Escape the Stereotypes

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Women in Parliament

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Women in Parliament

The Escape the Stereotypes blog is written by GenNeu, the gender neutral toy and book store for kids.

International Women's Day is particularly special this year: it's also the centenary of the Representation of the People Act here in the UK which made 8.4 million more women eligible to vote and laid the foundations for all women getting the vote in 1928. The act also enabled women to stand for election to parliament. Sounds like it had everything sorted, right? Not quite. Here's a snapshot of some key statistics about women in parliament over the last 100 years. 

  1. After the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act in November 1918, 16 women stood for election. Only one won a seat.
  2. The first female MP to be elected to parliament… didn’t actually take her seat. Constance Markievicz was a member of Sinn Féin party, and followed her party’s tradition of refusing to sit in Westminster.view of the houses of parliament and bridge
  3. The first female MP to take her seat was an American divorcée, Nancy Astor. She only moved to the UK when she was 26.
  4. Only one woman has ever been the House Speaker. Betty Boothroyd from the Labour Party became the speaker of the House of Commons in 1992 and held the role for 8 years.
  5. Though women have been eligible to be ministers since 1918, there have only been 109 female MPs who have held ministerial office.
  6. The total number of female MPs elected since 1918 is 489; the number of men currently sitting in the House of Commons is 442. Chamber of the House of CommonsRaviC © Wikicommons
  7. Harriet Harman is the longest continuously serving female MP. A solicitor by training, she’s been an MP since 1982  that’s 36 years!
  8. It wasn’t until 1997 that women made up more than 10% of MPs. There’s currently a record number of women in parliament with 208 female MPs… which is still only 32% of the House of Commons.
  9. There are differences between the parties: while 45% of Labour MPs are women, the figure’s only 21% for the Conservatives. The SNP and Lib Dems have 34% and 33% respectively. On the other hand, we’ve had only two female Prime Ministers and both have been Conservatives.
  10. Female MPs proposed the bills that led to legislation on everything from the sale of alcohol to under 18s, protecting design through copyrighting, and home energy conservation.


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