Abi Jones asks, has Brexit helped or hindered female political participation?
For months Brexit has been a magnet for dirty politics; something that traditionally has had a negative effect on female participation could now be the reason we are seeing so many women stepping up to the front lines. Priti Patel, Gisela Stuart and Theresa Villiers may be just a few of the names you have seen plastered over front pages in the last few months as they get stuck in, speaking out in favour of pro-Brexit campaigns.
Theresa Villiers, Gisels Stuart and Priti Patel
Despite this, more often than not it’s the likes of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Rees-Mogg regularly making headline news, so does this mean that - as a whole - women aren’t as involved? Apparently not. The 2017 election resulted in 208 female MP’s, a record high for Parliament, and the petition to revoke Article 50 which has gained almost 5 million signatures was started by a woman, Margaret Georgiadou. The major political changes we have seen in the past 3 years such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the USA have forced women to stand up for their beliefs or face being overlooked altogether. Green party MP Caroline Lucas has recently come under fire for suggesting an all-woman cabinet should meet to try and stop a no deal Brexit, although this would only cause another type of gender inequality, it does show that Brexit has encouraged more women to actively participate.
Prior to Brexit there was very little female participation across the whole of the UK and the EU, two-thirds of the EU institution are male and some countries, such as Cyprus, don’t even have even a single female MEP. Quotas have been slowly implemented in many countries to try and force parties to include women. Rwanda has some of the highest female representation with 61.3% in the upper house and it recently adopted a new constitution that reserves 30% of parliamentary seats for women. The argument that many people hold against quotas is that they are undemocratic and can mean that representatives are not picked for their qualifications, but rather their gender instead.
One of the biggest obstacles to female politicians is money. Campaigns cost thousands of pounds and often women struggle to find sponsors and donations. Women also typically earn less than men, so it is harder for them to fund their own way in. There are also several other factors that limit female political participation including structural factors such as the electoral system- women fare far better under proportional representation, and weaker professional networks. These influences combined mean that before Brexit women struggled to make their way in Politics, however, post-Brexit there are big divisions in parties and as swing voters, women who are loud enough to have their voices heard have become virtually priceless.
Member Views is a series of opinion pieces written by Blue Beyond members. Abi Jones is from Hereford and is a politics student at the University of Reading.