Ensuring women have equal access to power in politics is a matter of social fairness and democratic legitimacy. Yet in the last government, only 148 of the 650 MPs were women –just one in five. Although it has been nearly a century since women won the right to vote, most constituencies in Britain have never seen female representation.
IBTimes UK met with Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, about the deficit of women in British politics and the impact it has on democracy and policymaking.
Founded in 1884, the ERS has been fighting for fairer votes and a better democracy for over 100 years. The group is calling for a change to the First Past the Post system and the safe seats it creates, which limits opportunities for new representatives to enter politics. In a 21<sup>st century democracy, the ERS campaigns for every voice to be heard and valued.
According to the organisation's latest analysis, a record number of women will be returned to Parliament, accounting for almost 30% of all MPs. This is a step up from the last five years, in which women made up just 22% of Britain's parliamentary representatives. If this 30% is achieved, it is possible that the presence of women will become the norm – an end to women in power being maligned or overlooked.
Ensuring women have equal access to power is a matter of democratic legitimacy and social justice. Women have the right to participate in decisions that affect our lives and at the moment, the perspectives and experiences of one half of the population are being ignored.
In difficult economic times, it is particularly important that the interests and needs of women are being fulfilled by political decisions and policymaking. The austerity agenda of the last five years has seen deep spending cuts leave women facing cuts to jobs, benefits and essential services.
While a conversation has been started about increasing the number of women in politics, progress has been slow– with an increase of just 4.1% since 2000. With the lack of women a key sign our Parliament does not represent the nation, the ERS are calling for more to be done to close the gender gap.
Although Ghose was speaking with her ERS hat on, she has previously sought to represent Labour for the Stoke-on-Trent North seat in 2015.