If you didn’t get the opportunity to watch it last night, in light of the upcoming general election, BBC One aired a debate between five party leaders onstage, Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett, all leaders of the Labour Party, UKIP, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party respectively.
Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg were noticeably absent from the debate, but it wasn’t their absence, which was the point that what was capturing my full and undivided attention.
If you have been living under a rock, are not politically minded or simply haven’t already guessed from the names above, what would your reaction be if I told you that out of those five candidates that partook in said debate, three were women?
Three women, outnumbering the men for once on a political stage usually dominated by patriarchy in a governing democracy with a history dating back over a hundred years, when it should be noted, that not one single woman sat in parliament, where not one single woman represented a political party, and where not one single woman was diligently allowed the opportunity to fight for what they believe in on a national stage.
Of course, times have changed to a minimal extent, we’ve had a few women appear in politics since then, with Baroness Margaret Thatcher becoming the first female prime minister in 1979, to the likes of Theresa May as Home Secretary, and others holding their own in parliament with various roles, but the significance of three women being leaders of major political parties in 2015 should not be ignored. In fact, it’s a startling contrast when you realise that David Cameron’s current cabinet after his reshuffle last year currently has five women in power, which from the outset, must seem rather impressive, but unfortunately, the difference is still extensive – The remaining eighteen individuals in his twenty-three strong cabinet are all men, which is evidently quite obvious.
As it stands, out of 650 members of parliament, less than 150 are women, that’s 22% compared to 78% men. Despite the progress of the likes of Sturgeon, Bennett and Wood, indirect sexism and inequality is still something that is yet to be openly abolished in the workplace and within parliament. Why aren’t at least half of the members of parliament women? Is 22% all we are worth in a country where we make up 52% of the 64.1 million population? No wonder 45% of women are undecided voters. It appears that this institutionalised inequality is still a long way from disappearing.
We need more women like the ones in question in key decision making roles and in leadership positions, and more importantly, we need them to be visible and not invisible in cases when they are encouraged to work from behind the scenes, we need them to be fulfilling their entire potential whilst making cohesive progress in full view.
Seeing pragmatic women dominating a usually male-dominated platform when fighting for what they believe in is something unbelievably refreshing. All were open to conciliation, making the men sound out-dated and out of touch as they continued to formulate ideas in a far more calculated manner then their counterparts, never once succumbing to pressure, especially Nicola Sturgeon who remained composed, concise and reasonable throughout, challenging bigotry and flawed political principles to the extent that I actually consider it a shame that I’m not Scottish and that I can’t vote SNP. In all fairness, Ed Miliband did well under pressure and used David Cameron’s absence as a catalyst to shoot down the Tories, whearas Nigel Farage is not even the slightest bit worthy of mentioning as competition, as all he does in my opinion is dress up nonsensical immigration views whilst exploiting understandable public fears, which is nothing more than baseless scaremongering, but I guess that’s what happens when you have nothing else going for you except possessing the personality of a blade of a grass.
However, the visual strength of all three articulate, resolute and commanding women alone, projecting their authority, regardless of their political manifestos or views is something so important when you realise they are now amongst the front runners of a society that usually doesn’t take them into account as much as they should be. It’s moments like this, which provide an invaluable example and inspiration to all women that nothing can’t be done – It’s an attitude the whole world should adopt.
It’s unfortunate that heavy significance is placed on gender when weighing up a woman’s inability to perform in high roles, even when the tables are turned and when women have fought for their opportunity to be involved. Why is gender even relevant to whether you can do a job in this day and age? All it does is detract people from being seen as people.
Seeing women take the reigns in politics is an amazing achievement, but will we ever get to the fifty percent that we deserve? There is still work to be done, but we’re getting there.