On International Women’s Day, it is worth noting that a girl child born today will be drawing her pension before she has an equal voice in the government of her country at the current rate of progress.
At all levels of political representation, women’s share of power falls well short of being comparable to their 51% share of the population.
The Counting Women In coalition, which came together in the wake of the absence of visible women in the 2010 general election campaign, believes that the exclusion of women from positions of power damages the interests of both women and men, as well as the country as a whole.
Women are a majority (51 percent) of the population, but power is concentrated in the hands of a minority.
Their report Sex and Power 2013: Who runs Britain? says that what applies to politics applies to other areas as well.
Looking at ‘public life’ – areas involving public money, those making fundamental decisions about individual lives (such as courts), or those that influence or affect national culture, the report found that in almost all of them the over-representation of men is evident.
In some, the absence of women is marked: even in trades and professions predominantly employing women, they are often hard to find at the top.The report cites research conducted by the Guardian in January 2013 showing that both the parliamentary lobby and its editors are heavily male.
The research found that:
- progress towards parity in Britain’s democratic institutions continues to be painfully slow;
- 22.5 percent of MPs are women, 21.7 percent of peers and 17.4 percent of the Cabinet;
- the level of women MPs has increased by only 3.9 percent since the year 2000, whilst the percentage of women in the Cabinet has decreased by 4.3 percent;
- although all the political parties have improved to some degree, none will achieve 50:50 male/female representation in the near future. Currently 16 percent of Conservative MPs are women, 32 percent of Labour MPs and 12 percent of Liberal Democrats.
Internationally, the report adds, Britain has dropped since 2001 from 33rd place in the global league table of 190 countries to joint 60th and still lags behind most of the rest of Europe.
Counting Women In says: “We can do better than that.”
And we really ought to start trying.
1. This figure is from the 2011 Census published by the ONS in July 2012, which showed that in England and Wales there were 27.6 million men and 28.5 million women
2 Guardian, 9 January 2013, www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/jan/09/david-cameron-female-political-journalists-question
3 Rankings from tables produced by the Inter-Parliamentary Union at www.ipu.org