“The more women we encourage to be the change in Westminster, the harder we will be to dismiss”
Politics can be a tough place to be a woman – but also very rewarding. That is why a new network is launching this week to empower women from all backgrounds to access Westminster and succeed, writes Emily Casey-Haworth
Westminster is not an easy place to be a woman.
Take it from us: we have all been there, and some of us are still there.
We are a group of women from across the political spectrum who work in and around Westminster, and we know better than most that being a woman in Westminster requires levels of resilience, patience and courage that most of us did not know we possessed before we walked into Portcullis House for the first time.
Westminster can also be a wonderful place to be a woman.
It is a place where – if you are lucky – you can find a network of intelligent, strong, likeminded women, bound by the shared experience of living and working within the Westminster bubble.
If you can find it, it is a network that will support you through the toughest days in Westminster and lift you higher on the best days. It is a network you will carry with you when you leave.
But if you are a woman in Westminster without access to such a network, it can be especially gruelling. If you are trying to get into Westminster without the resources that a network would provide, it can be doubly difficult.
This is why we came together to create ‘Women in Westminster’. We are a voluntary organisation with the express aim to create that network for women in Westminster, and to support those applying for roles here.
For many women, especially BAME women, LGBTQ+ women and working-class women, Parliament is not a place that feels relatable, or welcoming; truthfully, who can blame them.
It has become increasingly difficult to deny that Westminster is plagued by institutional misogyny.
In one week alone last month, Westminster-related headlines were dominated by videos of violence against female protestors and alarm at the lack of protection afforded to female MPs who decide to start a family.
This all serves to create the impression that women do not belong in Westminster, and for those who make it will not be an easy ride. We can, and must, do better than that. We want to start by building a vehicle that enables women – particularly from under-represented backgrounds – to access Westminster, and to feel empowered when they are here.
The reason we must do better is simple: representation matters, and representation affects what issues are heard and which are ignored. This is true right the way down the Westminster food chain, from MPs to staffers and everything in between – the more women we encourage to be the change in Westminster, the harder we will be to dismiss.
We want to use our organisation to show women that they belong in Westminster. That we did it, and that they can too, and that when you make it, there is a group of women here and ready to support you.
Our message to the women who come to us is simple: your voice matters, your experience matters, you belong in Westminster, too.
The ‘Women in Westminster’ launch event is taking place on Wednesday 10th July, 7pm at the Red Lion. Visit: www.womeninwestminster.com for more info
Emily Casey-Haworth is a founding member of Women in Westminster and worked as a parliamentary researcher between 2016 and 2018. She now works at a strategic communications firm