In 1919, Nancy Astor became the first woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament. Astor would be the first of many and, years later, a female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, would lead the nation. Now, 96 years after Astor’s election, there are 191 Honourable Ladies in the House of Commons, out of a possible 650. Parliament is thus, sadly, still a male-orientated environment.
Indeed, the stereotype of a balding, middle-aged, middle-class, white male still applies to our elected representatives. Yet, finally, we may be on the cusp of progressive change. The likes of Stella Creasy and Yvette Cooper have run strong campaigns with clear feminist agendas in order to be elected to the Labour Party leadership. Moreover, in government, women such as Nicky Morgan and Jo Swinson have set an example for others to follow. Indeed, former Liberal Democrat MP Swinson demonstrated how important women are in politics. Swinson chaired the Gender Balance Task Force, and successfully pushed forward the Shared Parental Leave legislation that entered the statute book on the 5th April 2015. This legislation tackles the outdated assumption that childcare is down to a child’s mother. It means that women can now freely return to their career after the birth of their child, while their husband can stay at home on leave, if they so wish.
That is why, as a Liberal Democrat, I was upset at the outcome of the general election. Apart from the raw catastrophe of the result, I was dismayed that the election returned no strong, Liberal women to the House. Indeed, is now sad to think of the amazing women that represented the Liberal Democrats in Parliament, such as Lynne Featherstone, Jenny Willott and Tessa Munt, who have now lost their seats. Yet, through people such as Kirsty Williams, Leanne Wood, Harriet Harman, Amber Rudd, and Nicola Sturgeon, young women do have a range of ready-made role models to inspire their future aspirations. These women show, more than ever, that women do have a place in politics, and that gender equality is an achievable ambition.
I am involved in politics for this reason. Change does not come quickly. It involves time, effort, and compromises. But these obstacles will not stop passionate activists from making the United Kingdom a fairer and more equal place to live.