12th June 2024

New polling from The Fawcett Society and Centenary Action shows that there is all to play for when it comes to securing women’s votes and all parties must work harder to impress at the polls or they risk losing women’s votes.

The polling of 2,004, including 1124 women, is being released to coincide with the launch of #SheVotes24, the largest ever women’s sector coalition, representing more than 120 women’s organisations. Taken together, our organisations have over 10.5 million women and girls as members, supporters and service users. Organisations include Mumsnet, Women’s Aid, Muslim Women’s Network, The WI, Disability Rights UK and more. 

This week, we see parties publishing manifestos to convince voters that they belong in our Parliament. Today’s polling shows that almost a quarter of women (23% compared to just 13% of men) are undecided about who will get their vote, showing there is so much potential for huge gains for parties who put women’s needs and priorities front and centre.

Currently, women are 51% of the population, but only made up 35% of MPs in the last Parliament. 1 in 4 women have experienced rape or sexual assault as an adult. In 2023, women earned £574 less than men per month on average. But so far, we’ve heard startlingly little about some of the issues that are most important to women and to the stability of our economy.  

The #SheVotes24 coalition launches with an open letter calling on all parties to answer to a series of questions that demonstrate their candidates’ commitment to improving the lives of women and girls in the UK. The letter also calls on the media to ensure the issues raised are given adequate prominence through the campaign.

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:

Any party that wants to win the upcoming general election needs to put the issues that women care about at the heart of their platform. So far, this election campaign has seen little focus from the major parties on women, nor the issues which disproprotionately impact us.

Commitment to action on the soaring costs of childcare, workplaces that don’t offer flexibility or equal pay, and representation in halls of power is critical, and the pace of change is too slow. We need to see all parties commit to policies that will serve women in all of our diversity.

Helen Pankhurst, Convener of Centenary Action said: 

It's clear from the polling that women do not feel their issues are being raised or their voices are being heard. Despite being 51% of the electorate, Westminster is still dominated by men in representation, processes, and policies over a century after securing the right to vote. This election, only 31% of candidates are women meaning we will continue to be unrepresented in the next parliament.  We demand change. Women’s voices and priorities must be heard in this election and must be central under the next government.

Read the #SheVotes24 open letter and full list of signatories below

We, the undersigned, demand that women and girls are put at the heart of the General Election. We represent over 120 organisations and taken together, our organisations have over 10.5 million women and girls as members, supporters and service users. We are the largest ever coalition of organisations representing the interests of women and girls, coming together to raise our voices. But more importantly, we represent over half of the population who can often feel their voices are not heard, their quality of life not prioritised, and their experiences dismissed. So far, in this election campaign, we have heard very little about the issues that affect the real lives of women and how the changes proposed will benefit them.

As 51% of the population women's votes will be critical in deciding the General Election outcome. A significant number of women voters have yet to make their minds up. We are coming together as #SheVotes24 to amplify the voices of women and support their inclusion in the political process. We firmly believe that fixing the country for women will improve things for everyone.

Women and girls are a diverse group – we come from all races and ethnicities, social classes, religions, and sexualities, and our experiences vary according to our health and disabilities, caring responsibilities, immigration status and age. Whilst no single set of policies will address our every concern, we believe that parties must answer the questions set out below to demonstrate their commitment to improving our lives in the UK. In answering these questions, we urge you to reflect on the diversity of women’s experiences and ensure that those facing the greatest barriers to support and protection are prioritised.

We also call on the media to ensure that these questions are given adequate prominence in the election campaign.

Key Questions:

Women's representation in politics and public life

Are you committed to making this a misogyny free election, and what action will you take against candidates who express misogyny, including racialised misogyny?

How will you ensure that women’s voices are listened to and that policy and legislation truly reflect the needs of women, and that research addresses gaps in data and evidence?

Will you commit to 50% female representation in your post-election spokespeople and wider leadership teams?

How will you address barriers to women participating in political life, including specific barriers for women of colour, those with caring responsibilities and disabled candidates

Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

Will you prioritise prevention of violence against women and girls, and will you take a ‘whole society approach' which looks beyond the criminal justice system? What will you do to tackle misogyny and sexism in schools, on the streets and online?

How will you ensure that all children and young people have access to high-quality, inclusive and age appropriate Relationships, Sex and Health education, that challenges gender stereotypes and addresses all types of misogyny?

