Despite these first time successes, politics remains a man’s game. According to research from the Fawcett Society, the Labor Party had just 177 female candidates (29.1% of the total), the Conservatives have 131 (22.5%) and the Liberal Democrats have the lowest female representation with just 105 (21.1%).
Lynne Featherstone © Flickr/lynnefeatherstone
This places the UK embarrassingly low in the league tables for political gender equality and well below the international average, according to research from the Center for Women and Democracy. But should we even be discussing the question of equality in parliament when there are more important issues like coming out of the greatest recession of modern times?
Yes, says Lynne Featherstone, re-elected Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and newly-appointed equality minister. She believes that when too few women have a say in politics it can affect society as a whole. "I think it’s still an issue and an important issue” she says, “you can have all the best policies in the world [to address gender equality] but if it’s not reflected in the actions then really you have a long way to go."
The Fawcett Society’s Election 2010 report entitled ‘What About Women?’ suggests that the under-representation of women in politics is also having a detrimental effect on women’s engagement with the subject. A spokesperson for the society said, "An absence of women in decision-making, a lack of focus on issues that matter to women and girls and a shortage of avenues to make their voice heard often leads to disengagement with politics and a lack of confidence in the political system among women."