10 JANUARY 2017

Today, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report on ‘Women in the House of Commons after the 2020 election’.

Drawing on research by the Fawcett Society, the report argues that:

Political parties need to do much more to promote a fairer and greater proportion of women parliamentary candidates, and be transparent about their plans and their performance. The report recommends that parties should set out what they intend to do to increase the proportion of women in the House in 2020, including adopting ambitious targets for women candidates in ‘winnable’ seats.

The Government has committed to achieving women’s full and equal participation under the Sustainable Development Goals. It has a role in setting and delivering national targets to achieve this, and in introducing and enforcing statutory measures to help Parliament and the public scrutinise the progress of political parties and hold them accountable for selecting diverse parliamentary candidates. The Government should be prepared to mandate change if parties do not meet the challenge voluntarily.

Parliament as an institution should actively encourage women to participate in democracy and continue to investigate ways of making the working environment of Westminster one that does not present unnecessary actual or perceived barriers to women’s participation.

Boundary Commission proposals
The backdrop to the inquiry is the recently published Boundary Commission proposals for equalising the size of constituencies, which will reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. While the boundary review itself need not result in a lower proportion of women MPs, the Committee believes that without intervention from the parties, regression may be an unintended consequence.

In response to the WESC’s inquiry into women in the House of Commons, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, Sam Smethers, said:

“The Committee’s report shows very clearly that progress is not inevitable. In fact, unless all political parties take action women’s representation in the Commons will go in to reverse in 2020.”

“As we approach the centenary of the first votes for women and the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons, we face the prospect of women’s representation going backwards from what is already a low base of just 30%. That is a terrible indictment on the state of our politics.

“Fawcett research has found that seats held by women are disproportionately affected by the boundary review and Labour women MPs are particularly vulnerable both as a result of boundary changes but also if Labour loses a large number of seats at the next election.  All political parties therefore need to raise their game.

“We have written to party leaders urging them to take steps to address this as it is their responsibility to ensure that their party prioritises women’s representation.”

To read the WESC report, ‘Women in the House of Commons after the 2020 election’, click here.


Fawcett has campaigned extensively on increasing representation in both local and national government.   You can read the Fawcett Society’s research into women’s representation in parliament and the potential impact of the Boundary Review, by clicking the link below.

Women’s representation in the House of Commons