Have you ever been asked - why is women's representation important? Our Interim CEO, Felicia Willow has and in this blog, she explains why equal representation is vital for a functioning and effective democracy: 

I'm asked - too often - why equal representation of women is important? 

Throughout Fawcett's work, from the #MakeWomenVisible campaign through to our literature review on the Pay and Progression of Women of Colour, we've been talking about the impact of not having women in the decision-making room. We've pointed out that construction has been funded, but not childcare. That gender pay gap reporting got suspended rather than strengthened. 

I've been told more than once that this is misguided identity politics. (To be fair, the kind of people who say this to me are also the kind of people who will question the merit of any women or person of colour being appointed to a senior position, but don't ask the same question to the white men who are already there).

So why is it that having women in the room matters? 

More women in the room won't solve everything. While it is true that having more women in the room will make things more equal, it is also true that some women will do nothing to address gender inequality. We still have a lot of work to do on the sexism that is endemic in our society - misogyny is not the sole preserve of men.

But equality of representation is nonetheless essential for a functioning and effective democracy. 

Decision-making is always better when diverse experiences are at the table. Of course, this diversity does not stop at gender. Our representatives should reflect our society in all ways – whether that is based on race, culture, religion, disability, or socio-economic position.  

So, the next time you get asked the question about why equal representation matters, here's seven quick reasons to give as an answer.  

  1. Representation. Women make up more than half the population, and they should be equally represented. Representation is the core basis of democracy. 
  2. Improved decision-making. UN Women have found that women’s involvement impacts decision-making in a positive way - with examples including better childcare in Norway and more drinking water projects in India linked to higher levels of female representation. 
  3. Consideration of women’s priorities. In 2014, the International Parliamentary Union undertook research that proved that the increased presence of women had an impact on moving issues like violence against women and women’s health onto the agenda, and other studies also highlighted positive impacts on issues relating to women’s work, finances and equality under the law.
  4. More cross-party working. The same study also found that women are more likely to work collaboratively, both within and across parties. If there is one thing we need in this polarised world, it’s cross-party working, and Fawcett’s cross-party board is one of its great strengths. 
  5. Increased participation of women. The IPU also found that increased numbers of women in politics encourages women to contact their own representatives and participate more as citizens.
  6. Enhanced democracy. Various research has shown that both men and women consider more gender equal institutions fairer and more democratic.
  7. Better diversity of experience in decision-making. While generalising the experiences of women as in any way singular is not usually helpful, it is fair to recognise that women have a different set of experiences to men, and these voices are needed within effective political representation for democracy to work effectively in the interests of all.