Last year was a year of celebration for women in politics. In February, we marked the centenary of the first UK women being given the right to vote in elections, and in November we celebrated the one-hundred-year anniversary of some women being given the right to stand for election to Parliament.
Celebrating these milestones in equality for women is important. But we must not feel any false comfort about progress. The gulf in political power between men and women is still huge, and we all need to do more to close it.
Much of the responsibility to get more women elected is down to political parties. I am proud that a third of Lib Dem MPs are women, but I know we must work harder still to spot and nurture talented women at all levels in our party.
On International Women’s Day, I want everyone to know that we can ALL do something to make politics more diverse.
So, if you share my belief that a more equal politics would deliver better leadership and a better future for our country, here is an action plan for you:
Amplify. This is the simplest thing you can do. Make a conscious effort to notice who you share, retweet and follow. If your networks on social media are predominantly white or male, seek out other views and voices so you hear from a wide variety of women and men from all backgrounds. It’ll bring you a whole new of set ideas and perspectives, and make it easier for you to amplify less-heard voices.
Count. Take notice of the number of men and women standing as candidates, being elected, sitting on panels at events, writing in newspapers—and challenge parties, organisers and media outlets when women are not fairly represented.
Talent-spot. Think about your friends, family and colleagues – do you know someone who could be the next woman MP, MSP, Assembly Member or councillor? If so, encourage them to stand. The #AskHerToStand campaign offers advice on how to do that as well as providing support for women candidates.
Speak up. Write to or go to see your MP or local councillor, and ask them what they are doing to make politics more representative. It’s very hard for politicians to ignore even just a handful of letters about the same issue.
Stand! Finally, if you’re even half-thinking about standing for election, then I urge you to take the next step in your journey, whether it’s joining a party, emailing someone already involved in politics to arrange to meet and find out more, applying to be an approved candidate for the Liberal Democrats, going along to a training event run by a political party or a non-partisan organisation like the Parliament Project.
Electing more women is a vital stepping stone to a society where we have equal power between men and women. The more we can all do to hasten that, whether as voters, activists or candidates the better.
Tell me, what will you do?