06 February 2018

New research from the Fawcett Society shows that although today marks 100 years since the first women won the vote, less than half of young women think equal representation in Parliament will be achieved in their lifetime. The figure is significantly lower overall with only 37% of people believing they will live to see a gender equal Parliament.

In contrast the poll also reveals people recognise that that women’s representation is better for our politics with nearly half (47%) of all people saying women MPs make politics ‘more relevant to people like me’.

Just 32% of MPs are women and at current rates of progress it will take until 2062 to achieve equal representation. The poll goes on to reveal that support is high amongst under 45s for legal quotas requiring parties to have equal numbers of male and female candidates, with twice as many supporting than opposing the idea - and that men under 35 are also twice as likely to support than oppose such a change.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:

“This research is clear, improving women’s representation makes political sense but we should all be worried that people, even younger women, do not believe this will happen in their lifetimes.

“The fact that progress has stalled shows that we must take proactive steps now to address women’s under-representation. That means legislating to require parties to take action. It also means cleaning up our politics with an independent mechanism and meaningful sanctions to address sexual harassment in parliament, in our parties and in local government.

“We have just seen a cross-party group of women MPs secure baby leave in parliament for the first time. Women MPs have also been leading the way in defending women’s rights post-Brexit, campaigning on domestic violence and in calling for misogyny to be made a hate crime. These issues simply would not be addressed without the women in parliament there to do it.”

Women and men believe gender balance in parliament is important

  • 67% agree with the statement that "Having more women in Parliament means that issues which impact women are more likely to be discussed"
  • Women and men are about equally likely to agree with this statement (70% and 65% respectively)

Women and men agree that women MPs make politics more relevant to them

  • Just under half (47%) of people agree that "Seeing more women in Parliament makes me feel that politics is relevant to people like me."
  • 6 in 10 women agree with this statement. But also, over a third (35%) of men agree
  • Younger women polled are most likely to agree. 75% of women aged 18-24 surveyed agree with the statement, compared to 55% of 65+

People are not optimistic that equal representation will be achieved in their lifetimes

  • Only 37% of people agree that Parliament will have equal numbers of women and men in their lifetime
  • Women are actually slightly more optimistic than men, 40% of women agree compared to 33% of men
  • Just 46% of women under 35 agree that they will see a gender-equal parliament in their lifetime.

There is broad support for interventions to speed up the pace of change with more people agreeing than disagreeing

  • 44% of people agree that "In order to get more women into parliament, I think that each political party should set themselves targets for women candidates." 31% disagree.
  • Women are more likely to agree than men (49% vs. 38%).
  • 42% of people agree that "In order to get more women into Parliament, I think that each political party should put in place a system that requires that they have equal numbers of women and men as candidates." 32% disagree.
  • A third of men support this proposal (33%) and over half of women (51%)
  • Younger women in the survey are more likely to agree. 58% of 18-24 year old women polled agree with the statement compared to 38% of those 65+
  • Young men polled are as likely as young women polled to agree with this statement. 61% of 18-34 year old men in the sample agree (compared to 58% of 18-34 year old women)
  • Older men polled are less likely to agree with the statement – but over 1 in 5 men over 65 questioned still agree.

There is also support for a law change requiring parties to have equal numbers of women and men candidates, however opinion is more divided between women and men on this point.

  • Over a third of people (36%) would go further and agree that "In order to get more women into Parliament, I think that the Government should change the law so that political parties are required to have equal number of women and men as candidates.". 38% disagree.
  • Looking at under-45s, 48% of people agree with the proposal, with only 24% disagreeing.
  • 44% of women agree with the statement and 27% of men. This means that nearly 3 in 10 men support a law requiring parties to have equal numbers of women and men as candidates. However, 27% of women and 51% of men disagree.
  • Young women polled are more likely than older women to support a law of equal number of women and men candidates: 53% of 18-24 year olds and 51% of 25-34 year olds, compared to 31% of over 65s in the sample agreed with the statement.
  • Young men are more likely than older men to support a law so that political parties are required to have equal numbers of women and men as candidates. 51% of 18-34 year olds agree this should be introduced compared to 14% of the over 65s. Only 25% of the younger age group disagree.

To address women’s under-representation Fawcett is calling for:

  • Remove the barriers to women’s political participation & all parties commit to equal representation, set targets or legislate
  • An independent process with meaningful sanctions to tackle sexual harassment in parliament, political parties and local government
  • Modernise parliament and local government, introducing paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave for elected representatives
  • Commence Section 106 of the Equality Act to require political parties to collect and publish candidate diversity monitoring data

Fawcett releases the poll as they launch an impactful centenary year campaign #OurTimeNow which asks people to tweet images of a clock face or a watch on 6th February, stating what the one thing is that they want to change. 

To mark the centenary the charity is also making a set of resources available online for campaigning organisations, schools and local community groups to use to celebrate the centenary year and to focus on the challenges that remain and how we drive change. They can be downloaded here.

Download the press release here

See the data tables gathered by Survation for this poll here.

For more information or interviews contact:

Fresh communication 0117 369 0025:
Abby Richardson – [email protected] / 07876 378 733
Nathalie Golden – [email protected] / 07769 66 66 27