Women’s representation in government has always appeared to matter to the Prime Minister.
Back in his 2005 acceptance speech as leader David Cameron spoke of the need to end the “scandalous under-representation of women” in his own party and in government.
Come 2008 the Conservative leadership began to talk seriously about a ‘One Third figure’ for women in government jobs. As one party aide said at the time; if that position upsets certain men then “let it be so.”
By 2009 he was offering a more precise proposition:
If elected, by the end of our first Parliament I want a third of all my ministers to be female” David Cameron, 2009
However following the first major reshuffle of this parliament new research from the Counting Women IN campaign reported in today’s Independent on Sunday has demonstrated that Cameron has failed to achieve a breakthrough on gender equality by every possible measure. With another reshuffle before 2015 looking unlikely there is now little to no chance of the Prime Minister achieving his pledge.
The evidence shows that from cabinet ministers to junior ministers and non payroll positions, women’s representation in government has either stagnated or declined at every level. To make matters worse nine government departments are now ‘female free zones’ – lacking any female ministers. This now includes the Treasury.
Cameron has now failed to match his words with action. He set a clear goal with a clear deadline and is now failing, and failing on his own terms.
If this was the last major reshuffle of this parliament the question now is how the Prime Minister will choose to address this problem?
This promise is broken. It is now imperative that all political parties urgently invest in the supply, selection and election of women within their parties, to finally put an end to the scandalous lack of female voices in our politics.
For the full research see A Broken Promise: The Gender Gap in Cameron’s Government, Counting Women in, Sept 2012
Find out more about the campaign for equal representation at www.countingwomenin.org