The future of the left since 1884

Practising What We Preach: Women and the Labour Party

“Women are very poorly represented at all levels of the Labour Party, particularly at the top. Why then, when the principle of equality is at the very centre of socialism, has the Labour Party failed so dismally to practice what...

Share

“Women are very poorly represented at all levels of the Labour Party, particularly at the top. Why then, when the principle of equality is at the very centre of socialism, has the Labour Party failed so dismally to practice what it preaches?” 

Quotas now: women in the Labour Party’, Fabian Tract 541, 1990

These words have the same resonance now as they did 25 years ago. Women in the Labour Party are still under-represented, particularly at the top. Although women make up 44% of Labour’s membership and 43% of Labour’s MPs, where positive action is not used women’s representation falls away. Women make up just 30% of CLP Chairs, 16% of Labour council leaders, 11% of the most senior Labour Party staff and 0% of Labour’s Leadership team. While All Women Shortlists and gender quotas have made an important difference, the Party still has a long way to go if it wants to practice what it preaches on women’s equality.

Using the findings from a ground-breaking survey of over 3000 Labour Party members, new Fabian Report ‘Practising What We Preach’ reveals that women in the Labour Party are still facing a range of barriers when the put themselves forward for selection. One third of women who said they’ve stood for a national or regional selection said that they’d faced unwelcome scrutiny of their private lives, compared to just 11% of men. Half said they couldn’t afford what they needed to campaign, compared to 27% of men. Just 44% of women said they felt the process was transparent. The report also reveals that women are much less likely than men to put themselves forward for selection, our survey showing them to be 14 percentage points less likely than men to say they want to stand.[1]

Setting out a range of steps the Party could take to improve the representation of women, Practising What We Preach argues that the Party must make gender equality an organisational priority in order to prevent the ‘new politics’ looking exactly like the old. We suggest a range of changes to the rulebook, including a new rule on gender balance in leadership roles, including the Leader and Deputy, and a standardized target for 50:50 at every level of the Party. We suggest a new focus on training and development, with equality and diversity training for local parties and leadership training for women who have already been elected. And, we also suggest greater efforts to improve transparency – to help potential candidates understand what they need to do, and also to better make the case for positive action to Party members.

Practising What We Preach aims to start a debate in the Labour Party, rather than proposing definitive solutions. Posing a series of discussion questions, it asks Labour members and supporters to discuss the issues it raises, and submit their thoughts ahead of a final report in the summer of 2016.

Click here to read the full report, and access the data tables here. You can submit your ideas by emailing representation@fabians.org.uk.

 


[1] for parliament or a different national or regional selection

Author

Olivia Bailey

Olivia Bailey is deputy general secretary of the Fabian Society. She was previously political advisor to a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet.

@livbailey

Fabian membership

Join the Fabian Society today and help shape the future of the left

You’ll receive the quarterly Fabian Review and at least four reports or pamphlets each year sent to your door

Be a part of the debate at Fabian conferences and events and join one of our network of local Fabian societies

Join the Fabian Society
Fabian Society

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close