Report investigates lack of women’s representation in power


There have been just 450 women MPs in Britain’s history – below the number of male MPs who currently sit in the Commons, according to a new report.

The Sex and Power 2015 report, coordinated by the Centre for Women and Democracy’s Nan Sloane, is a new study on women in politics since the General Election. It found that at the last General Election, 54% of Labour candidates in target seats were women, as well as 45% of Greens, 41% of Lib Dems, 35% of Conservatives, and 37% of the SNP’s candidates.

The number of female candidates is increasing – up to 26% from 21% in 2010, with the Greens, Labour and the SNP having the most (37%, 36% and 33% respectively), while just 12% of UKIP candidates were female.
The research has also found that women make up:

– Under a third (32%) of government Cabinet members, and 24% of junior government posts
– 26% of the whole government (seven in the Cabinet and 20 in ministerial roles)
– Only 21% of the government’s Implementation Taskforces – key decision-making bodies
– 24% of Cabinet Committee and Sub-Committee places. There are no female chairs of these committees.
– just 22% of Select Committee chairs elected in June and 33% of the 303 places on Parliamentary committees.

Outside of the government, women make up 55% of the Liberal Democrats’ new Shadow Cabinet, 52% of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, and 50% of SNP spokespeople.

The report recommends five key areas for improving female representation:
– Parliament and parties should implement paid maternity and paternity leave, revisit working hours, and offer diversity awareness training and advice. All parties should have rigorous complaints procedures regarding sexual harassment
– the Electoral Commission should gather information on the diversity of candidates, with Equalities Monitoring Forms
– Parties should take urgent steps to boost the number of female candidates – reviewing selection procedures, publishing action plans and considering positive action
– Parties should commit to 50:50 cabinet/shadow cabinet teams by 2020
– The media should cover female politicians in line with the NUJ Code of Conduct

Nan Sloane, report author and Director of the Centre for Women & Democracy said: “The outcomes for women in Parliament at this year’s election are largely encouraging, but they also demonstrate how far we have to go, not just in terms of women MPs per se, but also when it comes to the nitty gritty of government and, in particular, to the House of Lords, which remains both undemocratic and unrepresentative. We get real change when both political parties and the wider Westminster village focus on achieving it, and hopefully this report will help them to do that in a meaningful way.”

The report came as details were revealed of one of the platforms on which the Women’s Equality Party will be standing, ahead of next week’s full policy launch. They are calling for a gender quota system to select MPs at the next two general elections as part of a bid to bring about 50:50 representation of men and women by 2025. They believe it is possible to achieve this by enforcing all-women shortlists in the seats of at least two thirds of MPs who will be retiring over the course of the next two elections.

Picture credit: Wikipedia.

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