50:50 Parliament: #AskHerToStand

By Apolline Parel, an ambassador for 50:50 Parliament

This article was originally published by 50:50 Parliament here

“Women are the world’s most under-used resource”  – Hillary Clinton

With a female head of state in the United Kingdom and Germany and a nearly elected President of the United States, has the western world achieved equality of representation? The short answer is no. Far from it. Theresa May and Angela Merkel  prove to be the exception, not the rule, as the 50:50 Parliament outlined in its submission to the Women and Equalities Select Committee. There are more men in the UK Parliament today than have ever been female MPs and at the current pace of change, it would be decades before we see equality of representation. In business, the lack of representation and progress for women is equally worrying but campaigns, including the 30% Club, have focused on making the business case for diversity and perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt in achieving a quicker rate of progress in politics.

Evidence suggests that increasing diversity in business leadership is not just about fairness, it is about business success.  According to a report commissioned by Credit Suisse, studying long-term economic and social development, greater inclusion of women in Executive Management positions increases productivity. The report states:

“With regards to business performance, we find clear evidence that companies with a higher participation of women in decision-making roles continue to generate higher returns on equity while running more conservative balance sheets. In fact, where women account for the majority in the top management, the businesses show superior sales growth, high cash flow returns on investments and lower leverage”

The report highlights that current rates of progress are too slow; while diversity in the boardroom has increased by 54% throughout the world since 2010, the proportion of women in senior management roles (among a sample size of 3,000 companies) only reached 14.7% in 2015.

If equality is our goal, there is a long way to go. However, by making a financial case, companies have begun to make active change. The 30% Club, which champions diversity in making business sense, was launched in the UK in 2010 with a goal of achieving a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-100 Boards; the current figure stands at 26%, up from 12.5% in 2010, and the campaign counts the majority of FTSE 100 CEOs among its supporters. Proving that gender diversity supports business objectives has been vital to achieving progress towards equality.

This is something that politicians agree on. The Tory MP and Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller, pointed out that, “This is not about political correctness, it’s about good business sense”, while former Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable sought to ensure better female inclusion during his time in government, suggesting quotas in order of making 25% of FTSE 100 board members women by 2015.

Not only are women’s skills in business beneficial but diversity in itself is useful. A more diverse and inclusive society boosts the economy of the country by bringing innovation and new ideas. After all, by neglecting half of the population, we are not doing ourselves any favours. Around 50% of UK university graduates and 60% of Law graduates are women. As Vivian Hunt, Director of McKinsey UK, affirmed, “the talent pipeline is there.” It is in the interests of society to use the potential of all of its citizens. If not, society is depriving itself of talented people, an economic nonsense.

The same principles apply in politics. Women are good in business and women are good in government. With more women in Parliament, more diverse issues could be discussed as women bring new perspectives. In 2014 Ed Miliband stated that, “Increasing the number of women in Parliament has played a role in ensuring that important issues such as domestic violence, discrimination and childcare have risen to the top of the political agenda, greatly improving the lives of millions of women across the country.” Currently, Parliament is not representative of the skills and experience that this country has to offer.

Politics, like business, is still not as accessible for women as it is for men. Of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, men hold 458 seats while women only 192 which means that 3 out of 10 MPs are women. Miliband recognised the difficulties ahead: “achieving a more representative Parliament is a job that is still far from complete.” With a lack of female representation at Parliament, certain issues cannot be championed as they should be. Parliament needs better gender balance in order to introduce and shape new policies to defend everyone’s rights. We need a Parliament representative of all of society.

Equal representation in Parliament is overdue. If you believe in diversity, if you believe that we need the best of everyone, men and women, and if you believe that we need a better gender balance in Parliament, please support 50:50 Parliament by signing our petition now at https://www.change.org/p/of-our-650-mps-only-192-are-women-and-458-are-men-sign-our-petition-asking-for-solutions-to-get-better-gender-balance-in-parliament-5050parliament 

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