Month: June 2016

Meet the Women #4

Meet the Women is a regular blog from new women MSPs who support our campaign. This week it’s Gilliam Martin, SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East86857ea3-f669-48e2-af63-0a573c170e75

I never imagined myself as a politician and if I’m honest, I’m still a little bit dazed at the fact that I now am. I’ve always held very strong political opinions and have been arguing for an independent Scotland as long as I can remember arguing about anything, but my aspirations always lay elsewhere in terms of a career.

Up until now there have been two main threads running through my working life- the media and teaching. I have been a Further Education lecturer on and off since I graduated, mixed in with working for production and media relations companies and latterly running my own corporate and training video company.  Throughout my teaching career I’ve always been pushing my female students to overcome the barriers of a fairly male dominated television production industry and step outwith their comfort zone. So when it came to being politically involved, I took a bit of my own advice.

Like so many other women I know, it took the independence referendum for me to stop sitting on my sofa shouting at the television and get out and start actively campaigning. Women for Independence that was my first formal membership of a political organisation. I felt, like so many of us that the advantages of a Yes vote from the female perspective were getting lost, and that there were just not enough women at the town hall debates, either in the audience or on panels. So I took personal responsibility for that in my area and set up my own branch of the group, The Indy Quines.

There’s something about taking your first steps into a political arena alongside other women that made it feel more comfortable for me- I still haven’t come to grips with defining exactly what that is. When I felt ready to join the SNP, I was given the confidence to get active within the party by my campaign experience as one of the Indy Quines. I’d like to think that women will see the sheer number and variety of female MSPs in the SNP group and feel that the political arena in Scotland is less daunting. With the work of organisations like Women 50:50 and WFI as well as some political parties’ gender equality policies, it’s my hope that together we’ll break down the psychological as well as the societal barriers to more women feeling they might want to enter politics. Perhaps if the landscape looked like this 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to figure out it’s where I belonged!

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Meet the Women #3

Meet Monica Lennon Scottish Labour MSP for Central Scotland:monica

Being one of the 51 new MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament makes me tremendously proud. In total there are only 129 MSPs so when I wake up in the morning I feel both a huge sense of empowerment and responsibility. I believe in the power of politics to do enormous good. I am already in love with our Scottish Parliament. It is a place where we can transform Scotland in the interests of all our constituents. All too often politicians talk down our expectations but I refuse to talk about what we can’t do. My Scottish Parliament is one of opportunity and possibility. I can’t wait to represent the views and ambitions of my constituents. I want each and every one of them to feel that the Scottish Parliament belongs to them and reflects their lives.

As a feminist I am acutely aware that our Parliament does not yet represent all of us. Scottish Labour and the Scottish National Party are close to achieving gender balance but other political groups have failed. Some didn’t even try. The Tories to be precise.

As one of few women elected in Scotland as a local councillor (24 per cent) and now a MSP (35 per cent) I will never be satisfied until women have the same chances as men to make our laws and decide how our taxes are raised and spent.

Women 50:50 excites me. I have met so many inspiring women from various political parties as a result of the campaign.  In my new role as an MSP I am committed to doing everything I can to advance women’s representation. Including men in this cause is a big area of untapped potential.

Challenging gender inequality isn’t simply women’s work. We need feminists however they define their gender to come together to fight inequality and sexism. I hope to use my term in the Scottish Parliament to help change our culture. With Scottish Council elections less than a year away, political parties should already be looking at their selection processes. Tired old excuses about women not being interested or the best candidate won, he just happens to be a man, simply won’t wash. Especially if the vast majority of your candidates aren’t women. My policy on gender inequality is one of zero tolerance. Women 50:50 rightfully campaigns for legislative gender quotas. All the evidence from around the world proves this is works. We have learned in Scotland that gender equality doesn’t trickle down. It’s not enough to have a women First Minister. I believe that we have a big opportunity to make democracy in Scotland a world leader in terms of women’s representation. I will be reaching out to MSPs across the chamber asking them to help make it so.