Nicola Sturgeon has the top job in Scottish politics, the ladies wiped the floor with the men in the first televised pre-election debate and now Hillary Clinton’s running for president in the States – women are definitely making their mark in politics. So why’s it important that more girls get involved in the political? Eilidh Stewart offers her take.
Sometimes just saying the word “politics” is enough to put you to sleep. The jargon that many people use is confusing and watching politicians – mostly middle-aged, middle class men – shout and claw at each other is enough to put anyone off.
But this is an exciting time in Scottish politics. Not only is the country still reeling after the referendum – an event that got everyone buzzing about policies and politicians – we have a female First Minister for the first time ever. Nicola Sturgeon said that her position sent a “strong message to girls and young women” that “there is no glass ceiling on ambition.
While Sturgeon and her gender equal cabinet are a really great achievement, it’s important that change doesn’t stop here. At the moment, only 16.4% of Scottish MEPs, 24% of local councillors and 35% of Scottish MSPs are women. This seems poor especially when you compare these numbers to statistics from 1999 when 50% of Scottish Labour MSPs and 43% of SNP MSPs were women.
These people are the ones making the important decisions that affect all of our lives, so it makes sense that they should be more representative. 52% of Scotland’s population are women, after all. It’s time to get more involved!
The Women 5050 movement is campaigning to create legislation that would mean in elections, at least 50% of all candidates that parties put forward must be women. It’s a big step forward for equal representation and the campaign is backed by many MSPs across the country.
Kezia Dugdale, deputy leader of Scottish Labour and the spearhead of the Women 5050 campaign took some time to speak to us and said: “It’s really important to get young people involved in politics. I didn’t vote until I was 23, which is really bad, especially since now I’m trying to encourage young people to vote. You want to pick the right people to make the decisions that affect you.”
“Gender politics is a really important issue. I saw the referendum as an opportunity, since so many people got involved. We’re campaigning so that by law by 2020, there is gender equality in government.”
The Women 5050 campaign and the presence of women in the top positions of Scottish government is empowering to see but it’s important to be aware that there is still a great struggle to be respected in politics as a woman.
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, received a great deal of abuse on social media about her sexual orientation. Much of the coverage in the tabloids after Nicola Sturgeon was made First Minister was focussed on her appearance. The Guardian published an article in October addressing this and it said:
“The front page splash of this morning’s Scottish Sun – ‘First Mini Stur: Nicola’s baby hopes revealed’ – was a timely reminder for Scotswomen everywhere that, regardless of the political heights they scale, their reproductive organs remain the most interesting things about them.”
There are still problems with social attitudes towards women that can only be solved by taking action. Having a greater political presence is one way of ensuring that women’s voices are heard and are taken seriously. When asked for advice about how to get involved in politics, Kezia told us: “Pick an issue that matters to you. You don’t have to believe in every single thing that a party says. Get behind a campaign that matters to you and find your way into politics that way.”
By getting involved and making change happen, we can avoid the focus of the world’s eyes being on a female politician’s tartan shoes instead of her policies.
Want to make sure your local MSP is involved in the Women 5050 campaign? Log on to the campaign’s website: www.women5050.org