Last year marked 100 years since certain women were granted the right to vote in our country. And yet, in the century that has followed this landmark moment, we are still a way off achieving gender equality within our democracy. Since the Qualification of Women Act of 1918 there have been 4,503 male MPs elected to Parliament and just 491 women.
In 2018 the World Economic Forum estimated that it could take as long as 217 years before we reach an equilibrium. It is a slightly bizarre but sobering number and the theme for International Women’s Day this year is apt and fitting; #BalanceforBetter.
It is a call-to-action for all those seeking to promote gender balance across the world; an umbrella under which the next 12 months will see continuous collective action, from grassroots activists to national governments, in an effort to create a more gender-balanced world for our children and grandchildren. Gender balance is, after all, known to be fundamental to successful national, economic and social sustainability.
Progress has undoubtedly been made, which is why the primary focus of International Women’s Day is a celebration of the social, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. Women of all ages, classes and races have worked together to bring about change, and it is important to remind ourselves that progress has only been made because of their hard work, dedication and tragically also because of terrible sacrifice.
International Women’s Day also presents a moment every year to prompt us to think about what more needs to be done and how to achieve it; in boardrooms, in the media and broadcasting, in government, in sport, in academia. For my part I am delighted be involved in promoting the vital role of women in Parliament and seeking more potential candidates to stand for selection and election.
Initiatives such as the Conservative ‘Women2Win’ were an important facet of my own development in becoming an MP and I would recommend them highly to anyone interested in my Party’s politics. I am also involved with a cross-party campaign called #AskHertoStand, with a mission to inspire, encourage and support women to stand for Parliament and achieve a fairer representation of society in our Government.
As one of the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party I want to see more women elected at every level of Government and our team are committed to making our ambitions a reality. Indeed, last summer the Party Chairman, Brandon Lewis, set out a goal for 50% of our candidates list to be female. Since then, more than 400 new applicants have expressed an interest in standing for election to local or national government. Whilst that is good progress, we still need more women from every community, from diverse cultures in every part of the country, to put themselves forward. Our democracy only works effectively when our political parties, and our government, are representative of the communities they serve.
Equality of opportunity is a core value of the Conservative Party and as Vice Chairman for Communities I am calling out to women, particularly from BAME communities, to come forward and make enquiries. My colleagues can offer some wonderful support, training and mentoring for candidates and prospective candidates, even if you are totally new to political involvement. It is vital we see more women coming forward to stand as Conservative councillors and MPs, representing their communities, influencing policy and creating a just and sustainable balance in our society as a whole. Please contact me if you’re interested.
This article was originally written by Helen for 'The Voice' newspaper.