are shockingly under-represented in the political structures and decision-making processes that shape our lives. The way democracy is organised in the UK presents barriers to women standing for election, including a lack of family-friendly working policies, maternity pay and and support for childcare.
Politics is also still very much a man’s game and women can find it hard to beat the (often unconscious) bias that they face, in particular not “looking like” a typical politician.
These barriers are even greater for ethnic minority women and women from other marginalised groups such as women with disabilities, LBT+ women and women from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
An absence of women in decision-making, a lack of focus on issues that matter to women and girls, and a shortage of avenues to make their voice heard often leads to disengagement with politics and a lack of confidence in the political system among women; for example only 39% of women aged 18 to 24 voted in the 2010 general election compared to 50% of men from that age group.
For more information on this issue and to find out what Fawcett think should be done, go to our Women in Parliament campaign pages. You can find out more about women in specific areas of public life by clicking on the side bar links to the right.
Fawcett has submitted evidence to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee on the upcoming 2016 boundary review on how it will affect women. Fawcett predicts that, without active measures by the Parties to protect and advance women’s representation, 37% of the MP who will lose their sets in the review are women when they are only 30% in Parliament. Women will make up 55% of the Labour seats lost when they are only 40% of Labour MPs, and regional effects mean whilst no MPs out of the seven in the West Midlands affected are women, 63% (5) MPs out of the eight in the North West are. Read Fawcett’s evidence to the Women in House of Commons Inquiry here.
Working with MPs
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sex Equality provides a vital forum for discussion and joint action by MPs from all parties, women’s political networks and the voluntary sector, helping inform the Government’s policy agenda.
The Fawcett Society has organised and administered the meetings in partnership with The Young Women’s Trust since 2011, bringing together speakers including government ministers, academics and voluntary sector leaders.
Co-chaired by Diane Abbott MP and Bernard Jenkin MP, the APPG holds 3 – 5 meetings a year in Parliament, creating a collaborative forum at the heart of Westminster to drive forward women’s equality and access to power in the UK.
Who else is working on this issue?
The Fawcett Society work as part of the Counting Women In Coalition which comprises of the Centre for Women and Democracy, The Electoral Reform Society, the Hansard Society and Unlock Democracy. Each year we produce Sex and Power and work the political parties to help them improve their representation of women.
Operation Black Vote also have excellent resources on BME women in politics. Disability Politics also has some good links on the challenges politicians with disabilities face and what can be done to support them.
All of these organisations have a wealth of information on their websites about improving UK democracy for a more representative elected body. The Parliament website can tell you a lot about Westminster including all about the House of Commons and Parliament and how they are working to make parliament more accessible.
In Scotland, Engender have some excellent resources on women’s representation. The political parties also have their own groups dedicated to improving women’s representation: Conservative Women’s Organisation, Liberal Democrat Women, Labour Women’s Network and Green Party Women.
Image courtesy of Jacky Fleming, all rights reserved.