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UK Parliament makes ‘steady progress’ on gender equality

  • Womens MPs at the UK Parliament celebrate 100 years of the vote for women © AFP/Niklas Halle'n
BGIPU, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Geneva

Press release from the IPU Secretariat, Geneva, 20 December 2018

The UK Gender Sensitive Parliament Audit, published today, finds that steady progress has been made in increasing the representation of women in both Houses of Parliament, but there are still too many barriers to women standing as MPs or putting themselves forward to the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

The audit was facilitated by the IPU and supported by the British Group IPU, (recognising the significant contribution of our gender expert, Emily Davies). It was carried out according to the IPU’s Plan of Action for Gender-Sensitive Parliaments and toolkit to evaluate gender sensitivity in parliaments.

The audit found that the percentage of female MPs has risen from 18.2% to 32% since 1997 while the percentage of women in the House of Lords has gone from 7.1% to 26.1% in the same period. It identified four barriers that may make it harder for women to become MPs or Members of the House of Lords:

  • the culture of Parliament, as highlighted in recent reports of bullying and harassment, and sexual harassment;
  • online threats and threats to physical security, in particular gender-based intimidation, harassment and violence against female Parliamentarians and female candidates;
  • the challenges that working in Parliament poses for family life, including the unpredictability of business and potential long hours;
  • the financial impact of standing for Parliament.

The audit also drew on the IPU’s recent report on Sexism, Harassment and Violence against Women in Parliaments in Europe, published in partnership with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

An action plan following the audit report is expected in February next year outlining the actions that UK Parliament authorities propose to take in response to the report’s findings and recommendations.

The recommendation that the UK parliament undertake am IPU gender audit was a key outcome of the landmark "The Good Parliament" report by Dr Sarah Childs on making the UK Parliament more gender inclusive.