August 24, 2019
It might appear that with two female prime ministers under our belt the UK has got it cracked when it comes to Women in politics. However, to steal a phrase from one of those prime ministers; it would seem that “you may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
Women Arent To Blame For The Gender Divide In Parliament – Our Politicians Are
In 1984, when Margaret Thatcher uttered those words, the number of women in parliament stood at just 23, with 13 of these Conservative and 10 Labour, making up an abysmal 4% of the Commons. This figure is put into even starker context when you consider that women had been allowed in parliament since the parliament (Qualification of Women) Act in 1918. In 66 years, the number women MPs had increased by just 22. Despite the number of women candidates rising at almost every general election since 1966, the numbers remain painfully low when it comes to party selection.“But that’s behind us now,” I hear you cry.
But in fact, it isn’t. In 2019, we’re still struggling to get anywhere near to gender parity in parliament and it is having a detrimental effect on policy; from social to economic, foreign to domestic.
Currently there are 208 women in the House of Commons, an all-time high of 32%, but hold your applause because women make up 51% of the population and that readers, is what I would call bad maths. It also disappointingly puts us in 39th position globally when it comes to female representation in parliament.
Of our two leading parties, Labour take the lead with 119 (45%) female MPs and the Conservatives come a distant second with 67 (21%). 
Confusion lies in the fact that despite the number of women candidates rising at almost every general election since 1966, the numbers remain painfully low when it comes to party selection. Whilst the corporate world has had to be increasingly transparent when it comes to gender pay gaps, the political world largely remains a black hole. 
Research has overwhelmingly shown that the main issue here is demand, rather than supply. Put simply, women aren’t the problem – parties are. More needs to be done to tackle widespread incidences of both direct and indirect discrimination, ranging from gendered assumptions about women’s capabilities to explicit sexual harassment. Increasing the number of women in parliament isn’t equality for the sake of equality, it has a tangible impact on the daily lives of people across the UK.It should also be acknowledged that the practical barriers associated with running for parliament are harder to overcome for women; it requires substantial financial resources, which considering women still earn on average 18.4% less than men is tricky, what’s more it is still the case that women are overwhelmingly primary care givers, meaning the extreme time commitments required to run a campaign are acutely difficult to manage. 
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, you don’t need to look far to find examples of men and women doing more to combat the persistent underrepresentation of women in parliament. 
One such example is the 50:50 parliament Campaign. 
Founded in 2013 by Frances Scott when she realised that she had never heard an MP or policy maker discuss issues that mattered to her. Scott set off on a mission to increase the number of women’s voices in parliament and what started as a petition, led to an inquiry into women in the House of Commons in which 50:50 made a number of recommendations on how to make the House more accessible and inclusive. 
Seven years on, 50:50’s operation has expanded rapidly, but we can’t do it alone, and women are not the only group that is unrepresented in government. 
A balance of voices within parliament is vital to ensure that society’s interests are represented and understood fully in the formation of laws and policies. Increasing the number of women in parliament isn’t equality for the sake of equality, it has a tangible impact on the daily lives of people across the UK. When women have been brought into the decision-making process, they have pioneered life changing policies on equal pay and pay transparency, maternity and paternity cover and most recently sexual harassment with the introduction of legislation on up-skirting. If we carry on at the current rate it will take over 50 years to achieve a 50:50 parliament, so let’s keep fighting the battle until its won, and parliament reflects the society it represents.  HuffPost UK is partnering with The Big Ideas festival, a day of political and cultural conversation across a range of topics from politics and society to communities and arts, taking place on 31 August in Mudchute, East London. Related... 1 In 8 Employers Still Hesitate Over Hiring Women They Think Might Get Pregnant Gagging Orders Clearly Discriminate Against Women – So Why Are They Still Allowed?
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