The Centre for Women and Democracy, Electoral Reform Society, Fawcett Society, Hansard Society and Unlock Democracy, have joined forces to launch Counting Women In, a new campaign to demand political parties take action to ensure greater gender balance in the UK political system.
The lack of female involvement in UK politics is the canary in the mining shaft; it is a particularly visible example of how the system fails to represent people more widely. The problem gets worse the further up the foodchain you go: there are a higher proportion of female councillors than female MPs and a higher proportion of female MPs than female cabinet members. Decisions of national importance, that affect us all, are being made without women round the table. The different experiences and perspectives of one half of the country are not being heard. The coalition negotiations last May was conducted without a single woman in the room.
The lack of women at the top table of politics also sends a clear signal to other spheres of public life that excluding women from positions of power is acceptable –- only when Parliament and Government are fairly representative can we truly hold up a mirror to other areas of life and demand the same.
At the current rate of progress, a child born today will be drawing her pension before they see gender equality in the UK Parliament.
It is a big agenda, so we're starting by calling for something relatively simple: we want the Prime Minister to fulfil his pre-election pledge of ensuring that 11/3 of his ministers be women by the end of his first term as Prime Minister.- Currently just 20 out of 119 ministers are women.
There are many debates to be had about how precisely we might achieve gender balance in parliament, but without pressure coming from the top, even the best intentioned measures will come to nothing.
For example, the last government established a cross-party Speaker's Conference to look at practical measures to increase diversity within parliament. Despite it managing to reach consensus and publishing its conclusions in January last year, since then we have heard nothing. It simply isn't good enough for political leaders to mouth platitudes while repeatedly failing to deliver anything meaningful. It is time we demanded better.
You can start to mount the pressure today by signing the Counting Women In Petition to the to the Prime Minister asking him to keep his promise to ensure that 1/3 of ministers are women. Sign the petition now.