Balance for Better

Today is International Women’s Day. Are you doing anything special today? I know some people are attending panel discussions, presentations or exhibitions.

But May’s local elections are looming. Here’s something the women reading this can do that you might not have thought of that could make a difference.

Put your name forward to stand for election.

Or if you don’t feel you can, find a woman standing near you that you can campaign for and ask how you can help them win. Too many women are put off standing for election because of fear of “not being good enough”. But if we fight together, then we can win more seats for women – and today is the day to pledge to do that.

Women at all levels can make a real difference.

That’s especially true for women from more marginalised communities. These include those from ethnic minority backgrounds, women with disabilities or women who are Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender. The problems of lack of gender balance in politics are well known. But this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter. That applies not just to getting women into parliament – but getting diverse women into parliament.

Of the 45 out LGBT people who were elected to parliament in 2017, only 9 were women… and none were BAME. No openly transgender people have ever been elected to parliament. Just two women with disabilities have served in the Commons.

Things are a little better for councillors, although statistics are harder to come by. What we can say for sure is that women at all levels can make a real difference. For example, my council colleague Cheney Payne is pushing Cambridge City Council to tackle period poverty. Layla Moran is putting a bill before Parliament to give girls a choice of what they wear at school – rather than forcing skirts on them.

Too many women are put off standing for election because of fear of “not being good enough”.

We’ve had generations of laws and legislatures run by men, particularly white, straight, middle-class men. This has a knock-on effect on what the rules that govern our society are and mean that decisions and legislation that support women’s experience of the world are marginalised.

You, or some woman you know, could be making that difference. And the more women, particularly the more diverse women we have, the more significant that difference can be. Why not start today?