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Less than half of women under 35 think equal representation in Parliament will be achieved in their lifetime, according to new research from the Fawcett Society to mark 100 years since the first women won the vote.
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’.
Currently, just 32% of MPs are women. The poll shows 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. Some 58% of women under 35 agreed with quotas as did 61% of men under 35.
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, particularly older women and men. Support stands at 51% for both male and female 25-34 year olds.
While slightly more women than men agree that “Having more women in Parliament means that issues which impact women are more likely to be discussed”, there is a clear majority of 67% who back it. Moreover, just under half (47%) of people agree that “Seeing more women in Parliament makes me feel that politics is relevant to people like me.” This includes 60% of women and 35% of men, with younger women most likely to agree.
The Fawcett Society is calling for the removal of barriers to women’s political participation and for all parties to commit to equal representation, set targets or legislate. It also wants an independent process set up with meaningful sanctions to tackle sexual harassment in parliament, political parties and local government. While it backs the recent vote on baby leave for MPs, it says more needs to be done to modernise parliament and local government through introducing paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave for elected representatives. It also wants to see legislation enforced to require political parties to collect and publish candidate diversity monitoring data.
*Photo of Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested c/o Wikipedia.