Sophie Walker has today announced that she will be stepping down as Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, in order to make space for new voices. She is the party’s first leader and has been in the role for four years.
In her statement Sophie said “Making change happen is an immense challenge. But the size of the challenge does not render it impossible. I am proud of what WEP has achieved since our first public meeting and grateful to the dedicated, determined staff and campaigners who work so hard for every election and campaign advance, step by step. It’s been a privilege to travel the first part of this journey with you all."
Below is a statement from the party’s co-founders, Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer.
"We are hugely sorry to see Sophie go, but as we look back over her tenure as leader of the Women’s Equality Party, we also thank our lucky stars that she was there from the beginning and stayed for as long as she did to see this new party fully launched and established.
We set up the party because we were impatient for equality and we wanted to open politics to the talents it routinely excludes. We knew these untapped talents were out there. That didn’t mean we dreamed of finding an untapped talent of the magnitude of Sophie’s at the very first Women’s Equality Party meeting in March 2015. Sophie spoke at that meeting, joined the ad hoc steering committee that emerged from it and quickly set about creating the party from scratch. This involved a great deal of hard graft, but Sophie brought something else to the endeavour—the ability to inspire. We swiftly realised that we and the party had stumbled across not only an untapped talent but a great natural politician.
Sophie is an extraordinary communicator and has the kind of vision and passion for a better future that is sorely lacking from mainstream politics. She brought into the party and into politics perspectives that are vital and in far too short supply. In forging policy she has always started at the margins, where women too often find themselves, as well as drawing on her own wide-ranging knowledge and experience from the workplace, as a parent, a carer, a woman and, latterly, as a woman in the public eye. She has not only led the Women’s Equality Party, but twice run for office, during the London Mayoral and Assembly elections in 2016 and as our candidate for Shipley in the 2017 snap elections. She shone in both campaigns, even as she endured online attacks that sometimes spilled over into real-life hostilities.
Sophie came into politics, as we did, not with a desire to be heard but to create a platform for others and not to succeed within the culture but to change it. This is not an easy process. We thank her for the courage and determination she has shown and for her wonderful legacy. Today there are thousands of women across the UK who are politically active because Sophie inspired them. There are women who have stood for elected positions or worked as electoral agents or summoned up the courage to knock on doors and tell people about the work of the Women’s Equality Party because Sophie inspired them. There are young women who will shape our future because Sophie inspired them.
A change in leadership is never easy, and it can be hard to imagine a future without someone so integral to your past. But Sophie has taught us that leadership is a practice rather than a position, and so her legacy continues through each and every activist in our movement."