Across all parties, voters mark their ballots based on who they believe will make the country, and on a wider scale the world, a better place. Something I think we can all agree on, across all party lines, is that making the country a better place involves the equality and liberation of women. I believe one hugely important way to ensure women reach their political potential is implementing 50% representation in our parliaments, public boards and councils.
Earlier this year, we had an opportunity to increase the representation of women in the UK parliament – and to an extent, we did it. Women now hold 29% of the seats in Westminster’s House of Commons and that is a huge improvement from the 23% we held before the election. This is the biggest increase in women MP’s since 1997 which is fantastic. For all we can celebrate this election as a win for women, which it arguably was, it’s important to note what needs to improve and how supporting a 50:50 gender balanced parliament can help us achieve this.
29% of women still means 71% are men; that still means women are hugely underrepresented in the House of Commons and creating the laws that affect women. In May, A Fair Deal for Women found that women are disproportionately, negatively affected by cuts to social services and provisions. The group, made up by 11 women’s rights charities, found that benefit cuts are more likely to affect poorer women, particularly through to the freezing of child benefits and tax credits. The World Economic Forum’s gender gap index listed the UK at 26, a fall of 8 places. This slip suggests a need to ensure women are kept at the forefront of political decision making and by introducing a 50% gender quota, we can ensure women are protected by the state rather than harmed by it.
Having more women decision makers is a priority, as is having more LGB women, women of colour, disabled women and trans women making decisions that affect them. Ensuring political spaces are no longer reserved for white, straight men is crucial for advancing the experiences of all traditionally social minority groups. And we need to reform our parliaments to do this, I have watched and lobbied for parliaments to be more inclusive for all my adult life, for them to be more accessible and less about macho posturing and shouty men – it’s sadly not changed much in my lifetime and we are kidding ourselves if we think it will without a different approach. We have been having the same conversations for too long about women’s inclusion in politics and if we keep waiting for behaviours and traditions to change by themselves I fear we will sadly still be having the same conversation for many years, and decades to come. The behaviours inside of parliaments remain largely unchanged and despite there being an increase of women they still have to negotiate the rows of pale-stale-males and fight for their place and their voices to be heard long after they have been elected.
As a working class woman active in politics, I know I am the lucky one. I believe by implementing a 50:50 gender quota, we can shatter the glass ceiling and ensure the most disadvantaged women have a say in the politics of Scotland and the UK.