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BGIPU Chair leads parliamentary event marking International Women’s Day 2021

On Tuesday 9th March, in association with the Women in Parliament APPG, BGIPU hosted an event to celebrate International Women’s Day. BGIPU Chair Harriett Baldwin MP moderated the esteemed panel which included academics Dr Jessica Smith and Professor Sarah Childs who were joined by Clerk Assistant, Sarah Davies, Chair of the Procedure Committee, The Rt Hon. Karen Bradley MP, and the IPU’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, The Hon. Paddy Torsney.

The meeting had a timely focus on the importance of inclusive parliaments in the response to the gender impacts of the global pandemic, not least with the recent release of the Centenary Action Group’s report on the Remotely Representative Parliament: Lesson Learning from the Hybrid Parliament written by Dr Jess Smith with Professor Sarah Childs. The event was well attended, including the Chair of the Women in Parliament APPG, The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, The Rt Hon. Caroline Nokes MP and Chair of the Women, Peace and Security APPG, Baroness Hodgson of Abinger.

Harriett Baldwin provided the opening remarks outlining BGIPU’s commitment to gender empowerment and inclusive parliament, including through supporting Professor Sarah Childs in the launch of her landmark report “The Good Parliament” and providing expert advice in cooperation with the IPU to the UK Parliament’s gender audit a few years ago. Dr Jessica Smith was then invited to take the floor to discuss the findings from her report on the hybrid parliament. Key recommendations included for Parliament to continue in hybrid format to accommodate as many Members as possible and to open up the Commons to a more diverse range of parliamentarians.

Professor Sarah Childs supported Dr Smith’s comments and noted the timeliness of the report to advance existing approaches. Professor Childs also stressed the need to have an ongoing strategy of reviews into gender sensitivity to ensure continuity and make sure that steps keep being taken forwards. Clerk Assistant, Sarah Davies provided insights into the steps being taken by the House to make Parliament as inclusive as possible, noting the various mechanisms in the House which are currently in play. Parliamentarians were pleased to hear that the gender pay gap in the House of Commons service is only 0.3% and to hear about further innovations to broaden hybrid participation.

Chair of the Procedure Committee, The Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, was next to speak, focussing in particular on the Restoration and Renewal Project particular at the Restoration and Renewal project and how to make this work for everyone.  Ms Bradley noted the difficulties which the pandemic had presented for the transition to a hybrid parliament, and the steps that had been taken to ensure that Parliament was able to not only function, but to also be a safe environment for all those working there. Whilst technology was initially a limiting factor, it has now been adapted to become an enabler of the hybrid House which has contributed to making Parliament more inclusive.

This contribution was followed by the Hon. Paddy Torsney, the IPU’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, who joined from New York. Ms Torsney shared information about the IPU’s global leadership role on gender empowerment and political representation issues, noting the publication of the IPU’s 2021 Women in Politics Map which shines a light on women’s representation in parliaments across the globe. Current parliamentarians also found it insightful to hear about Ms Torsney’s own experiences as a former female MP in the Canadian Parliament.

Presentations from panellists were followed by an interactive discussion around how best to transform the UK parliament into an inclusive and modern establishment which is fit for purpose. On this, it was interesting to hear Peers’ views on the House of Lord’s speedy adaption to fully virtual during the early stages of the pandemic. BGIPU would like to thank all panellists and participants for a fruitful and important discussion to celebrate International Women’s Day and to remind us that while steps are being taken in the right direction, there is still so much more to do.

BGIPU Secretariat