Amid fears that a culture of abuse is pushing women out of politics, new figures indicate a ray of hope – with record numbers of female candidates running for election.
It’s easy to assume that the political landscape in Britain is levied against women, perhaps now more than ever. We live in an age where death and rape threats are a daily occurrence for women MPs. Meanwhile, our Prime Minister bandies around the term “girly swot” as an insult, and a series of key women’s rights enshrined by law hang in the balance due to Brexit.
But, as with all apparently dire situations, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. More women are poised to stand in December’s general election than ever before, according to new figures released by the Press Association (PA) today.
Initial analysis by the news agency found that 1,120 of 3,322 candidates registered for December’s snap vote are women. That equates to 34%; a leap of 5% since the last election in 2017.
With 53% female candidates, Labour is the party with the best gender balance of contenders for December’s poll, which is set to be one of the most volatile showdowns in British history. This is followed by the Green party (41% female candidates), the SNP (34%), the Lib Dems (31%) and the Conservatives (30%).
PA’s data has yet to be finalised, but this early analysis is a promising sign for gender representation in parliament – and the ongoing battle for women’s voices to be heard at top levels of decision-making.
It comes amid concerns that a culture of intensifying intimidation and harassment is pushing women out of politics in the UK. Several high-profile female MPs have cited abuse in their decisions to stand down recently, including culture secretary Nicky Morgan and Tory defector Heidi Allen.
“We now have a situation where very talented politicians – some of whom have served in cabinet – are resigning before they have been able to fulfil their potential,” Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, tells Stylist.
Speaking at Swansea University yesterday, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also hit out at the “heavily misogynistic” online culture that is making women think twice about running for parliament in Britain.
“It is a terrible loss and a loss to democracy if anybody is intimidated out of running, and disproportionately the people choosing not to run in the first instance or for re-election are women,” she said.
There are currently 211 women in the House of Commons; an all-time high of 32%. This figure has risen steadily over the past 40 years, but there’s still room for improvement compared to the global picture.
According to the latest UN data, women make up 53% of politicians in Cuba, 42.5% in Nordic countries, and just over 61% in Rwanda – currently the world leader for gender representation in parliament.
The UN figures also highlight the tangible impact that women’s advocacy has on policy, even at the level of local government.
Drinking water projects in India were found to be 62% higher in women-led councils, while a direct link between the presence of women in councils and subsequent child care coverage was discovered in Norway.
Clearly, better gender representation at all levels of government and parliament cannot come soon enough for Britain.
Here’s hoping the surge in female electoral candidates represents the start of a new, more hopeful chapter.