Gender My Story

Caroline Lucas on Female Representation in Parliament

I welcome Ditch the Label’s Gender Report 2016. The attitude of young people around gender, and gender stereotyping, matters to us all. According to the Gender Report only 4% of respondents in the survey believe that women are better at legal and political jobs than men, versus 42% believing that men are better.

Gender stereotypes, in addition to being restrictive, have the potential to allow us to accept the unacceptable. I was shocked by an NSPCC study which revealed that almost half of teenage girls believe that it is acceptable for a boyfriend to be aggressive towards a female partner, while 1 in 2 boys, and 1 in 3 girls, believe that there are some circumstances in which it’s OK to hit a woman or force her to have sex.

Changing unhealthy attitudes towards our relationships and future prospects isn’t easy. However, information that helps us to understand more about gender stereotyping, and the impact it can have, is another step in the right direction when challenging the unacceptable. The Gender Report does just that.

Looking at Parliament, I know full well that there are some really great, talented women there, yet with women making up only around 29% of all MPs, they are not fairly represented, and it’s difficult for Westminster to drag itself away from the dated, old boys’ club that we see. The myth that men make better politicians is not something I accept. Women are in a noticeable minority in every committee, in every debate. And of course, in environments such as the chamber during Prime Minister’s Questions. Sexism is alive and kicking, with male MPs surrounding you who still think it’s amusing to make audible comments about the way women look.

Hopefully a more gender equal politics would mean high profile women no longer being subjected to endless commentary, and judgement, on the way we look and the clothes we are wearing. The whole thing needs a massive overhaul. That, in turn, will have an effect on women having a voice in the boardroom, in the media, in science laboratories, in our courts, in the digital sector. In all those places women are currently sidelined.

People being given due credit based on their ability to do the job, rather than it being determined by their gender.

Even when women excel and find success in their chosen careers, tabloid headlines focus less on their achievements and work, and more on the fabric they choose to wear. So it’s hardly surprising that the Ditch the Label Gender Report found 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative impact on their future career prospects, versus 4% of teenage boys.

The media also all too frequently misrepresents transgender people. That’s why I’ve used my role as MP to table a motion in Parliament calling on the Press Complaints Commission to ensure editors abide by the letter and spirit of the editors code when reporting transgender stories. It’s unacceptable that such misrepresentation persists.

Being a good politician, lawyer, person, is nothing to do with gender, age, race or sexuality.

– Caroline Lucas MP

Caroline wrote this blog in response to The Gender Report 2016, which uncovers the true extent of gender roles and stereotyping. You can follow Caroline on Twitter at @CarolineLucas.