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New campaign kicks off with call for David Cameron to honour his pledge to make a third of government ministers women

25 Oct, 2011

Counting Women In is the new campaign working to ensure women have a greater presence and voice in UK politics. Bringing together women’s organisations, academics and those that campaign for a better politics, the campaign will be working to change the UK’s political culture so it works for not against women.

Counting Women In today calls on the Prime Minister to honour his commitment to make a third of his ministers female by the end of his first term in parliament.

Nan Sloane, Director of the Centre for Women and Democracy said: “The UK lags behind more than 40 other countries for women’s representation in politics. Outside of Westminster, women make up only a third of local Councillors – and we face another 150 years of local government being essentially a man’s world.

Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said: “Before the 2010 General Election, the Prime Minister – then Leader of the Opposition – pledged repeatedly to make a third of ministers in his first government women. But 18 months in and women make up just 5 of the 23 strong Cabinet. Decisions of national importance – whether to go to war, how to manage the deficit or what to teach in our schools – are being made with too few women around the table. (3)

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Men outnumber women 4 to 1 in Parliament. At the current rate of change, a child born today will be drawing her pension before she has an equal say in the government of her country. The views and experiences of one half of the country are not being heard.

Ruth Fox, Director, Parliament & Government Programme at the Hansard Society, said: “90 years after women first got the vote, women make up just 22 per cent of Westminster MPs. Since 1997, the number of women in Parliament has increased by just 4 per cent. The lack of women in politics undermines the legitimacy of the decisions being made.

Alex Runswick, Deputy Director of Unlock Democracy, said: “The Counting Women In campaign will challenge the deadlock around the lack of women in politics. For too long, politicians and political parties have been complacent the face of such a starkly unrepresentative politics, we are determined to force action on this issue.”

Sex and Power’, a report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in September 2011 found that it will take another 14 General Elections or 70 years to achieve an equal number of women MPs.

In March 2008 the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, said a third of top jobs in his first government would go to women, as covered in The Guardian newspaper and The Daily Telegraph.  In the same month, he expanded on his comments on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour. The following year, he reiterated his commitment saying 'If elected, by the end of our first Parliament I want a third of all my ministers to be female,' he declared.

There are currently 23 members of the Cabinet - 18 male and 5 female – 22 per cent. In addition to Cabinet level posts, there are 96 paid ministerial positions - 82 held by men and 14 held by women – 15 per cent. Overall, 19 out of 119 paid ministerial positions are held by women in the current government – 16 per cent.

You can find out more about the campaign at www.countingwomenin.org and sign the petition calling on David Cameron to honour his pledge.