subscribe: Posts | Comments

Gender balance in Parliament: action now

0 comments

Fawcett Society, survey, gender balance, Parliament, quotas, action needed, We must take proactive steps now to address women’s under-representation.

New research from the Fawcett Society shows that although today marks 100 years since the first women won the vote, less than half of young women think equal representation in Parliament will be achieved in their lifetime.

The figure is significantly lower overall, with only 37 per cent of people believing they will live to see a gender-equal Parliament.

In contrast the poll also revealed that people recognise that that women’s representation is better for our politics, with nearly half (47 per cent) of all people saying women MPs make politics ‘more relevant to people like me’.

The research is clear: improving women’s representation makes political sense.

But we should all be worried that people, even younger women, do not believe this will happen in their lifetimes.

As we mark 100 years since some women secured the vote, isn’t it time we saw meaningful action to address the imbalance of power?

Just 32 per cent of MPs are women, and at current rates of progress it will take until 2062 to achieve equal representation.

The poll goes on to reveal that support is high amongst under-45s for legal quotas requiring parties to have equal numbers of male and female candidates, with twice as many supporting than opposing the idea – and that men under 35 are also twice as likely to support than oppose such a change.

But women and men believe gender balance in parliament is important.

67 per cent agree with the statement that “Having more women in Parliament means that issues which impact women are more likely to be discussed”; and

Women and men are about equally likely to agree with this statement (70 per cent and 65 per cent respectively)

And women and men agree that women MPs make politics more relevant to them.

Just under half (47 per cent) of people agree that “Seeing more women in Parliament makes me feel that politics is relevant to people like me”;

6 in 10 women agree with this statement. But also, over a third (35 per cent) of men agree; and

Younger women polled are most likely to agree. 75 per cent of women aged 18-24 surveyed agree with the statement, compared to 55 per cent of 65+.

But people are not optimistic that equal representation will be achieved in their lifetimes.

Only 37 per cent of people agree that Parliament will have equal numbers of women and men in their lifetime;

Women are actually slightly more optimistic than men, 40 per cent of women agree compared to 33 per cent of men; and

Just 46 per cent of women under 35 agree that they will see a gender-equal parliament in their lifetime.

And there is broad support for interventions to speed up the pace of change with more people agreeing than disagreeing.

44 per cent of people agree that “In order to get more women into parliament, I think that each political party should set themselves targets for women candidates”. 31 per cent disagree;

Women are more likely to agree than men (49 per cent vs. 38 per cent);

42 per cent of people agree that “In order to get more women into Parliament, I think that each political party should put in place a system that requires that they have equal numbers of women and men as candidates”. 32 per cent disagree;

A third of men support this proposal (33 per cent) and over half of women (51 per cent);

Younger women in the survey are more likely to agree. 58 per cent of 18-24 year-old women polled agree with the statement compared to 38 per cent of those 65+;

Young men polled are as likely as young women polled to agree with this statement. 61 per cent of 18-34 year-old men in the sample agree (compared to 58 per cent of 18-34 year-old women); and

Older men polled are less likely to agree with the statement – but over 1 in 5 men over 65 questioned still agree.

There is also support for a law change requiring parties to have equal numbers of women and men candidates, however opinion is more divided between women and men on this point.

Over a third of people (36 per cent) would go further and agree that “In order to get more women into Parliament, I think that the government should change the law so that political parties are required to have equal number of women and men as candidates”. 38 per cent disagree.

Looking at under-45s, 48 per cent of people agree with the proposal, with only 24 per cent disagreeing.

44 per cent of women agree with the statement and 27 per cent of men. This means that nearly 3 in 10 men support a law requiring parties to have equal numbers of women and men as candidates. However, 27 per cent of women and 51 per cent of men disagree.

Young women polled are more likely than older women to support a law of equal number of women and men candidates: 53 per cent of 18-24 year-olds and 51 per cent of 25-34 year-olds, compared to 31 per cent of over-65s in the sample agreed with the statement.

Young men are more likely than older men to support a law so that political parties are required to have equal numbers of women and men as candidates. 51 per cent of 18-34 year-olds agree this should be introduced compared to 14 per cent of the over-65s. Only 25 per cent of the younger age group disagree.

To address women’s under-representation Fawcett is calling for:

The barriers to women’s political participation to be removed and all parties to commit to equal representation, set targets or legislate;

An independent process with meaningful sanctions to tackle sexual harassment in parliament, political parties and local government;

Parliament and local government to be modernised, introducing paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave for elected representatives; and

Commence Section 106 of the Equality Act to require political parties to collect and publish candidate diversity monitoring data.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “This research is clear, improving women’s representation makes political sense but we should all be worried that people, even younger women, do not believe this will happen in their lifetimes.

“The fact that progress has stalled shows that we must take proactive steps now to address women’s under-representation.

“That means legislating to require parties to take action.

“It also means cleaning up our politics with an independent mechanism and meaningful sanctions to address sexual harassment in parliament, in our parties and in local government.

“We have just seen a cross-party group of women MPs secure baby leave in parliament for the first time.

“Women MPs have also been leading the way in defending women’s rights post-Brexit, campaigning on domestic violence and in calling for misogyny to be made a hate crime.

“These issues simply would not be addressed without the women in parliament there to do it.”

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *