Power is not shared equally in our society, and this hurts us all. The problems outlined in our other objectives would not be so profound if women were equal decision-makers in our political and economic systems.
If women held equal power, the whole country would benefit. Women’s experiences would be better reflected in the decisions Parliament takes. Our economy would grow more strongly. Violence against women and the specific needs of women in our health service would be taken more seriously.
To this end, WE have concluded that – as a temporary measure – quotas will be necessary to drive substantial change. Progress otherwise will simply be too slow. Quotas will not, as some claim, permit mediocrity: on the contrary, drawing on only half this country’s talent in politics and business diminishes the effectiveness of our whole political system and economy.
WE stand for:
Equal Opportunity in Politics
It should be simple: half the population are women, so half of our legislators should be women, too. WE recognise that across the world, proportional voting systems tend to be better at electing women, and that an appointed House of Lords is neither equitable or democratic. But WE also know electoral reform may never happen – and everyone is losing out in the meantime on the progress a more diverse Parliament could achieve. Therefore WE will put Parliament into “special measures” for two elections. Women make up 29% of MPs and 24% of Peers: to correct this women should make up at least 66% of new MPs and 75% of new Peers for the next two elections.
Women on Boards
Many British businesses have woken up to the benefits of having women in senior leadership positions. But progress is not fast enough and we need to support women in the so-called “pipeline” to board level, so they do not continue to fall behind their male peers in their 30s and 40s because of family responsibilities. WE believe quotas will be necessary as a short-term measure – not just at Board level but at Executive Committee level too.
Help to Fly
In the UK, women are much less likely than men to start their own business, and this reduces the dynamism and diversity of our economy. Too many aspiring female entrepreneurs are held back by gender stereotypes, a lack of role models and a lack of access to finance and childcare. The very networks designed to support new businesses – Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – are shockingly unrepresentative, with women making up just 15% of board members. As a result, women’s specific needs are often sidelined in local growth initiatives. WE will invest in the support structures women need to take the leap as an entrepreneur.
Leading the way from government
Government at all levels, from councils through the devolved legislatures to the UK government in Whitehall and Westminster, ought to lead the way on diversity, not be pushed into action by others.