Call for urgent action to make Parliament more inclusive

MPs say that Parliament needs to urgently act to ensure women feel more included as MPs.



Only 37% of women MPs agreed that ‘the culture in Parliament is inclusive for people like me’, compared to a majority of men, according to a new report.

The A House for Everyone: A Case for Modernising Parliament report from the Fawcett Society shows 69% of women MPs and 49% of all MPs have witnessed sexist behaviour in Parliament in the last five years and that 93% of women MPs said that online abuse or harassment has a negative impact on how they feel about being an MP. 73% of women MPs said they ‘do not use social media to speak on certain issues because of the abusive environment online’, compared to 51% of men

Without urgent action, Fawcett says these issues will further exacerbate the under-representation of women, particularly Black, minoritised and disabled women, in Westminster. It is calling for Parliament to establish an accountability mechanism that oversees and reports publicly on progress against recommendations made to date to create a more inclusive parliament.

It also wants Parliament to look into potential changes to sitting hours, online and proxy voting options and increased budget allocations for MPs’ staffing, office running costs and childcare needs so that MPs can fulfil the increasing demands of the role both in Westminster and their constituencies.

Other recommendations cover ensuring the Electoral Commission and local police are sufficiently resourced and equipped to enforce legal sanctions for intimidating candidates, campaigners, and representatives during election periods and amending the Online Safety Bill to better address the disproportionate levels of online abuse experienced by women, especially those from Black and minoritised backgrounds, and increase the accountability of tech companies. And it calls on political parties to introduce quotas to increase women’s representation and ensure women, especially disabled women and women from Black and minoritised backgrounds, are being selected in winnable seats.

Another report by the Fawcett Society and Democracy Club shows that fewer than 5% (18 or 382) of local councils have achieved at least parity in gender representation. It calculates that, based on the current rate of change, there won’t be 50:50 representation until 2051.

The analysis shows that in August 2022, just 36% of the 19,212 elected councillors across the UK were women. This is similar to representation of women in the House of Commons (35%). At a regional level, no council has gender parity, with London the highest at 45% women and Northern Ireland the lowest at 26%. Moreover, the proportion of women in councils in 2022 is only 2 percentage points higher than in a snapshot taken in 2018. No party has gender parity, though there is significant variation. The highest proportion of women is found in the Labour (47%), Green (43%) and Scottish National Parties (41%), whilst the lowest proportion is found in the Conservative Party (29%), the SDLP (29%), DUP (21%) and Ulster Unionist Parties (20%).

Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:Women are significantly impacted by decisions made at the local level and are more likely to rely on the services our councils run from social care to social housing. Yet progress on women’s representation in local government is moving at a snail’s pace. That such a vast majority of local councils are male-dominated diminishes public life. Government, local authorities and political parties need to take action and record diversity data, set targets for women’s representation alongside other protected characteristics, and make being a local councillor more accessible to those with caring responsibilities.”

*Picture credit: StockSnap_P3IB71W6GW

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