How will you tackle the chronic underfunding of Violence Against Women and Girls specialist support services, particularly ‘by and for’ organisations which support Black and minoritised women, deaf and disabled women and LGBTQ+ survivors?

What will you do to implement a whole-society response to domestic abuse (including using levers in health, economic and family courts) to ensure that all women are able to access support and escape and recover from abuse? What steps will you take to ensure that migrant women are not excluded from protection and that disabled women can access appropriate support?

Women and girls' economic equality

How will you close the gender pay gap?

How will you ensure that no women live in poverty, regardless of caring responsibilities, disabilities, immigration status or their perpetrators actions?

What steps will you take to ensure that all parents can combine raising children with fulfilling careers, if they choose to do so?

What are your plans for investment in vital social infrastructure, including childcare, and adult social care, education and health? How will you act to raise wages and improve working conditions for those working in these caring professions?  

Women's and girls' health

What are your plans to address the historic lack of funding and prioritisation of women’s healthcare, and reduce health inequalities particularly for Black and minoritised communities?

What action will you take to address the crisis in girls and women’s mental health?

How will you support family and reproductive health choices for all including access to contraception and other reproductive healthcare options?

How will you ensure all girls have safe, equal access to the outdoors and nature? 

Foreign Policy

As conflict rises around the world, what will you do to ensure women and girls are part of the prevention and resolution of conflict, especially as their participation in peace processes secures longer-lasting peace?

The UK’s fulfilment of its international obligations is critical for women and girls abroad and at home. How will you ensure this is the foundation for foreign, development, humanitarian, trade, defence, climate and migration policies?

What will you do to increase the quantity and quality of funding going directly to women’s rights organisations eg those leading climate and humanitarian response in their communities?

Key Facts:

Women’s representation in politics and public life

Women are 51% of the population but only 35% of MPs in the last Parliament. Disabled people are over 20% of the population but after the last election there were only 5 MPs who identified as disabled. A truly representative Parliament would have 130 disabled MPs.

Research found BAME women MPs received 41% of abusive tweets, despite there being nearly eight times as many white MPs in the study.

Only 37% of women MPs believe that the culture in Parliament is inclusive for them, compared to 55% of men.

Research shows that in 2021, a total of £4.1 billion worth of grants was awarded to charities, but the women and girls sector, which seeks to empower and support women to have a voice, received just 1.8% of these.

Ending Violence Against Women And Girls

1 in 4 women have experienced rape or sexual assault as an adult.

Specialist services for victims/survivors of VAWG are underfunded leading to over 61% of referrals to women’s refuges in England in 2022-23 being declined.

Migrant women with no recourse to public funds face higher risks of remaining with violent perpetrators, destitution, or deportation if they cannot access vital services.

69% of girls reported boys making 'toxic' comments about girls and women at school.

Across five major social media platforms, 1 in 5 posts about women are highly toxic, with Black women receiving the brunt of the most toxic messages.

One in four women in England and Wales have experienced domestic abuse in their lifetime.

In the last year alone, 5.5 million UK women had their money and resources controlled by a current or ex-partner with Black, Asian and minoritised women nearly twice as likely than White women to experience economic abuse.

Women and Girls Economic Equality

The mean Gender pay gap for all workers is 13.2%. In 2023, women earned £574 less than men per month  on average. Disabled women face the highest pay gap at 35% compared to non-disabled men. Unequal pay contributes to a gender pension gap of 37.9%.

28% of women cite a ‘cost of living increase’ as their main reason for debt in 2023 –substantially higher than the proportion of men citing this reason.

40% of women who aren't currently working said that access to flexible work would mean they could take on more paid work. 77% of all women agreed that they would be more likely to apply for a job that advertises flexible working options.

Analysis found mothers earn £4.44 less per hour in weekly earnings than fathers. Mothers with two children take home 26% less income than women without children, whilst fathers see a bonus – men with at least two children are paid 22% more than those without. 61% of parents with children under age 5 said that they or their partner have reduced the number of hours they work due to lack of availability or high childcare costs, increasing to 67% for Asian parents and 75% for parents of disabled children.

Women and Girls Health

Nearly 600,000 women across the UK are waiting for Gynaecology treatment, with gynaecology waiting lists growing the most in percentage terms of all elective specialties since the pandemic.

Maternal mortality for Black women is currently almost four times higher than for White women. Significant disparities also exist for women of Asian and mixed ethnicity.

