Women standing up to be Counted
In the UK despite women making up over 50% of the population, we make up only one in five MPs. The following content comes from Counting Women In
We want to hear all of your stories, whatever your background and whether you’ve overcome the odds or are still battling against them. We want to show the real women behind the statistics and how far the UK still has to go before women have an equal voice in how this country is run.
Layla Moran, Teacher and Parliamentary Candidate in 2010
“I very nearly decided not to stand as a candidate at all. While I felt passionate about the issues, I lacked the confidence to put myself forward. After taking part in the Campaign for Gender Balance however I was given skills and got honest feedback about my performance which helped me to realise that just like anything else, if you work hard at it, you can be great at it.
“Now that the electoral cycle is starting again, I am wondering whether I will be able to manage if and when my life changes? Can I be an MP and a mum? Or should I give up and wait until my child bearing years are behind me before I start again? The fact is this profession positively discourages real people from even applying because real people want to have an equal share in childcare. It’s absurd.
“We need more women in Parliament to represent all issues, not just family ones. Without them we only get half of the story. I wonder how many other women have given up because they weren’t able to balance life with politics.”
Rebecca Taylor, Lib Dem activist and Council candidate in 2011
“How can we claim to represent a population of millions of women with less than 50/50 gender representation in Parliament? As a Lib Dem activist I work alongside many women; as a Council candidate in 2011, I was in an all-male team.
“People don’t expect to be able to have the choice to vote for a woman: my hope is to stand and win a parliamentary seat to be part of giving people this choice.
“I’ve also applied to the Lib Dem Leadership Programme which supports those from under-represented groups to get
Grace Fletcher-Hackwood, Labour Councillor for Fallowfield ward in Manchester
“I’ve been involved in politics for ten years, and for some of that time I’ve had to get used to being one of the only women in the room.
“The most positive I’ve felt about politics is when I’ve been encouraged by other women. I support the Counting Women In campaign because the under-representation of women in politics isn’t a coincidence or an irrelevance – it’s a symptom of the inequalities that still pervade our society, and it’s a system that excludes half the population from having a proper say. The antidote is for women to work together and support each other – but we still need to change a culture that says a male-dominated Parliament is just the way it’s always going to be!
“Remember – there’s nothing inherent in women that prevents us from caring about politics. It’s the system that has to change.”
Michelle Thurgood, Conservative councillor, Tamworth
“Margaret Thatcher once said ‘if you want something saying ask a man. If you want something doing, ask a woman’. I’m not going to say that is true, but from my experience women don’t talk about doing something they do it (and then talk about it!). Anything that we can do to encourage ladies to get involved, speak up for what they believe in and most importantly deliver a change to the way ‘we’ do politics is something that every woman in politics should be supporting.”
Jeanne Rathbone, Labour Party member
‘I support Counting Women IN but I am concerned about trying to encourage women to squeeze into male dominated institutions without changing the culture of these institutions.
‘I thought differently back in the late sixties when I joined the Labour Party and as a burgeoning feminist I went on to become convener of our constituency Women’s Section. In 1982, the two constituencies north and south Battersea were to be amalgamated and as the local applicants were men I decided to enter the fray. At one ward selection meeting one questioner started by saying “Now, Jeanne love, we know that you know all about women but….’ I can’t remember his query or areas of policy he pursued but felt so patronised and belittled. It certainly put me off the idea that women should be trying to play the political game by men’s rules.
‘I believe that we have to challenge the legitimacy of all male/predominantly male platforms by putting the onus on men to refuse to be involved in unrepresentative platforms. We need equal participation of women in politics to counter the dire changes that have occurred in the past few decades without women on board.’
Daisy Cooper, 2010 Parliamentary Candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Suffolk Coastal (Day job: Director, Commonwealth Advisory Bureau)
“I believe that Parliament should look and operate like the country for which it works. Britain is diverse, but Parliament is too male, pale, stale, and stuffy.
“I was astonished by the number of people that told me they wanted to see more good women in Parliament, when I stood in the 2010 General Election. I was equally astonished that many successful women then said they were pleased I was standing, because they “just never could”. Clearly, politics is still seen as a man’s game – and in many respects, the archaic practices make it so. This needs to change. Having been accepted on to the Liberal Democrat Candidate Leadership Programme – established to increase the number of Lib Dem MPs from under-represented groups – I want to play my part in making Parliament a place where talented women can and want to work.
“We need a lot more women MPs and Peers. There are just two General Elections to reach the Counting Women In target of 50% women in Parliament. It’s ambitious but doable, and that’s why I’m supporting the campaign for Counting Women In.”
Alex Phillips, Green Councillor for Brighton & Hove City Council
“I think that it is vital that women of all ages, including young women like myself, get involved with politics. We need passionate advocates for other young women, so that there are at least an equal number of women as there are men involved in the policy-making process. Only then can we hope to achieve real gender equality on issues such as work, pay, and childcare, and only then can we hope for proper support for women who have been victims of domestic or sexual violence.”
Eva Tutchell, Labour Party Parliamentary candidate in 1997
“I am 70 years old and have been an active member of the Labour Party since I was a student.
“Although women are more visible in politics now, progress is still painfully slow. There are still far too few women in positions of power in British society in general. In a democracy, political decisions are vital to changing opinions and structures.
“I’m engaged in research which aims to tell the stories of women who have made it to the top in our society and those who are still struggling to be heard, so your campaign is dear to my heart.
” CWI, by bringing this subject to the attention of people who can effect change, provides support and sustenance to women who have the will, talents and skills to succeed in politics. We need your help to focus our efforts. Everyone in our society, men as well as women, will benefit when women have equal representation.”
Merlene Emerson, Parliamentary Candidate for Hammersmith 2010, Lib Dem Candidate for London Assembly May 2012
“I came from a Commonwealth country that traditionally did not encourage political participation. It took 25 years from my first arrival in the UK as a law student, to my decision finally to become naturalised as a UK citizen and to join a political party. One of the motivating factors was the wish to see my children grow up in a country that does not discriminate on gender nor ethnicity and which promotes meritocracy and a fairer society.
“Women are still sadly under represented both in the Boardroom as well as in Government. A recent World Bank report found empowering women to be ‘smart economics’.
“Looking ahead, I hope to follow in the footsteps of Anna Lo in Northern Ireland, and be successful in my bid to become a member of the London Assembly in 2012. I believe I can do more for Londoners as an elected representative.”
Francesca Beckett, Conservative Party member
“As a Conservative party member I believe that when men and women work together in politics we get better ideas and better outcomes. It’s ridiculous that in 2011 women make up 52% of the population but only 22% of MPs! How can our politicians make decisions that benefit women when so few women are at the table?”