Letter to The Guardian regarding Women in Politics

Dear Editor,

It is right and timely that Martin Kettle (The amazing gender gap, October 3) should ask why there are so few women at the top in politics.

 Perhaps for the first time, the three major parties agree that the under-representation of women is not just an affront; it undermines democracy. Mr Kettle’s conclusions about the relative competence of our female MPs could, however, have benefited from a more rigorous analysis. It is not the number of outstanding female MPs that is disproportionately low, but the total number, at just 19%. The pool from which future leaders, ministers and shadow ministers are drawn is substantially smaller for women than for men.

The question is what politics must do to recruit enough women in the first place. Specialist training and mentoring play a vital role in giving women the confidence to enter a workplace in which they are in a minority. Support is also growing, certainly in my own party, for addressing the working practices of MPs: more family-friendly hours may not be realistic soon, but it is surely time the Commons had a creche. If politicians, voters and journalists are willing to engage with and overcome these obstacles, then there is no reason not to expect more female MPs, female role models and female occupants of the top jobs in the near future.

Jo Swinson MP

Lib Dem campaign for gender balance

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