Why we need more women to run for Parliament

8 Mar 2024, 08:26

By Chelsea Whyte, Senior Consultant

Rarely does a day pass without a new scandal or controversy surrounding UK politics. Yet, one of the biggest and long-standing issues in UK politics remains unaddressed: the lack of equal representation in our UK Parliament.

Currently, approximately 35% of UK Members of Parliament are women. Despite reaching the highest figure since women first gained the right to vote, this percentage still falls significantly short of where it should be. Since women were granted voting rights in 1918, only 564 women have served as MPs. There are 650 elected members currently sitting in the House of Commons, so in over 100 years there hasn’t even been one Parliament’s worth of women MPs.

Many perceive equality in Parliament as solely a women’s issue, but it is not. Encouraging more women to run for Parliament – and ultimately be elected – is about more than just enhancing parliamentary representation. If our political institutions and leadership reflect the diversity of our society, we can aspire for societal, organisational, and corporate structures to follow suit. Parliament plays a pivotal role in reshaping societal norms and addressing barriers that hinder women from attaining senior positions, both within and outside Parliament.

While increasing the proportion of women in Parliament would undoubtedly lead to better addressing key issues such as women’s health, gender-based violence, and the 'pink tax,' studies indicate that society as a whole benefits from having women elected to office. From initiatives focused on improving access to clean drinking water in India to implementing childcare provisions in Norway, the direct impact of having a higher proportion of women in office has been demonstrated. Moreover, research suggests that women exhibit more compassionate leadership and are less inclined to engage in warfare or commit human rights violations.

However, achieving a more gender-equal Parliament necessitates a greater number of women standing for election. Yet, women are often discouraged from doing so, thereby depriving voters of the opportunity to support female candidates. Just last week, Rochdale's Parliamentary Constituency held a by-election with ten candidates, none of whom were women. How can we expect to achieve gender equality in Parliament if women are not even on the ballot?

Through my political engagements, I have been fortunate to participate in various events aimed at electing more women to Parliament. However, these events often attract predominantly female attendees. Achieving gender equality in Parliament must be a collective endeavor. We need more men to advocate for a gender-equal Parliament and support women in their communities to pursue elected office.

Let us hope that the 2024 election marks the beginning of significant change in the gender balance of Parliament.