It is quite extraordinary that all the political parties represented on Northampton Borough Council have a woman Leader. We also have a woman as Leader of Northamptonshire County Council. And now nationally we have our second woman Prime Minister. This shows that traditional male power structures can be breached by individual women. The glass ceiling can be cracked. However, this is still the exception rather than the rule.
There is no room for complacency in getting more women involved in Politics. We have had 776 Mayors of Northampton but only a fraction of these have been women. Of the 45 Borough Councillors only 15 are women. The conservatives have done the least well for women’s representation. Of their 26 Councillors only three are women. Of the 17 labour Councillors 11 are women.
In the House of Commons there are 192 women MPs out of 650. So women are still under-represented in politics, and the barriers preventing them from reaching the top levels are arguably just as high as they have ever been in recent history. This is doubly true for women of colour.
Strong women are labelled grating and pushy. The media focuses on their appearance and fashion sense in a way that would never happen to a man. People like Samantha Cameron, Sarah Brown and Cherie Blair got more scrutiny about their personal grooming than Philip May has done. It is frustrating that a woman who is just as talented as a man has to work at least twice as hard to get her abilities recognised.
In the Labour Party we have All Women Shortlists which is a form of positive discrimination. It ensures that constituency and ward selection meetings are not dominated by the men and this has certainly meant more women MPs and Councillors. I am afraid to say that I think that All Women Shortlists will be needed for some time to come.