At a recent celebration of Margaret Thatcher’s birthday, all the speakers giving tributes were men. And despite measures such as ‘all women shortlists’ taking place in some of the parties, there are only 146 female members of Parliament – just 22% of MPs. UKIP Daily asked three MEP candidates to answer the question: why are so few women attracted to a career in politics?
Louise Bours – #2, North West Region
I first entered the political world as a local Councillor in Cheshire. It became apparent very quickly why the majority of Councillor’s were male, middle class, retired and white: the entire system is geared towards that demographic. The dates and times of meetings for example, the lack of childcare or crèche facilities, and the complete indifference and often disdain shown toward female members was, at times, disturbing. If accessibility for women at local level is difficult, then I am sure that contemplating the thought of a career in politics is swiftly and deftly consigned to the ‘dream unfulfilled’ compartment of one’s head!
How can UKIP make itself more appealing to female voters? An increase in high profile women within the party would be a good start. I am not for one moment advocating any kind of ‘quota’ system or ‘female only’ short lists – I find the entire notion exceptionally insulting; however, encouraging and supporting more women into branch official roles would be a positive start.
The best candidate should always get the job, but often, the best candidate may not always be the obvious choice. Women can highlight a different perspective during a debate – they can ensure that a diverse and comprehensive discussion will always culminate in the best possible outcome – UKIP should embrace this opportunity.
If our wish is to be elected, we must first appeal to the electorate – all of the electorate – and 50% of that electorate is female. A strong, robust family and children’s policy combined with an articulate and confident female spokes person would be a great starting point. This is not ‘positive discrimination’, it is common sense – and in UKIP, that is what we are all about, isn’t it??
Julia Reid – #2, South West Region
In London during the 1960’s, the 11+ exam pass mark for girls was 60%-65%, compared to 45%-50% for boys, deliberately set that way because there were twice as many grammar school places for boys than girls. As an aside, although I came top in the 11+ maths mock exam, getting 100%, the boy who came second was given a slide rule as a prize. (I didn’t get anything for consistently coming top in maths and my father was furious.)
This scenario was no doubt played out all over the UK at that time, so fewer educational opportunities, coupled with the subliminal messages girls received as to what careers they were expected to follow (my school obviously didn’t think I’d ever have need of a slide rule), go some way towards explaining why there have been fewer women than men of my generation in politics (and in business management). As for me, I was lucky in that I had a father who continually told me that I was as good as any boy and could be whatever I wanted when I grew up.
The number of women in politics is gradually increasing, as more and more young women seize the opportunities that were denied their mothers and grandmothers, however, we still need more women in politics as all too often a female influence in many areas of government is missing.
Margot Parker – #2, East Midlands Region.
Over the past decade tremendous strides have been made by women entering the political arena. We have only to look at the splashes of colour among the greys and blues on both our front and back benches in the House of Commons to see that the imbalance between men and women is being redressed.
In the past some women may have been put off by the abrasive cut and thrust of Westminster politics. Today our women politicians speak up and are heard expressing their views and those of their party’s with eloquence and conviction.
“Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Does it matter that at present we have fewer women than men in Parliament? Yes I think it matters a great deal. If ever a balance is needed it is now. I believe that women are able to appreciate just what it means to a family that British Gas has just raised their prices by 9.2%! We need that balance to put forward the views of working families and yes we do know the cost of a loaf or a pint of milk. Much more than that, they will tell their male colleagues the home truths of balancing a political and family life.