Abortion and vasectomy rates are rising at unprecedented levelsdriven by the cost of living crisis making children unaffordable, a lack of access to contraception, and cuts to spending on sexual health services.

89% of girls and young women (aged 7-21) feel generally anxious or worried. Those more likely to feel this way include those who are neurodiverse disabled or those who identify as LGBTQ+

Foreign Policy

From 1992 to 2019, women averaged only 13% of negotiators, 6% of mediators, and 6% of signatories in major global peace processes.

Including women in peace processes makes peace agreements 35% more likely to last at least 15 years

In 2022 less than 1% of UK bilateral climate finance targeted gender equality specifically and less than 0.2% reached the hands of women’s rights organisations.

Signed by:

  1. Jemima Olchawski, CEO, The Fawcett Society
  2. Professor Helen Pankhurst CBE, Convener, Centenary Action
  3. Sarah Ronan, Director, Early Education and Childcare Coalition
  4. Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, René Cassin
  5. Bee Rowlatt, Chair, Wollstonecraft Society
  6. BuyToBenefit
  7. Jennifer Nadel, Co-Director, Compassion in Politics 
  8. Laura Sercombe, CEO GFS (Girls Friendly Society)
  9. Margaret Owen, President, Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD) 
  10. Kate Metcalf, Co-Director, Wen (Women's Environmental Network)
  11. Sophie Marple, Director, Mothers Climate Action Network
  12. Annette Lawson, Ambassador, NAWO
  13. Professor Anna Birch , Artistic Director, Fragments & Monuments performance and film company
  14. Cat Sutherland, Secretary, Graduate Women Scotland (GWS)
  15. Eva Tabbasam, Director, Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS)
  16. Ghadah Alnasseri, Co-Executive Director, Imkaan
  17. Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women's Budget Group
  18. Joanne Jopling, CEO, Young Womens Outreach Project 
  19. Corinne Devine, CEO, Women's Health in South Tyneside (WHiST)
  20. Su Moore, CEO, The Jo Cox Foundation 
  21. Samantha Jones, DCEO, Rape Crisis Tyneside & Northumberland
  22. Business and Professional Women UK
  23. Widows Rights International Trustees
  24. Neelam Rose,  Advocacy Officer,  Muslim Women’s Network UK
  25. Joanne Armstrong, Member Support, Marketing and Communications Officer, Represent Women
  26. Elaine Slater, Chief Executive Officer, Tyneside Women's Health
  27. Cullagh Warnock, member, One Million Women and Girls campaign
  28. Rose Caldwell, CEO, Plan International UK 
  29. Lyanne Nicholl, CEO, 50:50 Parliament
  30. Andrea Simon, Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition
  31. Dinah Musindarwezo, Womankind Worldwide, Director of Policy and Communications
  32. Melissa Keveren, Founder, Girls Who Talk Politics
  33. Rhoda Morrow, Mental Health Development Worker
  34. Vanessa Vallely OBE, WeAreTheCity
  35. Claire Reindorp, CEO, Young Women's Trust
  36. Andrea Vukovic, Deputy Director, Women for Refugee Women
  37. Professor Miranda Horvath, University of Suffolk
  38. Violence Against Women and Girls Research Network
  39. Vivienne Hayes, CEO, Women's Resource Centre
  40. Mollin Delve, CEO, PHOEBE
  41. Khedijah Mohammed-Nur, Co-Founder, Network of Eritrean Women-UK
  42. Vandna Gohil, CEO, Nottingham Women's Centre 
  43. Professor Aisha K. GILL, Professor of Criminology
  44. Dr Marsha Scott, CEO, Scottish Women's Aid
  45. Sam Smethers, Interim CEO, Surviving Economic Abuse
  46. Alison Boydell, Co-founder Jurors Understanding Rape is Essential Standard (JURIES)
  47. Gabriela de Oliveira, Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns, Glitch
  48. Priya Sahni-Nicholas & Jo Wittams, Co-Executive Directors, The Equality Trust
  49. Sahdaish Pall - CEO - Sikh Women's Aid
  50. Susie McDonald, CEO, Tender Education and Arts
