Why So Few Women In Politics?

Woman-in-group-in-red The government should lead a debate on how to encourage more women to enter politics
as part of its electoral reform policies, one campaigner has said. There are only two women in senior roles in the cabinet; Theresa May is home secretary and Caroline Spelman is the environment minister. "This year we are going to discuss a new bill on reforming politics so why don't they, all together in this brave new era for politics, seriously have a debate about how they are going to get more women… in the house,” says Ceri Goddard – Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, an organisation which campaigns for equal rights for women not just in politics but also pay, pensions, justice and poverty. The problem, of course, isn’t limited to the UK, although this week has seen some progress in the US primary elections with victories by several prominent women. Interestingly – as reported by The Washington Post – these victories came without dwelling on gender or women’s issues. In California Meg Whitman is a female billionaire who has translated her business acumen into politics. She rarely talked about gender and campaigned for the majority of the time without her husband or sons present. She presented herself as a strong, solo businesswoman rather than as a mother or wife and in her victory speech she warned the career politicians that they face their worst nightmare “two businesswomen from the real world who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done.” All skills many women in business possess, so why do so few of them make the move to the political arena where these skills are so needed?

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  • http://www.thewomensbusinessclubs.com Kelly Stevens

    If they are serious then Parliament would have to look at this from the bottom up.
    Even at the most basic level working within parliament as an MP is un-woman friendly. Parliament starts early afternoon and carries on into the evening, and was set up like this specifically to cater for the needs of the early parliamentarians who were all gentrified men with estates and their own business affairs to manage in mornings.
    But of course it’s all very well to look at things only at Parliament level. The reality is that the local party workers and managers need to get on board with the issue as well, as it’s at this grass roots level that any politicians career is launched and in some cases depends on.
    As it stands now the working life of an MP is unattractive and un-liveable to many women, no matter how strong their passion for public service may run. If they have other responsibilities in their lives it can present them with so many obstacles because of hours, travel and of course in some cases the internal party politics stuff, that it is dismissed out of hand.
    By keeping parliament as an undesirable and unmanageable option for women, this country is denying itself access to talent and skills that we need.

  • http://reflectwomenset.blogspot.com/ Esther Haines

    I agree with Kelly Stevens but I also wonder whether the generally bad press that politicians get has an influence. When I have had the opportunity to meet MPs, in person or as speakers at meetings, my impression has been that they do genuinely care about improving life for their constituents. I may disagree with their priorities or policies but that is part of living in a democracy. Unfortunately, it is firmly entrenched in people’s minds that all politicians are self-serving and interested only in power and getting their snouts in the trough. In fact there will be many people whose reaction to my statement that most of the MPs I have met are trying to do their best for their constituents just shows that I am too naive to recognise a self-serving idiot when I meet one. It isn’t an image that is likely to inspire women to take up politics.

  • http://www.beyondtheboysclub.com Suzanne Doyle-Morris

    Kelly, this is a fantastic comment and very much mirrors how much of working life has been set up – to accomdate the hours that men have traditionally (though this is changing too) been willing and able to put in because they had an unpaid helpmate at home to ensure its smooth running – all with a smile :)