This is no longer a man’s world - our politics needs to catch up
Last week, a photograph of the CEO luncheon at the Munich Security Conference was widely ridiculed as it showed a large room packed with exclusively white men of a certain age. With countless reports showing the benefits of diversity in decision making, it was no wonder that this group of leaders seemed absurdly out of touch.
In terms of gender equality, British politics is almost unrecognisable compared to the start of the century. Half of the Great Offices of State are held by women – similarly, half are held by non-white politicians. The Labour Party may be doing away with its controversial all-women shortlists: women now account for 51 per cent of MPs. Under the Equality Act, all-women shortlists can only be used where females are under-represented.
There is much more to be done if Parliament is to look like the country it represents. Despite its diverse back benches, the Labour Party is yet to elect a woman leader; meanwhile, of the four largest parties, the Conservatives have the lowest proportion of women MPs, at just 25 per cent.
Reasons cited by women for not wanting to enter politics include disruption to family life; fear of violence and harassment; lack of work-life balance, and the need for some MPs to relocate to their constituency. There are also issues around lack of confidence – research by the 50:50 campaign shows that a woman needs to be encouraged to stand three times before she considers putting herself forward.
Having more women in politics is beneficial in terms of legislation; MPs including Nickie Aiken and Rachel Maclean have been transforming attitudes to menopause policy, whilst the Domestic Abuse Bill that was passed last year includes a much broader view of domestic violence, encompassing aspects such a coercive control and financial abuse, thanks to the advocacy of Maria Miller and other female MPs who relentlessly campaign against violence towards women.
I was alarmed when Mark Zuckerberg first testified in front of Congress at the lack of basic digital knowledge amongst legislators. Clips of lawmakers asking questions such as “how does Facebook make money?” and “will you commit to ending Finsta?” left younger voters aghast at what can only be described as ignorance of elected officials.
At Conservative Young Women, we are working to encourage women under 35 to explore careers in politics
Age diversity in Parliament shouldn’t be regarded as a “nice to have”- it is urgent. From banking to dating, our world is increasingly online – and the birth of the Metaverse and Web3 is only going to accelerate this trend.
If you aren’t familiar with the terms Metaverse and Web3 – you’re proving my point.
The disinformation war that is accompanying the invasion of Ukraine shows how woefully ill-equipped we are at tackling the most dangerous elements of the internet. The most important bills that will be passed in the coming years will concern digital legislation – we have the opportunity to end the dystopia but only if informed decisions are taken.
These decisions must include young people – whilst it’s important to have older law makers to represent pensioners and middle-aged voters – it is imperative that we make politics more accessible to young people who, as digital natives, can help steer the UK to a safer and healthier place online.
At Conservative Young Women, we are working to encourage women under 35 to explore careers in politics and to run for office at local and national level. Through mentorship and training we are helping create a pipeline that will see a more gender and age diverse legislature in years to come. This International Women’s Day, consider asking an inspirational young women to put herself forward.
Ella Robertson McKay is Chair of Conservative Young Women
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