Our response to the Women & Equalities Committee report on gender representation in parliament

10 January 2017

Girlguiding has long called for equal gender representation and welcomes the committee’s recommendations

The Committee’s report argues that:

  • The government should set a domestic target of 45 per cent for representation of women in parliament and local government by 2030 in response to the UN indicators for Sustainable Development Goal 5.5. The government should set out how it plans to achieve this target, working with political parties.
  • The government should seek to introduce in legislation in this parliament a statutory minimum proportion of female parliamentary candidates in general elections for each political party. While the goal is equality, we recognise the difficulty inherent in setting this statutory minimum at 50 per cent; such a precise target would be difficult to meet while also ensuring that men did not become under-represented. A minimum of 45 per cent would therefore be acceptable. The measure would need to be subject to a minimum threshold for parties contesting only a small number of constituencies. This measure should be brought into force if the number and proportion of women MPs fails to increase significantly after the 2020 General Election.
  • Parties that fail to comply with this target need to face sanctions for the quota to be effective. The government should consider a range of possible sanctions, which could include deductions from Policy Development Grants, confiscation of deposits in seats where female candidates have not been fielded, or legislating to extend the remit of the Electoral Commission to introduce fines for non-compliance.
  • The government should immediately bring into force the statutory requirement for political parties to publish their parliamentary candidate diversity data for general elections, as set out in Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010. Publication of this information is vital for public and parliamentary scrutiny of the record of political parties in selecting a diverse slate of parliamentary candidates. We also recommend that the government bring forward legislative proposals to empower the Electoral Commission to collect and host this data, to ensure consistency and transparency from political parties.

In response, Girlguiding’s Advocate panel said:

It’s great to see the Women and Equalities Committee highlight the urgent need for equal gender representation in parliament.
Three quarters of girls aged 11 to 21 say that having fewer female than male politicians leads to increased gender inequality in wider society. So it’s not just symbolic, it has a real impact on girls’ everyday lives and it negatively affects their aspirations. Inequality in parliament sends a clear message to girls and young women that their voices and experiences aren’t important in our country’s decision-making processes - and that is nonsense.
Political parties and the government have a vital role to play in creating equality in parliament; taking on board the Committee’s recommendations and ensuring transparency of candidate diversity data would indicate that they are committed to equal representation. Crucially, it would show girls everywhere that their voices matter and would encourage them to speak out on the issues that matter to them.