This International Women’s Day, Scottish Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson Caron Lindsay writes about the barriers facing women in politics and the efforts that the Liberal Democrats are undertaking to ensure that our party looks more like the country it seeks to represent.
The World Economic Forum predicts that globally the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186. That’s why it is essential that we all embrace the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: #BeBoldForChange.
We know that there are huge issues facing female politicians. Some of this stems from sexism and unfair gender expectations. Too often we see that the focus is on female politicians’ looks rather than the issues they talk about; or face female politicians being labelled as aggressive while the same behaviour would be unquestioningly accepted from a male counterpart. It is essential that we call out this behaviour whenever we see it.
But there are also issues for us to address within our own party. For the public to trust you to represent them, it is essential that you demonstrate a clear effort to draw in candidates with a variety of experience and from all walks of life. And for the Lib Dems that means increasing number of female representatives to better reflect the Scottish population. It’s simple; if we are really a party that values equality it is essential that we aim to boost female representation in the party.
Having recognised that women are under-represented within our party, it’s then important to put in place efforts to tackle this problem.
Following last year’s spring conference, we highlighted moves to improve the gender balance of candidates. The measures include moves to ensure that the top Scottish Liberal Democrat list candidate for the European election in 2019 will be a woman; The use of all women shortlists in target seats for the Westminster and Holyrood elections; and the creation of a diversity fund to support candidates from under-represented groups. We also have the fantastic Scottish Liberal Democrat Women organisation which is able to provide tailored support and training for women, enabling them to achieve their potential in politics.
Last year, we also appointed a number of female spokespersons to bring gender parity to our spokesperson team and work alongside our MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.
As spokesperson for equalities and social care I have been delighted to work with Katy Gordon, the chair of the 2017 Local Election Campaign; Councillor Carolyn Caddick, our spokesperson for the Economy; Councillor Karen Clark, spokesperson for Social Care; Councillor Eileen McCartin, spokesperson for Culture; and Sheila Thomson, the chair of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and spokesperson for Children and Young People.
What’s more, I am extremely proud to be joined by the latest member of our team Mariam Mahmood, who will be taking up the brief of spokesperson for the environment. Mariam is an extremely talented and hardworking young activist and she will bring a valuable perspective to our spokespeople team, holding to account an SNP government with a shameful record on the environment.
This gender balanced team has been working to deliver strong liberal voices inside and outside parliament but there’s a long way to go yet. That’s why this International Women’s Day I hope you’ll join us in calling for a braver, bolder change.