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What could political parties do to encourage more women to become involved?

(11 Posts)
weatherall Fri 09-May-14 09:25:43

I was at my local branch meeting this week and we were discussing why the number of women members, meeting attendees, officer bearers and leafleters/canvassers is disproportionately low.

What is it that puts women off?

Is it lack of time?

Is it the expectation of sexism?

I think this is quite an important issue for democracy.

TheHammaconda Fri 09-May-14 10:49:36

Personally, I don't feel attached enough to any particular party to volunteer my time to help them. It's nothing to do with my gender, more a disconnection from political parties that puts me off.

Isitmebut Fri 09-May-14 13:10:38

It is an issue of democracy and clearly the policies are very different within the main party's, so women (or anyone else e.g. teenagers of both sex) can not complain too much if they disagree with whichever party is in power.

Part of the problem is that it is difficult to agree with ALL the policies of every individual party, and if objecting to one or two seriously, it is tough to take the time to look at 'the whole', before getting bored and turning off.

I think time is an issue, sexism maybe (but on here I suspect women ignorantly shout as loud as men lol), but I suspect the main problem is, with our financial situation, there is so little 'wriggle room' to offer policies to people who want to FEEL better off, they turn off, men and women.

OOAOML Fri 09-May-14 19:45:41

How is your general recruiting picture? Are you getting new members but more men than women? Has recruitment in general fallen, or just women specifically?

I'm sure I read somewhere that all the main political parties are having trouble signing up new members, and retaining existing members. I know I find that I don't identify myself with any particular party, and I know a lot of people who feel similarly. I do vote, and I'm interested in political debate, but I just don't feel that any particular party represents me sufficiently for me to identify myself as 'with' them, much less join them and leaflet etc for them.

weatherall Fri 09-May-14 20:24:53

I think this problem is one for all parties.

I think memberships are generally down and that there are consistently fewer women members and activists.

I had always been quite politically engaged but not a fan of party politics or the culture of adversarialism.

However I got talking to a couple of ex female politicians who said that no one does agree with everything a party says or does and the only way to change things is to be involved and encourage change from inside.

This was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me so I joined up and have found it a really interesting experience.

I think all the parties should do more to encourage broader membership especially women. However I'm not sure of the best way to achieve this.

TheHammaconda Fri 09-May-14 21:55:48

Membership is down. Less than one per cent on the electorate are members of the main three parties. The RSPB has more members than all parties combined.

I don't think parties need members now as much as they did, say, 20 years ago when party membership was nearly 4%. Certainly, they're less reliant on individual subscriptions now. Some parties' members are probably more of a liability than an asset.

That said, I read something this week about the significance of local party organisations and canvassing for electoral success. Parties still need their foot soldiers to get the message out there and differentiate to their local audience.

To get back to the "where are the women" issue of the OP. Women are more politically engaged than they have been in the past, in part because of the greater number of female representatives. I suppose if parties made female members more prominent (at all levels) and emphasised the ways in which membership of a party enables you to set the agenda and platform of the party it might encourage more women to join.

OOAOML Fri 09-May-14 22:31:00

However I got talking to a couple of ex female politicians who said that no one does agree with everything a party says or does and the only way to change things is to be involved and encourage change from inside.

I've heard that before, from someone involved with local councillors. I certainly feel very disillusioned with the local council after being involved in several campaigns (single issue, not party political) at which it increasingly became clear that it is the council officials who seem to wield most of the power, and that although they technically are supposed to enact the policies of the ruling group, they just seem to carry on from administration to administration with not a lot of difference.

Regarding recruitment - how do you normally get people involved? Do they seek you out or do you have events?

weatherall Sat 10-May-14 14:46:04

Yes I think making it better known how policy is formulated within parties is a good idea. - things like how local groups and the conference have a role in the party's structure

When you say 'council officials' do you you the paid staff of the council eg the CEO and heads of departments?

From what I've seen it's the council administration who wield the most power.

OOAOML Sat 10-May-14 23:33:34

Yes, sadly changes of administration in the council here don't make much difference. There was one promising example where the councillors voted against the 'recommendation' which slightly restored my faith but then a few months later they got their iwn way anyway.

I'm involved in parent and community councils and have a lot of respect for individual elected councillors but don't know how they keep going ad council bureaucracy chips away at their aspirations.

OOAOML Sat 10-May-14 23:34:02

as not ad - on phone!

buyter Sun 11-May-14 12:23:29

Is the main issue not that most people do not feel attached to political partys like they used. A greater proportion of the electorate are becoming floating voters and so parties can't rely on a traditional core support to even vote for them let alone help them campaign etc.

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