On 21 November, I visited Parliament as the delegate of Kate Green MP for the ‘#AskHerToStand’ Day organised by 50:50 Parliament, commemorating 100 years since women were able to stand for Parliament. In the centenary year of women’s (partial) suffrage, the event aimed to inspire women of today to stand for all levels of political office, whilst also giving us a first hand insight into politics in Westminster.
50:50 Parliament had organised an exciting programme of events, including panels, and the opportunity to watch either a select committee or Prime Minister’s Questions with a journalist’s commentary. I chose to attend the Women and Equalities Select Committee, who discussed the barriers which women face when engaging in politics. This was a stark reminder of how far we still have to go to achieve equal gender representation in the Commons. However, the session ended on a hopeful note, with a panel of former female MPs recounting their proudest achievements of their time in Parliament: a reminder of the positive change women can bring once elected.
I also had the opportunity to observe Kate and other MPs from across all parties on the Home Affairs Select Committee. Here I saw first-hand how MPs scrutinise the work of government departments and their respective ministers, including our amazing female MPs like Kate Green and Yvette Cooper, the committee’s chair.
For me, the most powerful moment of the day was the photocall in Westminster Hall, which at that point was completely filled with MPs and their delegates, all coming together regardless of political affiliation. The fact that Parliament was at that point so visibly filled by women inspired by politics really reminded me that, what can often seem like an archaic and traditional place to outside observers, has become so much more accommodating for women, now housing the highest ever number of female MPs.
I left Parliament on Wednesday feeling incredibly grateful to Kate and her team for taking the time, at what must be an incredibly busy time in Parliament, to show me around and make me feel so welcome. I feel extremely privileged to have visited Parliament and the day has given me lots to think about in terms of my future: not simply in terms of any future political pathway, but in terms of leadership in general, developing qualities such as confidence and resilience which are important for women at all levels. And with the encouragement and support of organisations like 50:50, plus the amount of inspiring women I chatted to on the day, I now feel hopeful that we will reach true 50:50 representation in Parliament sooner rather than later.