  51. Justine Roberts, CEO, Mumsnet
  52. Emily Chalke and Minke van Til, Co-Directors, Ella's
  53. Rasheda Malcolm, CEO, The WILDE Foundation
  54. Dianne Greyson, Founder #EthnicityPayGap Campaign
  55. Surwat Sohail, CEO, Roshni Birmingham
  56. Tabitha Morton, CEO, UN Women UK
  57. Helen McEachern, CEO, CARE International UK
  58. Diana Nammi, CEO, IKWRO - Women's Rights Organisation
  59. Victoria Vasey, Director, Women's Equality Network Wales
  60. Jilly Rogers, President, National Council of Women GB 
  61. Joeli Brearley, CEO, Pregnant Then Screwed
  62. Sam Clifford, CEO, Jewish Women's AId
  63. Akeela Ahmed MBE, Founder, She Speaks We Hear
  64. Rachel Grocott, CEO, Bloody Good Period 
  65. Sarbjit Ganger, Asian Women's Resource Centre
  66. Ellen Miller, CEO, SafeLives 
  67. Natalie Collins, CEO, Own My Life
  68. Louise McCudden, UK Head of External Affairs, MSI Reproductive Choices
  69. Jasmine Mohammad, Director, Safety4Sisters
  70. Ros McNeil, Assistant General Secretary, National Education Union
  71. Elaine Crory, Women's Sector Lobbyist, Women's Resource & Development Agency
  72. Bekah Legg, CEO, Restored
  73. Estelle du Boulay, Director, Rights of Women
  74. Dr Ranee Thakar, President, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  75. Melissa Green, Chief Executive, The Women's Institute
  76. Samsunear Ali, Acting Chief Executive, Bawso
  77. Angie Airlie, CEO, Stay Safe East
  78. Lynne Griffiths, Founder and CEO, AG Communications Ltd
  79. Frank Mullane MBE, CEO, Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse (AAFDA)
  80. Tracy Doig, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns, The Circle
  81. James Robertson, Director of Campaigns, Sortition Foundation
  82. Stacy Smith CEO Her Centre
  83. Selma Taha, Executive Director, Southall Black Sisters
  84. Girlguiding 
  85. Catherine Murphy, Executive Director, Engender
  86. Yasmin Rehman, CEO, Juno Women's Aid 
  87. Farah Nazeer, CEO,  Women’s Aid
  88. Laura Marks CBE, co-Chair, Alliance of Jewish Women
  89. Police Spies Out Of Lives
  90. Dr Alexandra Meakin, Lecturer in British Politics, University of Leeds 
  91. Susan Banducci, Professor, University of Exeter
  92. Jennie Walker Kernow Soroptimists (SI Kernow) Team Leader
  93. Joy Doal, CEO, Anawim
  94. Aisha Ali-Khan, Campaigner 
  95. Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy, Disability Rights UK 
  96. Kirsty Kitchen, Head of Policy, Birth Companions
  97. Gail Heath, CEO, Pankhurst Trust (incorporating Manchester Women's Aid)
  98. Paul Carbury, Chief Executive,Smallwood Trust
  99. Timi Okuwa, CEO, Black Equity Organisation 
  100. Melissa Keveren, Founder, Girls Who Talk Politics
  101. Alice Coren, CEO, Remade Wigan
  102. Hollie Venn, CEO, Sheffield Women's Aid
  103. Anna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director, Close the Gap
  104. Indy Cross, Chief Executive, Agenda Alliance
  105. Nadia Ali - Stockport Women and Girls Network Lead
  106. Jessica Brannan, CEO, POW Nottingham
  107. Samantha Fisher, CEO, Trafford Domestic Abuse Services
  108. Bev Jullien, CEO, Mothers' Union
  109. Bianca Pitt, Co-founder Slow Grown Farm
  110. Anna Whitehouse, founder Mother Pukka
  111. The Women's Centre Cornwall
  112. Dr. Jess Fagin (University of Exeter)
  113. Hannah Stevens, CEO, Elect Her
  114. Gabriela Quevedo - Advocacy, Community and Learning Director - Latin American Women's Aid (LAWA)
  115. Lisa Dando. Director, Brighton Women's Centre
  116. Novlet Holness, CEO, Nottinghamshire Sexual Violence Support Services
  117. Revd Dr Carrie Ford, Director, Genderwise.Net
  118. Laura Bates, Founder, The Everyday Sexism Project.
  119. Dr Sarabajaya Kumar, Founder, The Disabled Women in Politics Network
  120. Aoife Clements, Founder, 50:50NI
  121. Prof. Rosie Campbell, Director, Global Institute for Women's Leadership