Only 200 years to go before equal representation in Parliament!

// 5 January 2006

It will take two centuries before British women achieve equal levels of representation in the political sphere, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait that long!

It will take only 20 years for women to match men in managerial-level positions in the civil service, which appears to be a bastion of progress and fair-play compared to the business world. We will have to wait 40 years before the number of women equals the number of men directing FSTE 100 companies and sitting on the judicary.

Now, 20 years sounds reasonable to me. In 20 years, people of my generation will be in the early-mid 40s. The time of life when you might reasonably expect to have enough experience to occupy an executive-level position, perhaps. It makes sense that it will take some time for progress to work its way through the system. But for it to take until I am 64 to see women equal men on the bench or in blue chip boardrooms is unacceptable. And to have no expectations of a representative House of Commons until my (supposed) great-great-great grandchildren are alive is just ridiculous.

As the Guardian puts it:

In spite of positive action to bring in more women candidates, female representation in the Commons increased only marginally from 18.1% to 19.7% at the last election. Internationally, Britain has fallen out of the top 50 countries in terms of women’s representation and is outperformed by Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan.

So how do we shorten the time it takes to accomplish these goals? I’m not sure I have the answer (although a quick look around the EOC’s website produces some good, obvious ideas, such as obligatory pay audits). But is the Government, are the opposition parties, even asking the question?

It seems like the whole issue of gender equality has fallen off the radar at the moment. It’s high time it got booted back up there, otherwise 200 years will hardly be long enough to close those gaps.

Meanwhile, we should take heart that the Government is finally considering increasing the level of protection offered to the victims of human trafficking – who are sold into slavery, either sexual or domestic, and most of whom are women.

The brilliant Poppy Project is currently the only shelter in the country taking in the victims of trafficking.

For your perusal: the sixth Carnival of Feminists is up, and can be read at reappropriate. There’s an overwhelming array of reading matter to keep you going, so I’ll pick out one of my favourites from this issue: 99 traits a man would love to find in a wife.

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