Britain's political parties seemed to agree they wanted more women representation in parliament. But after this year’s general election, female MPs only make up 22% of the total 649 seats. Although this is an improvement on the previous general election where 126 women became MPs, in an era of equality and opportunity it is still a disappointing result.
Perhaps what is more disappointing is that when the newly appointed coalition government had the chance to appoint women with high-profile jobs, it is only really Theresa May that has managed to score a point for Team Woman.
Whilst the new Home Secretary and Minister for Women has proudly made May her own, you have to wonder whether this Tory woman’s job title should in fact be changed to Token Woman.
With only 142 women MPs, many people are asking how parliament is going to make fair judgements on what the country needs and wants - when so few of us are represented.
Yet, amongst all the bad press, this year’s election has seen some improvement in terms of egalitarianism. Britain has seen its first two female Muslim’s announced as MPs. The winning votes that Shabana Mahmood and Yasmin Qureshi received from Birmingham Ladywood and Bolton South East districts are certainly aiding the fight for Team Woman.
Why is it then that this trend between successful Muslim candidates in areas with a large Muslim electorate does not stretch to women candidates and women voters?
One reason could be to do with the fact that we females do not feel entitled to vote for women for the sake of gender empowerment. Some women felt that the implicit message broadcasted by the parties before the election was that it was the woman’s responsibility to right the shortage of women MPs. If all women voters had obliged then surely the women’s suffrage in 1928 to give women the freedom to vote for whoever they want would have been in vain.
In order to win the female vote, many women candidates discussed child tax credits, Sure Start Centres, and maternity leave with potential voters, forgetting (or perhaps ignoring) that woman does not equal mother. Therefore, many policies directed at women were invalid. Mumsnet only seemed to encourage politicians to aim their manifestos at the mother stereotype which was great if you fell into this bracket, but irrelevant for those who did not.
Surely a woman should be entitled, like man, to look for values and ideologies they agree with in a politician, and not look for gender. A vote should be given to someone who we feel can help resolve an issue we have, to someone we trust, or to someone who shares the same opinion, not just to someone who shares the same amount of X or Y chromosomes.
Whilst there is a general agreement that the number of female candidates voted in was poor, felame in fact, and that women should play a role in the governing of the country, a voter’s choice made purely on sex, race, or social class would be prejudicial. Ability, if present, should always be prioritised.