Electoral systems

150 years on, more to be done

Cathy Newman writes in the UK Telegraph about the century and a half since Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Emily Davies organised a petition to be presented to the UK parliament calling for female suffrage. The fact that suffrage has not turned into a fair share of representation is disappointing. Cathy Newman backs the 5050parliament campaign. 

Our campaign is bolder - it would require equal gender representation to be mandated in the electoral law in Australia. This is possible for the UK as well. 

If suffragettes Elizabeth Garrett and Emily (Davies) were to turn up in the lobby of the Palace of Westminster today – as they did exactly 150 ago – you could forgive them for feeling a little disappointed. A century and a half ago - on June 7, 1866 - they arrived at Parliament to present a petition calling for women to get the vote. While many decades later that battle has been won, Ms Garrett and Ms Davies would no doubt be dismayed to see how unequal the political world remains.
Of 649 MPs currently in the House of Commons, just 192 are women. In other words, there are nearly 140 per cent more men than women. More men get to plonk their bottoms on those green benches right now than the total number of female MPs throughout history.
Time for another petition, then. 
While campaigns are two a penny these days – their currency devalued when they’re hijacked by the trolls and those with a vendetta to pursue – here’s one which deserves to be taken seriously - 50:50 Parliament, a cross-party campaign to get more women into Westminster, has posted its clarion call here. It’s perfectly possible that a lot of women have looked at the antics of the current inhabitants of the Westminster village and decided to give it a wide berth. But it’s also perfectly possible that among the 51 per cent of the UK population, there are some brilliant women out there just waiting to represent us all - if only they got the chance.


See also: http://www.wearethecity.com/5050-parliament-call-equal-government-150th-anniversary-first-suffrage-petition/


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was born in 1836 and organised a petition to parliament in 1866 with Emily Davies.  Garrett Anderson was a sister to Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

Emily Wilding Davison was born in 1872 and was active in the suffragette movement in the later 19th Century and early 20th Century. Emily hid in a cupboard in parliament house in 1911 so that she could record her address as parliament house. Emily was fatally injured when she entered the Epsom racetrack in 1913 and was trampled under the King's horse.


Why 5050? becomes how 5050?

JULIAN VIGO draws together multiple issues affecting women including the recent protests made by French female politicians; sexual harassment in the workplace; poor representation in professions; poor pay and priorities for spending. Julian finishes by supporting the UK parliament5050 campaign. The question at the end is how to achieve 5050? We reckon that our democracy5050 model is a truly democratic option to be considered. 

Effects on health
All this comes as no surprise to women who have been dealing with pay and promotion inequality for their entire lives with the added bonus of sexual harassment. But what are the costs of pay and promotion inequality in addition to sexual harassment? We already know that girls who routinely experience sexual harassment are significantly more likely to attempt suicide, but little is said about these repercussions on women who suffer “widespread and often serious health, emotional, and economic consequences.” And the economic impacts for discrimination and harassment are little explored in the media which are often the major factor playing into the future mental and physical health of women.
Loss of earnings in a lifetime
According to data published by the Equal Opportunities Commission (now part of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights), “the average woman working full-time could lose out on £330,000, in comparison with men’s earnings, over the course of her working life.” Similarly, they investigated similar inequalities within the financial sector specifically where the pay gap was explained in terms of: stereotyping in the recruitment processes, the sector’s extremely young age profile proves a challenge to those with children, the sector’s long hours’ culture also affects those with children, the intractability of senior leaders to take action on sex inequality and the lack of enforcement of good practices. Also according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, female graduates earn up to £8,000 less than males who studied the same subject.
Pay gap and the burden of being the primary care-giver
If the Fawcett Society’s 2008 report on women’s pay inequality wasn’t shocking enough then their 2013 study is enough to bring one to tears: “New figures from the Office of National Statistics published in December 2013 show the pay gap widening for the first time in five years.” And the reasons the Fawcett Society gives for this widening gap are the same reasons for sex-based oppression of women throughout recent history: women’s work is undervalued, more women work part-time, the “motherhood penalty,” and more generally that sex-based discrimination has not gone away. Because of their decreased earning power, women use their money quite differently: they invest in their children, the home, and they save over investing.
Less to invest
RateSetter carried out research which showed that men are significantly more likely to own investment products (66% of men compared to 48% of women). Data suggests that women do not tend to move towards long or short-term investment products simply because, according to this report, they have 50% less of disposable income at the end of each month.
Link to 50:50
And when one examines those countries with a closer economic parity between the sexes, one thing is painfully evident: that salary equality is maintained in countries where there is a balance of political representation of females and males.
Recently there was a petition, 50:50 Parliament, to request a 50% representation of women in Parliament because shockingly, in 2016 in the UK as well as other western countries, females are not fairly represented. With less than a 30% female presence in the House of Commons, one can only wonder if the more equitable presence of women in Parliament might not begin to effect real social change. And in the US, the representation of women in the 114th Congresses is lamentable with only 20 female senators out of a total of 100 (a 20% presence) and 84 female congress members in the House of Representatives out of 535 (a 19.4% presence).
I have recently written my MP, Mark Field, to request that he take action to ensure a 50% presence of women in Parliament. The larger question remains: how to effect this change?


Struggle not over

Sofia Quaglia of City University, London writes about the continuing struggle for women to be represented fairly in parliament.

191 women MPs were elected during the 2015 General Election, or 29% of all MPs: a historically record high. Nearly a third of the House of Commons is now female. While this may look like progress, we are still nowhere close to eliminating the gender gap in parliament.


Some progress but more to do in UK

Women are on the ballot today in higher numbers than recent years – though on a longer time-span, female representation has fluctuated, and we remain far from gender parity.
Research by Democratic Dashboard shows how there are more women running in today’s elections for the Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and London Assemblies than in 2011.

This article makes the point that when you start from a very low base rate of women in elected positions, modest improvements can look good. In addition, more female candidates does not necessarily mean they get to stand for winnable seats. 


UK looking for sustained improvement after setbacks

The road towards a gender balanced House of Commons has been a long and slow one, but devolved parliaments were an opportunity for a fresh start for female representation in British politics. The first London Assembly in 2000 comprised 48% women, and in 2003 the Welsh Assembly became the first national elected body in the world to achieve gender parity among its members. The Scottish Parliament also saw close to 40% women in Holyrood in 2003.
These early successes proved to be a high water mark, however, and since 2003 the number of women elected to the devolved bodies has either stalled or fallen.

While more women may seek election and run for office, they are more likely to be contesting marginal seats and the increased number of candidates is unlikely to be reflected in the final tally of seats won:

However, indications are that the increase in female candidates may not translate into equivalent increases in women elected. In London and Wales the number of women elected is likely to be either stagnant, or increase by a very small amount. In Wales, the Electoral Reform Society Cymru recently published an in-depth exploration of the picture for the Welsh Assembly, and found that while all women shortlists and zipping are used – in particular by the Labour Party – women are significantly more likely than men to be defending “marginal” seats. Of the 11 battleground constituencies, ten are being defended by women.