As the General Election creeps ever closer, the Centre for Women & Democracy is preparing three projects for the election period.
Firstly, we will be looking at how women fare at the polls. Will there really be more women candidates, and will more of them actually be elected? We could be heading for a record number of women MPs, but we could also be looking at some disappointing outcomes. And what will women's experience of the campaign be? Will they be more or less visible than before, and will there be a diversity of visible women, or will they all be white (and middle-aged)?
This piece of work will be particularly important because it will feed into the next stage of assessing the outcomes of the recent Speaker's Conference report. They have said that we will need to consider quotas if there is not an increase in women MPs. But what level of increase will we consider acceptable, and will it tally with the views of the new parliament? This project will give campaigning and other groups (as well as MPs) the information on which to base their views in the debate to come.
Our second project is looking at how digital campaigning affects women - in particular women campaigners. The blogoshere is notoriously male, with only a few brave women of all parties making it into any prominence, and many of them being effectively ignored by the male-dominated hierarchy. Twitter did not exist in 2005, and other social networking media were in their infancy. Now, it is believed that 18 million people in the UK read blogs. If women's voices are absent, how will they be heard? Does this matter, or are we actually heading for an election in which some of the most marginalised groups in politics will become even more marginalised as a result of the nature and culoture of one of the key campaigning tools.
There will be a considerable amount of interest in and work on digital campaigning in this election - so far none of it is looking at the impact of it on women. This research will look at it in some detail, and will form the basis of further work after the election.
Our third project will look at women's political participation in specific communities, or sections of communities - young white working class women, older South Asian women, women in eastern European communities and black women in particular (though we may add more if possible). All of these groups are under-represented at all levels of politics, and all have a great deal to offer. What would make (or allow) them to engage, and what will their expectations and experience of the election be?
If you would like to know more about any of these projects, or if you can help with funding, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org