Despite improvements in May, women only make up 26 per cent of the whole government
A major new report by a coalition of democracy organisations has revealed that there is still a ‘huge’ gap between male and female representation in politics. this is despite improvements that were made after the general election.
Sex and Power 2015, coordinated by the Centre for Women and Democracy’s Nan Sloane, is the first study on women in politics since the election. It shows that women make up :
- Under a third (32 per cent) of government Cabinet members, and 24 per cent of junior government posts
- 26 per cent of the whole government (seven in the Cabinet and 20 in ministerial roles)
- Only 21 per cent of the government’s Implementation Taskforces – key decision-making bodies
- 24 per cent of Cabinet Committee and Sub-Committee places. There are no female chairs of these committees.
- Outside of the government, women make up 55 per cent of the Liberal Democrats’ new Shadow Cabinet, 52 per cent of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, and 50 per cent of SNP spokespeople.
The report shows that, to date, there have been just 450 women MPs in Britain’s history – that’s less than the number of male MPs who currently sit in the Commons (459).
There have been improvements: women made up 26 per cent of all candidates on 7 May, up from 21 per cent in 2010. The Greens, Labour and the SNP had the most female candidates (37 per cent, 36 per cent and 33 per cent respectively), while just 12 per cent of UKIP candidates were female.
Nan Sloane, the author of report and the 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 coalition behind the report wants all parties to commit to 50:50 representation by 2020. It calls for parliament to revisit the issue of working hours to take into account the needs of members with caring responsibilities.
Unusually, the report also calls upon the media to ensure that they treat female politicians with the same ‘dignity and respect’ as men. It also encourages individual citizens to object to male-only platforms and panels.
Of the mainstream parties, the Greens have the best record on equal representation, and they have also been the first to respond to this research with a pledge for 50:50 representation.
Green Party deputy leader Amelia Womack said today:
“At next year’s London, Welsh and local elections we will encourage more women to stand, with the aim of them making up at least 50 per cent of our candidates.
“I would urge other parties to make concerted efforts to achieve the same. As things stand the concerns of women, who are often hardest hit by government spending cuts, are too easily brushed aside by the men in power.”
The Green Party’s leader, both of its parliamentarians (Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jenny Jones), two of its three MEPs and one of its two deputy leaders are women.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot ForwardLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.