What more can we do to achieve greater parity? — A UK Perspective

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Kristin Hughes, a Running Start Advisory Council Member, reflects on her recent experience facilitating an #ElectHer training at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge University.

“Never assume it’s somebody else’s job.” Wise and frank advice given from Heidi Allen, MP South Cambridgeshire to the students of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge during the first ever Elect Her symposium to be held in the UK. The event, which aims to encourage young women to engage in public life with the hope that some of them might consider running for elected office, was aptly timed as it occurred the same week the country celebrated the centenary of women’s victorious campaign for the right to vote.

The sixth of February, 2018 marked one hundred years since women first won the right to vote, and while it was a huge achievement, the fight for equality is far from over. The U.K. ranks 39th in the world for representation of elected women officials. Even today women make up a paltry one-third of those sitting at Westminster. As we celebrate the work of the suffragettes, it is important to consider what more we can do to achieve greater parity. At a time when bullying and abuse is making the headlines for politicians, how can we inspire more women to engage in politics?

Organisations like Running Start have an idea. Running Start was designed specifically to provide the foundation for young women to engage in the political process; to encourage and equip young women considering a life in public service; and to lend support for women looking for an entry into politics. Running Start partnered with Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge to launch the inaugural Elect Her symposium in the U.K. to inspire young women to engage meaningfully in politics and to consider a move into political life themselves.

Barbara Stocking, President of Murray Edwards College noted she was “pleased to invite Running Start to the College for their first-ever symposium in the U.K. — especially during the week of women’s historic triumph of winning the right to vote.” Dame Barbara is optimistic the symposium will equip her students with the confidence and other tools they need to pursue leadership roles throughout their lives.

Councillor Jessica Powell also participated in the forum, addressing the students not only as the Mayor of Torfaen but also as an alumna of Murray Edwards College herself. President Stocking commented, “We were pleased Mayor Powell was able to address and motivate the students by describing her own political journey from reading History at Murray Edwards College to being elected Councillor in Wales. Our aim at the College is to support and promote women in all facets of life and we would be thrilled to see more of our alumnae in elected offices.”

Thanks to events like the Elect Her symposium this weekend at Murray Edwards College, Running Start believes that more young women will find the courage and the inspiration to consider a life in politics. As Ms. Allen aptly explained during the workshop, it is important for women to recognize and embrace the idea that these roles belong to women rather than assuming they belong to someone else; elected positions can be women’s today as they can be — and indeed must be — the roles of the women of tomorrow.

#ILookLikeAPolitician #ElectHer #Askhertorun

 

Kristin Hughes is an external engagement executive who advises international businesses, government and non-governmental organizations in designing and implementing sustainability, public policy and corporate social initiatives. She is an accomplished writer and speaker and she is passionate about the environment, social change, economic development and inspiring the next generation to embrace the positive impact they can have in society.