Over the last few months, I have been working hard on a report entitled 'Improving Parliament' to modernise Parliament.
Our primary goal was to identify ways to attract more women into Parliament and help them to survive and thrive once there. Currently we only have 22.6% women in the House of Commons, putting us well down the global leagues tables at 65 out of 189 countries.
The business world has largely grasped the fact that gender balance is good for overall performance and I believe the same priority should be given to increasing the representation of women in Parliament.
If we are to attract and retain more excellent women in Parliament, we need to listen to the feedback from this Inquiry and make changes to the workings of Parliament.
Our report recommends that we take action, for example, to create a zero tolerance response to bad behaviour in the Chamber – we don’t want to discourage passionate debate but we believe that the bullying, aggressive behaviour often on show is offputting to many, and especially to women.
We want to reach out to women that would be excellent candidates who might not currently consider the role of an MP. Our report recommends providing much more information about what being an MP involves online, in addition to continued efforts by each Political party.
We would also like to help MPs reconnect with voters by allowing them to plan their diaries further ahead and spend more time working in their constituencies when they need to.
Our survey found that ‘media scrutiny of MPs and their families’ was the biggest single disincentive to becoming an MP, with 72% of respondents citing it as a concern. One leading businesswoman giving evidence to the Inquiry summed it up when asked if she would consider becoming an MP. She said: “Why would I risk putting myself and my family through that kind of treatment?” We would like the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to undertake a detailed investigation into how female MPs are treated in the media.
I will continue to champion women, both in the workplace and in public life. As part of this, I will push for our report’s recommendations to be implemented and I hope that this cross-Party report will result in real improvements to our democracy and the creation of a truly modern and aspirational Parliament.
If you would like to read the full report, please follow the links under 'Empowering Women' on my website marymacleod.com