On the doorsteps, I often find that women are more interested than men in discussing political issues. Community and voluntary groups rely on the activism of women getting involved. While women certainly care about politics and are willing to get stuck in working in their local area, we still have far too few women in politics. Just 1 in 5 MPs are women, and only around a third of local Councillors. In my experience there are several factors which put women off politics.
The aggressive, confrontational culture isn’t attractive. The weekly joust at Prime Minister’s Questions is one of the worst adverts I can think of for politics. However most of political life isn’t like that. It’s not all standing up and making speeches; most of the work is listening to people, finding solutions, and working in the community.
Juggling the demands of family life with politics can be tough. Sadly lots of women drop out of active politics when they have children, because despite moves towards equality, the main childcare responsibility still tends to fall to women. Yet we’ll hardly get policies that work for modern families if parents of young children are missing from the decision-making process. Political parties and our political institutions need to be more flexible to accommodate women who have caring responsibilities.
Lack of confidence can also hold women back. Women often need a nudge or a bit of encouragement to pursue politics. There are loads of talented women out there who would be great Councillors or representatives in Parliament, but never dream of putting themselves forward. Political parties each have their own organisations to talent-spot and support women, and this work is absolutely vital. We all need to be encouraging women to make sure their voices are heard – at the ballot box, in the community and as elected representatives too.