Women have been in the British cabinet for 83 years, but the fight for representation isn’t over

Today marks the anniversary of the first female appointment into the British cabinet, but statistics show women's progress in politics has been poor.

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Today marks the anniversary of Margaret Bondfield’s symbolic appointment into the British cabinet, a milestone for women everywhere trying to smash the glass ceiling into politics.

Margaret-BondfieldHowever, statistics from the Labour Women’s Network (LWN) show that progress for women in politics has been minimal and slow:

• There has still only ever been one woman prime minister. Forty-two men have had the job since 1715;

Only five of the current 23 cabinet members are women;

• Currently there are 505 male MPs in parliament and 145 women;

• Eighty-one of those 145 women are Labour.

Margaret Bondfield was MP for Northampton and appointed Minister for Labour in 1929 by Ramsay MacDonald. She was formerly assistant general secretary for the Shop Workers’ Union and also formed the first all-female trade union (the National Federation of Women Workers).

She was the first woman member of the TUC executive and went on to become the first female president of the TUC general council.

It is understandable if a country who suffered under Thatcher may live in fear of a repeat if another woman reaches the top. However, time and time again, research suggests that a gender balance is more efficient in areas like business, so why are these rules not applied in politics also?

The Labour Women’s Network was set up in 1988 to train, mentor and advise Labour women wanting to be selected for parliament. Graduates of their flagship parliamentary programme have entered parliament at every election since 1992.


See also:

Women, politics and the crisis: We cannot ignore gender in politics 16 Jan 2012

Women’s History Month Profiles: Margaret Bondfield 6 Mar 2011

Women bear over two-thirds of Coalition’s tax rises and benefit cuts 6 Dec 2010


Joining the Labour Women’s Network costs only £15 and can be done here; if you are a man and want to support the LWN, you can do so here.


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