Slow progress as women finally make up 40% of Parliament

Thea Ridley-Castle, Research and Policy Officer

Posted on the 10th July 2024

Last week saw a change of Government and a brand-new cohort of MPs (335 new MPs) elected; but with all this churn how representative is our new House of Commons? Before the election we published analysis of the candidates standing for election showing that only 31% of selected candidates were women. Let’s see how many were elected…

At the end of the last parliament, the UK had only ever had 564 women MPs, not enough to fill the House of Commons once over. But, with the 129 new women MPs elected on Thursday 4th July we have finally managed to fill the chamber once over (with 43 extra!).

The House of Commons is slowly creeping towards gender parity; however we are still lackadaisical in our approach to achieving gender parity in our elected bodies, leaving it up to parties to field women candidates rather than ensuring that women are on the ballot paper via other mechanisms such as gender quotas.

Read our report Pursuing Parity: Examining Gender Quotas Across Electoral Systems here.

No party stood a gender equal slate of candidates, and this is reflected in the make up of the House of Commons, 40% of current MPs are women (263 of 650). Whilst there are many other achievements to celebrate such as the first ever women Chancellor, the most gender diverse cabinet ever (11 of 24), the most state educated cabinet ever (22 of 24) and the most Black women ever elected.

There are still glaring gaps in our knowledge on the diversity of candidates at present there is no legal obligation for parties or candidates to declare the diversity of candidates yet many already collect this data internally. This data is important as it will increase knowledge on under-represented groups and where efforts should be focused to ensure our democracy and our elected bodies are representative of the diversity of the UK.

If we are to rely on parties are the drivers for diversifying representation in political life, then there must be a mechanism for holding parties to account for their efforts to do so. Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010 would require political parties to publish diversity data on candidates standing in elections to the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. The legislation already exists, it just needs to be enacted.

The enactment of Section 106 would compel parties to publish diversity data on their candidates for public office.

Add your name to demand that Women get their fair share.

Women make up 40% of parliament - it's just not good enough

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