Wondering if you could make a difference as an MP? Here’s how you can attend a special day at Parliament, packed with panel discussions, workshops and inspirational women.
It’s now been almost 100 years since women in the UK first won the right to stand for election: a century of women being able to introduce bills, fight for the interests of their constituents and push for change from inside the political system. On 21 November 1918, David Lloyd George’s coalition government introduced the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, which gave all women over the age of 21 the right to run for political office for the first time.
Remarkably, the statute meant that women were able to stand for election before they were actually allowed to vote. The history-making Representation of the People Act, passed earlier that year, had only enfranchised property-owning women over 30 – meaning that women still didn’t have exactly the same voting rights as men, who could cast a ballot from the age of 21. The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, in contrast, treated aspiring female politicians in exactly the same way as their male counterparts.
Much has changed since 1918. But over the last century, we have still not seen enough women entering politics. Women make up less than a third of current MPs – and if you lined up all the women who have been elected to parliament since 1918, they’d only slightly outstrip the number of sitting male MPs. Clearly, change is needed.
In order to celebrate 100 years of women being able to stand for election and inspire more women into politics, a special event is being held in Westminster on the centenary of the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act.
MPs from all parties are inviting women from their constituencies to spend a day in Parliament, where they will be able to attend Prime Minister’s Questions, meet MPs, and attend panel discussions and workshops designed to provide the information and motivation needed to pursue a career in politics.
The event is being organised by 50:50 Parliament, the Fawcett Society, the Jo Cox Foundation and the Centenary Action Group, a cross-party coalition of women’s rights organisations, politicians and activists.
The day is part of 50:50 Parliament’s Ask Her to Stand campaign, which encourages more women to consider entering politics. The organisation says the purpose of the event is to help women gain a better understanding of political life and the difference they can make, and to “inspire and encourage a diverse range of women to stand for political office”.
Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, the convener of the Centenary Action Group and the consulting editor on Stylist’s Suffragette issue, will also be speaking on an Ask Her To Stand panel.
“The statistics show that there is still a democratic deficit, men outnumber women by more than two to one in the Commons. At the last election only 12 extra women were elected, at this rate it will take half a century for women to get equal representation,” says Frances Scott, director of 50:50 Parliament.
Scott says that 50:50 wants “everyone, everywhere to work together to break down the barriers to women’s political participation. 50:50 urge all women from across the country to contact their MP for an invitation to Parliament on 21 November.
“What better way to celebrate the centenary of women being allowed to stand than by actually inspiring women to stand for elected office!”
Interested in attending the Ask Her To Stand day at Parliament on 21 November? It’s invite-only, so it’s essential that you email your MP directly to ask for an invitation as soon as possible. Find out more information here.
Images: Austin Bridgforth/Unsplash, Mark Harrison and Sarah Brimley for Stylist, Getty Images