Campaigners call on government to reveal ‘political gender gap’ on women’s suffrage anniversary

By agency reporter
July 2, 2018

Campaigners are calling on the Equalities Minister, Penny Mordaun,t to enact a crucial piece of legislation which would ensure parties reported their 'gender gap' among election candidates, on the 90th anniversary of equal suffrage.

At the start of the government's 'National Democracy' week, the Centenary Action Group, a coalition of over 100 campaigners and activists are demanding Section 106 of the Equality Act – which is already in law but needs enacting – be implemented.

The simple change would require parties to publish the demographic makeup of their election candidates, as the first step towards tackling the gender gap in politics and to improve diversity.

Currently just 32 per cent of MPs and 33 per cent of local councillors in the UK are women.

In a statement, the Electoral Reform Society and members of the Centenary Action Group said: "There is currently a lack of information published around the diversity of candidates and elected representatives. It is vitally important that this information is publicly available to allow us to monitor progress and identify areas where representation needs to be improved.

"As such we call on the Equalities Minister to commit to enacting of section 106 of the Equality Act 2010.

"This would cover the publication of information pertaining to candidates selected for an election by each political party, candidates successfully elected and those that fail to be elected. This should include elections to the UK Parliament as well as to devolved administrations across the UK."

The campaigners say the information would provide an invaluable resource for those seeking gender equality and increase the accountability of parties and their branches up and down the country – creating positive competition.

They also want the UK Government to consider extending the requirement for information on selection and election to local government elections

Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said: "On the 90th anniversary of equal suffrage, it is a sad fact that no clear way of knowing where we stand in terms of women's representation in politics.

"Now that companies have revealed their gender pay gaps, it's time UK parties tackled the inequality in their own back yards. We've seen businesses play their part – now government and political parties must play theirs in showing their diversity figures.

"Much like the gender pay gap, political inequality is holding back progress in this country.

"The Women and Equalities Committee has already called for Section 106 of the Equality Act (2010) to be enacted to tackle this problem. This should be the week the Equalities Minister takes action, and ensures real transparency when it comes to diversity in politics."

In its response to the Women and Equalities Committee's 2017 report on women in the House of Commons, the government cited concerns about the "potential regulatory burden" of enacting the regulations.

It added it would "continue the process of engaging with the parties to ensure greater transparency ... rather than imposing legislative requirements through section 106 of the Equality Act."

Jess Garland added: "The government appears to be imagining obstacles where they do not exist. Political parties are best placed to know who they are standing in elections. The legislation is ready and there is widespread support for this change to be made. The sooner it is enacted, the sooner the UK's shameful political gender gap can be bridged."

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said: "Our parliament trails many others in the world for women's representation. We cannot create a modern, inclusive, gender equal parliament unless we do the basics and capture data on the diversity of candidates. Section 106 must be implemented and what better time to do that than the anniversary of the Equal Franchise Act."

The Electoral Reform Society is a member of the Centenary Action Group. The Centenary Action Group is a cross-party campaigning coalition convened by Helen Pankhurst and represents over 100 activists, politicians and women's rights organisations campaigning for women's participation in politics to mark the 2018 centenary of the first women's votes in the UK.

The Centenary Action Group aims to use the centenary of some women getting the vote to highlight remaining inequalities and to help deliver real change for women and girls in the UK and worldwide on key issues.

* See the Equality Act 2010  here

* Electoral Reform Society https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

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